ROX COASTING: SAN FRAN, THEN SAN DIEGO
The Colorado Rockies are in San Francisco, California this afternoon, tuning-up for the first of 2 with the Giants tonight at AT+T Park. Game time is 8:15 MT. Colorado continued to win in MLB 2017 week 25, going 4-3, splitting with the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix, and taking 2 out of 3 from the San Diego Padres at home in Lodo. 4 wins weren’t enough though to hold back the Milwaukee Brewers, however. The Brew Crew had a week of 4-2 and picked-up an additional win yesterday over the Pittsburgh Pirates. Milwaukee trails the Rockies by 2 in the race for the outside Wild Card.
The split in Arizona put a cap on what you might call the “hard” trip on Colorado’s September calendar. Adding in last week’s sweep of the Dodgers in Los Angeles, the Rockies handled the voyage 6-2, righting what had been a dangerously listing ship in decidedly deadly seas and putting themselves in control for a final run of 12 games in 13 days. The wins in Arizona were close and hard fought, a 5-4 squeaker Monday that came down to Nolan Arenado’s 3-run 8th inning homer out-flanking Arizona’s 2-run rally in the bottom of the frame. Tuesday featured a 2-run standoff until Carlos Gonzalez plated DJ LeMahieu and himself with a line shot out beyond the swimming pool the Dbacks operate out there in center-field. The losses Wednesday and Thursday afternoon, on the other hand, were disturbingly reminiscent of the debacle back in Colorado over Labor Day.
In Denver on the weekend, the Rockies got busy early on Friday, scalding the Padre’s Clayton Richard for 4 runs in the 2nd on 5 hits and a walk, capped-off with a triple that LeMahieu, who’s finally back to running at full-speed, threaded into San Diego’s radical new “DJ Shift.” Tyler Chatwood held the Padres to one over 5-2/3 and 4 relievers took it from there, scoreless on 3 hits over the balance. Saturday Colorado got to put into practice what they’d often day-dreamed about playing defense behind the hapless Jordan Lyles. The former Rockie proved just as easy to hit as everybody thought, and his former teammates sent him steaming to the showers after only 4 complete, already down 7. The carnage would continue over 4 San Diego relievers. Miguel Diaz surrendered 3 in the 6th and only managed an out. Cory Mazzoni on the other hand lasted an inning and a two-thirds, but they unfortunately included presiding over 6 Colorado scores in the 7th, culminating in a pinch-hit grannie by infielder Pat Valaika. Tyler Anderson, meanwhile, got his first start since June 25 and capitalized with 5-2/3 hitless frames. Anderson went 6, Kyle Freeland tossed-in 2, and Greg Holland made a rare non-save appearance in the 9th.
But Sunday the Rockies let one get away. They busted-out to a 3-run lead in the 4th on a walk to Gonzalez, singles by Arenado and Gerardo Parra, and a double by Trevor Story, who’s seemingly emerged from a season-long funk. There was thunder in the air however, and a lightning-laden shower resulted in an hour-long delay that also impacted the Denver Bronco’s impressive beat-down of the Dallas Cowboys a mile or so up-river. Back in action after 5 strong innings by Jon Gray, Chris Rusin, Pat Neshek, and Jake McGee each gave-back single Padres’ runs, then Holland coughed-up another one in the 9th that Colorado couldn’t match.
But the Rockies are scoring runs and winning games. Beyond the resurgent efforts of Gonzalez and Story, the entire lineup has cranked-up the offensive amplitude. The additional scoring juices-up increased competitive energy; the increased energy is generating victories.
The two games tonight and Wednesday in the City by the Bay comprise the first third of the “soft” trip that remains on the calendar. German Marquez (10-7. 4.41) gets the call tonight against Johnny Cueto (7-8, 4.58) in a battle of righties, and tomorrow afternoon Chatwood goes against the left-hander Matt Moore. Thursday evening the scene shifts south to San Diego when it’ll be Anderson versus Richard in the first of 4. It’s key not to go “soft” on this journey west.
Saturday’s Rockies win was no. 82 (they are 82-68), and not even a worse-case scenario more frightening than Rocket Man will keep Colorado from being winners in 2017. But there are 12 to go and no time to rest.