ROX FIZZLE, FINISH 75-87;
LEMAHIEU IS BATTING CHAMP, WEISS STEPS ASIDE
The Colorado Rockies had a 3-2 lead when word came down from Washington DC that Nationals infielder Daniel Murphy had pinch-hit in the bottom of the 5th, flied to right, and left the game, leaving Rockies’ 2nd-baseman DJ LeMahieu leading the league in hitting to claim the NL batting championship. The smiles all around lost their edge as Colorado relievers surrendered 2-run home runs in the 8th and 10th innings and the Milwaukee Brewers defeated the Rockies to close-out the 2016 MLB season.
Colorado won at a .463 pace in 2016 and finished the campaign 3rd in the National League West, trailing the division winning Los Angeles Dodgers by 12 games. Manager Walt Weiss resigned his position earlier today, citing a relationship with the Rockies’ front office that was neither “healthy or productive.”
The San Francisco Giants overcame a harrowing second-half to secure one of the league’s Wild Card berths and a 1-game play-in with the New York Mets Wednesday at 6 pm MT at Citi Field in New York. The winner will join the Dodgers, Chicago Cubs and Nationals in the NL play-offs that begin Friday in the District of Columbia. Over in the American League the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays hung-on to the Wild Cards they’d had the handle on for weeks, and face-off at 6 pm MT tomorrow at the Rodgers Centre in Toronto. The winner will join the Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers in the Junior Circuit’s World Series hunt.
The Rockies played 6 times in the 2016 season’s final week, losing 2 of 3 to the Giants and 2 of 3 to the Brew Crew. They got drubbed 12-3 in German Marquez’ second MLB start on Tuesday. Marquez gave-up 6 in 5 innings and Justin Miller suffered a 5 run 8th, whereas the Giants’ Matt Moore rebounded from a couple of bad starts and limited Colorado to a single run in 7-2/3. Colorado got its win over San Francisco Wednesday with a 2-0 shutout. Tyler Chatwood was the star, holding the Giants to 3 hits over 8, with Boone Logan and Adam Ottavino finishing them off. Then Thursday things went bad in the 6th for Jon Gray. Gray lost his hold on a 2-2 tie and San Francisco scored 3 times and ran-out to a lead they declined to give back.
Back home for fireworks Friday, Chad Bettis notched his 14th win. Bettis allowed one over 6-2/3 and the Rockies scored 4 times in the first 3 to prevail 4-1. Jeff Hoffman got a surprise start Saturday and held the Brewers to a run in 5 innings. Colorado fell behind 3-0, came back to tie, then closer Ottavino surrendered Chris Carter’s 41st 2016 home run with 2 out in the 10th for a 4-3 Milwaukee win. Marquez was back for one more yesterday and a 2-run/6-inning performance. A late Rockies run sent the contest to extra innings, but Ottavino got burned by the long ball again. This time it was a 2-out blast by Andrew Susac with Orlando Arcia aboard that doomed the local nine.
Colorado’s 2016 season can be summarized by distinct and separate pitching malfunctions that were split by 3 weeks of superior play (expertly forecast by the RWO’s Agbayani) in late July and early August. In the first half the Rockies were short a starting pitcher or two as Jordan Lyles and Jorge De La Rosa struggled out of the gate and Eddie Butler suffered his effort to plug the gaps. As the weather heated-up DLR found his groove, and in a surprise move Tyler Anderson earned his big-league promotion, and even more surprising, turned-out to be an bonafide MLB starter. As June turned to July Chatwood returned from a brief stint on the DL, and suddenly the Rockies had a full complement of effective starting pitchers for the first time in many memories, and the boost gave rise to the mid-July run that featured wins in 11 of 13 contests at its peak, including a day or two with a plus-.500 winning percentage.
Then in a July 30 win over the Mets in New York, shortstop Trevor Story ripped loose a thumb ligament to derail what had been a sensational rookie debut (he was lost for the year), and the following night another rookie, the reliever Carlos Estevez, lost the mojo that had propelled him into the closer role, and ushered-in the late season mound malfunction, a bullpen that continuously and repeatedly spoiled promising outings by the starters. The team regressed into the inconsistent, uninspired and mediocre play that characterized the first half, and stumbled to the finish, 11-18 in September and October.
Colorado’s prospects, despite what in all honesty has to be labelled a lousy record, are nevertheless strong. The emergence of rookies Gray, Anderson, Story, Tony Wolters and David Dahl is nothing short of remarkable for a single team, and cameos by Marquez, Hoffman, Matt Carasiti, Tom Murphy, Raimel Tapia, Stephen Cardullo, Jordan Patterson and Pat Valaika are testament that more help is on the way. The departure of Weiss presents Rockies management with an opportunity to inject fresh leadership into the young group, and will hopefully tighten-up the sloppy play that contributed to less than optimal results. Despite a lineup full of superior defenders Colorado played generally poor defense, were chumps on the bases, and continually played-down to inferior competition. Symptoms of an immature group to be sure, therefore imminently solvable.
The Hot Stove looms, with sdcarp poised to guide us through the twists and turns. The Rockies can use to convert two of their left-handed outfielders into right-handed ones, a couple that can deliver say 140 RBI between them. They need some bop at 1st-base, as carp has been promoting, say another 50 or so RBI above those received in 2016 from Mark Reynolds, doubling as the Giambi-like bench presence that’s been missing since the demise of the golden thong. They need a utility man who can play both infield and outfield– resigning Daniel Descalso would service that need, and most imperatively need to fashion a capable relief corps out of the gaggle of promising arms accumulating in the system. Expectations and roles ought to be cast aside. Shut-down arms may be at more of a premium in the ‘pen than the rotation as the group evolves into its next phase.
October past, prospects in Colorado were grim. Conventional versus nuclear rebuilds comprised the debate. A year hence the names recited above call forth a decidedly optimistic contrast. Sure, we sucked in 2016 (again).
But wait ’til next year!