Colorado Rockies morning after: 3 things we learned from D-backs series

Jul 8, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Chi Chi Gonzalez (50) throws a pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first inning at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 8, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Chi Chi Gonzalez (50) throws a pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first inning at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports /

The long wait is finally over for Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Chi Chi Gonzalez.

The right-hander picked up his first win in nearly two months by allowing three runs in five innings while also contributing a run-scoring single on offense as the Colorado Rockies erupted for 13 hits in a 9-3 victory Thursday afternoon against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field in Phoenix.

The victory allowed the Rox (38-50) to salvage the final game of a three-game series against the D-backs (25-64) before Colorado continues its road trip by traveling to San Diego for a three-game set against the Padres beginning Friday night.

Prior to Thursday, the last win for Gonzalez came May 13 when he tossed seven scoreless innings in a 13-8 Rockies victory against Cincinnati at Coors Field. Since then, the product of Oral Roberts University had gone eight starts without a victory (four losses, four no-decisions).

Understandably, Gonzalez was happy to see his team come out victorious and have his winless streak come to an end.

“It’s very satisfying,” he told media, including Rox Pile, after the game. “I was happy that we played great ball, played good defense. Hitters did their thing. A win is a win and I am happy I was a part of it.”

Added Gonzalez: “I’ll take it however it comes. I am very happy that I am in the win column.”

Despite not earning a win in such a long time, Gonzalez has pitched well of late while moving into the starting rotation due to a forearm injury to Austin Gomber that has sidelined the lefthander.

Entering Thursday’s contest, Gonzalez had notched a 2.25 earned run average (12 IP, 3 ER) in his last two starts permitting just 10 hits with two walks and five strikeouts. In his most recent outing, he exited with a 3-2 lead after seven innings against St. Louis on Friday night at Coors Field only to see the Rox bullpen give up the tying run in the ninth inning on the way to a 9-3 loss in 10 innings.

Against Arizona, Gonzalez surrendered six hits, including a two-run home run to the D-backs’ Josh VanMeter, while fanning five and issuing one walk to up his record on the season to 3-5.

“Obviously, I am a proponent of the win,” Colorado manager Bud Black said after the game. “I think there is something to it.”

“He (Gonzalez) has pitched a little bit better than his won-loss record,” Black added. “That (Thursday’s performance) was a good one.”

He noted that the outing by Gonzalez was worthy of a “W.”

“I told him after the game, even though it was five innings and we had to hit for him, I thought it was deserving,” Black said. “He deserved that one. When you look back and you look at his career and you look at pitchers’ careers and won-loss records, people go to those numbers. That was a good one. I think he is very, very satisfied.”

With Thursday’s victory, Colorado avoided being swept for the seventh time this season.

Here are three things we learned from the Colorado Rockies series with against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

1. Bullpen remains inconsistent

Colorado’s relief corps continues to lack consistency. In the series opener with Arizona on Tuesday night, closer Daniel Bard entered with the game tied 3-3 in the ninth inning and could get only one out while loading the bases before uncorking a walk-off hit by pitch to force in the game-winning run. One night later, reliever Tyler Kinley surrendered a three-run homer in the seventh inning to help the D-backs build a 6-1 lead that proved to be too big a margin for the Rox to overcome despite a three-run rally in the eighth in an eventual 6-4 setback. But in the series finale Thursday afternoon, Justin Lawrence, Jhoulys Chacin, Carlos Estevez, and Yency Almonte combined for four scoreless innings of one-hit relief in the Rockies lone win at Chase Field.

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2. Rox catchers showing signs of offensive growth

Both Elias Diaz and Dom Nuñez are starting to produce better numbers at the plate. Coming off two walk-off hits and a pair of homers in the home series with St. Louis, Diaz added another home run as well as a double in Wednesday’s loss.

Nuñez drew the start against Arizona on Thursday afternoon and responded with three hits, including a pair of doubles while scoring two runs and driving in another. Despite their recent success, Nunez is hitting .174 this season while Diaz stands at .205.

3. Winning on the road still a challenge

The Colorado-Arizona series featured the team with the fewest road wins in the Majors (Colorado is now 7-33) and the team with the second-fewest home wins (the D-backs are now15-28 at Chase Field) Note: Baltimore has the fewest home wins in the Majors with 13. Despite Colorado coming off a 6-1 homestand, which included a sweep of Pittsburgh and three wins in four contests in an emotional series with the Cardinals, the Rox could manage to win just one of three against Arizona as the D-backs captured their first series victory in more than two months.

Colorado is scheduled to send Kyle Freeland (1-2, 5.50) to the mound Friday night in the series opener at San Diego. First pitch is set for 8:10 p.m. (Mountain time).

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The last time the two teams met in San Diego (May 17-19), the Padres swept three games. Colorado returned the favor by sweeping a three-game set June 14-16 at Coors Field.