ROX SPLIT FIRST 10; PADRES VISIT FOR 3
Charlie Blackmon has a big new $108 million dollar contract, 4 home runs, and a sore back. Otherwise the Colorado Rockies have done very little to create excitement and anticipation over the opening 10 games of 2018, in fact they’ve been a bit of an early spring disappointment, dropping series on the road to the Arizona Diamondbacks and at home to the Atlanta Braves. In between they took 3 out of 4 in San Diego from the Padres, who are in Denver for 3 with the local nine starting tonight at Coors Field, when Jon Gray (1-1, 2.45) faces-off against Clayton Richard (0-1, 4.50). Gray will be set to heave his first offering toward home plate somewhere around 6:40 MT.
The 2018 MLB season got rocking back on March 29, with all teams in action under the new scheduling system, and the Rockies had Gray going up against Pat Corbin in Phoenix that afternoon. Gray wasn’t sharp, surrendering 3 in the 1st after DJ LeMahieu homered to stake Colorado to a 1-0 in its first at-bat. The 3-1 score held until the 5th, when Gray gave-up a leadoff single to David Peralta then walked AJ Pollock and Paul Goldschmidt. Chris Rusin was summoned to bail-out Gray and was true-to-form, striking-out Jake Lamb then getting Ketel Marte on a fly ball foul before Alex Avila grounded to LeMahieu. The Rox got within 1 on a Nolan Arenado homer in the top of the 6th, and Rockies manager Bud Black rolled Rusin back out for another frame, but by then the bloom was off the rose and Arizona nicked the left-hander and Scott Oberg for 3 singles among a couple of walks for 3 additional runs and a 6-2 lead they would ride to an 8-4 opening win.
Tyler Anderson was out the next day with an equally rough start, behind 5-0 after 1 and gone after 2-1/3 trailing 7-2. Colorado roared back to tie but the Dbacks refused to fold, eventually prevailing 9-8. Win no. 1 of 2018 came Saturday. German Marquez delivered 5 shutout innings, then Rusin and the presumed closeout sequence of Brian Shaw, Jake McGee and Wade Davis held Arizona to a run over the distance for a 2-1 triumph.
The news was better a couple hundred miles further west starting Monday. Chad Bettis held the Padres to 2 runs over 5 innings on 5 hits and 4 walks, then Adam Ottavino led-off for a succession of Shaw, McGee, Rusin, and Davis again as Colorado prevailed 7-4. On Tuesday San Diego 3rd-baseman Christian Villanuevo translated 3 home runs into 5 RBI as he led the Padres to an 8-4 win over Kyle Freeland, but Wednesday Gray was back out for 7 scoreless frames that Shaw, McGee, and Davis finished up to put the Rockies back in the win column. Not to be outdone, Anderson rebounded April 5 and laid-out 6 scoreless innings on 4 hits and 4 strikeouts, and Ottavino followed with 2 shutout frames of his own before Davis also put one up for his 4th 2018 save. Joey Lucchesi, Phil Maton, and Craig Stammen matched Anderson and Ottavino over 8, but Padres’ closer Brad Hand couldn’t hold the Rockies back in the 9th, when 3 walks and a LeMahieu single secured a late 3-1 Colorado win.
Then it was on to Denver, set for a glorious Opening Day celebration, and it wasn’t the crappiest Colorado day of 2018, nor was it the second crappiest, but it definitely rated 3rd worst, with temperatures in the 30’s, rain, snow, and some invigorating 20-25 mph winds. Despite a pleasant forecast that would hold-up for Saturday, the show went on Friday afternoon, and the weather wasn’t making it for Marquez, who fell behind 4-0 in the 1st on the way to an 8-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves, who are out to a hot 6-3 start. Springtime returned to the Rockies on Saturday, and a pitching match broke-out between Bettis and Braves right-hander Aníbal Sanchez. Colorado scored single runs in the 3rd and 4th, Atlanta tallied a run in the 6th and another in the 9th as Davis blew a save, then Carlos Gonzalez doubled with one out in the 10th off of Arodys Viscaino, who proceeded to walk Gerardo Parra (intentionally), Trevor Story, and Tony Wolters. The Rockies walked-off 3-2. But Sunday Colorado’s scoring deficiencies continued. The Atlanta left-hander Sean Newcomb, Newk, was immaculate over 6 innings, 9 strikeouts against 5 hits, and three relievers finished-off a 4-0 shutout over the most right-handed lineup Black was able to muster.
The Colorado issue at present seems to be one of offense. Toward the top of the order Arenado is slinging away at .324 and 6 RBI. LeMahieu is at .289 with 2 dingers and 4 RBI and Blackmon, who is scheduled to return to action this evening, is hitting .278 with 6 RBI in addition to the 4 homers. But then you hit the middle part of the Rockies where Gonzalez, Story and Ian Desmond feature 37 strikeouts in 109 AB, which works out to 1 of 3 when you do the math: get something going, then dump cold water on it. If that sounds familiar, you may have also followed Colorado in 2017.
Nonetheless, 152 scintillating contests remain, starting in just a couple hours down at the old ball park. The righty group is out again against Richard. Pat Valaika slots in at 1st-base, Desmond moves out to left, and Parra replaces Gonzalez in right in a pattern that so far appears to be permanent. Anderson and Lucchesi go at each other again tomorrow, and Wednesday afternoon will see Marquez duel with Luis Perdomo before the Rockies head to Washington for 4 against the Nats.
Let’s get rolling over these friars before heading east.