CHICAGO — The Colorado Rockies are well aware of their road record, thank you very much. It seemed like, at least for a few innings on Monday night, that they were also aware of what it takes to win on the road, especially against a struggling team like the Chicago Cubs, a team that had lost a franchise-record 13 straight home games.
The Friendly Confines were exactly that for the Rockies on Monday night … for seven innings. Then 12 straight balls from Jhoulys Chacín in the eighth inning and a two-run walk-off home run one frame later off Rafael Ortega’s bat brought the ghosts of Sammy Sosa and Andre Dawson out of the ivy and sent Colorado back to its hotel with a gut punch loss.
It was a script that was anything but a blockbuster for the Rockies. Strike early (score three runs in the first inning) then watch your offense go silent and your bullpen be unable to follow the lead from starting pitcher Antonio Senzatela’s six strong innings and you get a 6-4 loss that drops Colorado to 2-9 in the first game of a road trip this season and 14-46 away from Denver.
What happened late on Monday certainly didn’t mirror what happened early as the Rockies jumped on Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks for three runs and four hits in the first inning. It was a good start and, let’s face it, the Rockies … in purple … at Wrigley Field … against Hendricks? Well, it brought back memories of a better time, let’s just say.
But let’s flash forward to the Colorado Rockies walk-off loss to the Chicago Cubs on Monday night.
The opener against Chicago is part of a three-city, nine-game road trip that will see Colorado travel to the Windy City (Cubs), City of Angels (Dodgers), and Lone Star State (Rangers) before coming back to the Mile High City. Colorado has found different ways to lose on the road all season, and Monday night added another layer of stench to what has been a putrid showing anywhere below a mile high.
But what happened at the end shouldn’t take away from a few positives, including Senzatela, who watched his team lose its ninth consecutive road game this season when he takes the mound. In his eight road starts heading into Monday’s contest, Senzatela had logged a 5.80 ERA with opponents hitting .335 against him. Against the Cubs, however, the right-hander scattered five hits over six innings, striking out six and walking two, giving his team every chance to grab the victory.
He would say after the game that he believed his slider and curve were some of the best that he has had at his disposal all season.
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Senzatela did get into trouble in the fifth with a two-out walk to Andrew Romine and single to Hendricks. However, Ortega’s bloop into left field was snared by a sprinting McMahon, who chased down the ball from his third base slot and added to the defensive highlight reel that RyMac has pieced together this season.
“That play just goes to show you what kind of year he is having defensively,” Colorado manager Bud Black said after the loss.
As RyMac made the play, shortstop Brendan Rodgers yelled his approval. The Cubs fans in attendance simply groaned, knowing the early golden opportunity that had been yanked away from their squad.
And defense combined with Senzatela to get out of a bases-loaded no-out jam in the sixth. Senzatela got Colorado native David Bote to ground into a double play to plate Chicago’s first run of the night, then perplexed Michael Hermosillo with his last pitch of the night into a popout to first to end the threat and the inning.
That, however, would be as far as Chicago’s pitching and defense could keep the Cubs at bay. As the full moon rose over Wrigley, the Cubs offense rose from its slumber, thanks in part to Chacín being unable to locate his pitches in the eighth, walking the first three batters he faced. A Wisdom RBI single brought the Cubs within 4-2 then, following with Carlos Estévez coming in in relief, another double play from Bote looked like it would put an end to Chicago’s chances. Hermosillo, however, hit his first double of the season to tie the game at 4.
Ortega started the eighth-inning rally with a walk and then completed it with his two-run, no doubt bomb off Daniel Bard with one out in the ninth.
Yes, there’s plenty of blame to be placed on the bullpen. However, Colorado’s offense went relatively quiet after the first inning. Only five hits were collected by the Rockies after the initial frame, and C.J. Cron’s sixth-inning double was the only extra-base knock of the bunch.
In a season where frustrating road losses have become Dante’s Inferno for Rockies fans, Monday night might have found another level of hellish pain for them to endure.