The Colorado Rockies had a prime opportunity Sunday afternoon to finish the first half of the 2022 schedule riding a wave of momentum.
Instead, a pair of old bad habits rared their heads on a sunny day at Coors Field and the Rox will stumble into the All-Star Game break with a thud.
A lack of timely hitting and a leaky bullpen — two bugaboos in the past — doomed the Colorado Rockies yet again.
Pittsburgh snapped a 3-3 tie with two sixth-inning runs off the Colorado Rockies bullpen and the Colorado offense hit into three double plays while failing to come up with the big hits as the Pirates rolled to an 8-3 victory, snapping a season-high five-game win streak for the Rox.
Despite the loss, Colorado (43-50) captured the three-game set against Pittsburgh (39-54) and will enter the second half of the season having won eight of its last 11 games and the team’s last three series.
The recent success, in which the Rockies have gone 12-8 since June 27 including a 9-4 mark at home, has not been lost on Manager Bud Black.
“We’re playing better,” Black told media during his postgame remarks Sunday about the squad’s play in the last month.
Had Colorado won a sixth consecutive game on Sunday, it would have been second only to Seattle’s current 14-game winning streak entering the All-Star Game break.
“I think we’re pitching better,” Black said. “We’re playing good defense. The hitting has come around a little bit. Kris (Bryant) is back in the lineup. That’s a good thing. So we’ll pick up on Friday and hopefully pick up where we left off playing good baseball.”
Black indicated there was no secret to what the Rockies need to do to make a run for a possible postseason berth.
“We have got to play like we have this last couple of weeks,” he said. “We have got to pitch, We got to play defense. We got to score runs. Pretty simple formula if we do that, I don’t think anything has to go ‘right.’ You got to play well. That’s what we have been doing lately,
“Clean infield, good pitching, timely hitting.”
Unfortunately, in seeing his team’s five-game winning streak come to an end — the Rockies’ longest such streak since a stretch from Sept. 12-18, 2021 — the Rox did not excel in any of those three areas Sunday against the Pirates, who salvaged the series finale by halting their own four-game slide.
Defense: A throwing error by third baseman Ryan McMahon on the game’s opening batter Sunday led to an unearned run and an early lead for Pittsburgh. The miscue snapped a stretch of 15 consecutive errorless home contests for the Rox. The defense now has three fielding errors in its last 24 games. Colorado’s .998 fielding percentage in its previous 23 contests topped the Majors entering action Sunday.
Pitching: Pittsburgh erupted for a season-high 16 hits against five Colorado pitchers after combining for only two runs and 12 hits in the opening two games of the series. Rockies starting pitcher Austin Gomber allowed seven hits and two earned runs in five innings with two walks. But those two walks, both in the third inning, proved costly as they resulted in two runs for the Pirates.
Gomber, who finished with a no-decision after striking out five, thinks the Rockies can carry their recent success beyond the All-Star Game.
“Obviously, it sucks to go into the break on a loss, but let’s not forget that we took care of business this homestand,” he said. “We won two series, one against a (National League West) division rival. I feel like we are trending the right direction and playing better baseball. I believe we can come out in Milwaukee and continue to roll.”
Jake Bird, who relieved Gomber on the mound in the sixth inning, was touched for three hits and Pittsburgh’s two go-ahead runs. The Pirates then put the game away in the ninth inning erupting for four hits and three runs off Carlos Estevez.
Hitting: Colorado had nine hits, including five for extra bases, on Sunday. But none of the hits drove in the team’s three runs. The Rockies used a pair of sacrifice flies and a ground out to plate their three runs. Meanwhile, Colorado grounded into a pair of double plays to thwart scoring opportunities then added a third twin killing when Charlie Blackmon lined into a double play to end the game.
Elias Diaz, Brendan Rodgers and C.J. Cron each had two hits for the Rox with both Diaz hits going for extra bases (a double and a triple). Rodgers and Cron had one double apiece.
Cron will be the only Colorado player who will be on the National League roster in the All-Star Game on Tuesday in Los Angeles. It will be Cron’s first appearance in the MidSummer Classic.
Following the All-Star Game break, the Rockies will return to action on Friday with the opener of a four-game series at National League Central Division leader Milwaukee.