Monday was dubbed Opening Day 2.0 for the Colorado Rockies.
With no restrictions on seating capacity for the first time in 43 games at Coors Field this season, a crowd of 32,092 was on hand to witness the Colorado Rockies blank Pittsburgh 2-0 to open a seven-game homestand.
With all the fanfare and festivities that normally accompany the inaugural home game of a season for Colorado being displayed on Monday at Coors Field, perhaps the resulting victory for the Rox — their second home shutout win of 2021 — will lead to a new beginning for the Rockies (32-47) as they are just two games shy of the midway point of the campaign.
One positive for the Rox in the low-scoring affair was Colorado capturing its first win of the season when scoring two or fewer runs in a game. Prior to Monday, the Rockies were 0-23 this season in games in which they had scored no more than two runs. Of the 24 games in which the Rox have been held to two or fewer runs, 20 of those contests have come on the road and have been a big part of the team’s Major League-worst 6-31 road mark.
But despite scoring just two runs against the Pirates (29-48) on Monday, Colorado parlayed a couple of big hits and some quality pitching from starting pitcher Kyle Freeland — plus a four-inning scoreless stint from the bullpen — to nab the opener of a three-game series with Pittsburgh.
Freeland earned his first win of the campaign in three decisions but left the game after the fifth inning due to cramping. For more on his status, see the article from Rox Pile’s Kevin Henry.
The Rockies notched only five hits in the game, one less than the Prates, but outfielder Yonathan Daza had a double and run-scoring triple while catcher Elias Diaz swatted his third home run of the season to provide enough offense in the win.
There was a lot to like from the victory, including the fact that Colorado has now won seven of its last nine home games.
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Here are 3 things to like from the Colorado Rockies win on Opening Day 2.0:
1. Colorado bounces back from road shutout loss Sunday to post home shutout win.
After ending the recent road trip Sunday with a 5-0 loss in Milwaukee — the Rockies’ 11th shutout setback of the season — to complete a three-game sweep by the Brewers, the Rox righted the ship on their return to Coors Field with a solid all-around performance in blanking the Pirates. The club is now 27-16 at home this season (.628 winning percentage). Entering action Monday, the squad’s .283 home batting average was tops in the Majors.
2. Diaz comes up big on offense and defense
Although he is hitting just .167 this season, the veteran catcher has contributed some big plays both offensively and defensively while splitting playing time behind the plate with Dom Nunez. The solo homer by Diaz on Monday against his former team was his second in less than two weeks (also had a roundtripper June 16 vs. San Diego).
"“I think he is seeing the ball better,” Colorado Manager Bud Black told media after Monday’s game about the recent uptick in Diaz’s effectiveness as a hitter. “The at-bats look to be a little bit more under control, not wildly swinging at pitches. He is an aggressive hitter. He will expand at times. But I am seeing more plate discipline, primarily.”"
Defensively, Diaz threw out one of three runners trying to steal on Monday. Entering the game, his 70.0 caught stealing percentage was the best mark in the Majors for players with a minimum of 30 games started.
3. Bullpen rebounds from dismal performance in Milwaukee
After giving up five home runs in three games in the recent road trip against the Brewers as part of having allowed runs in 10 consecutive contests, the Rox relief corps rallied to throw four scoreless innings to preserve the 2-0 victory Monday against the Pirates. Tyler Kinley, Jhoulys Chacin, Carlos Estevez, and Daniel Bard logged an inning apiece combining to allow just three hits and no walks with two strikeouts. Bard earned his career-high 11th save of the season in 16 save opportunities. Kinley, Chacin and Estevez each picked up a hold. Estevez now has six holds this season while Kinley has four and Chacin has two.
Before the spotless performance by the bullpen on Monday, Colorado’s relief corps was tied with Cincinnati with the highest earned run average in the Majors (5.54).
The series with Pittsburgh continues on Tuesday with German Marquez (6-6, 3.99) slated to take the mound for a 6:40 p.m. (Mountain time) first pitch. In his previous outing last Wednesday in Seattle, Marquez tossed a season-high eight innings while permitting one run on two hits with seven strikeouts and no walks.