Yes, the most reliable closer in baseball has just blown two consecutive saves. And yes, the Rockies squandered an otherwise outstanding night from the pitching staff. And yes, Charlie Blackmon didn’t get the greatest jump on the sinking line drive that scored the tying run and could have ended the game. But there’s no reason for panic, Rockies fans.
In case you missed it, German Marquez and a trio of Rockies relievers (Chris Rusin, Pat Neshek and Mike Dunn) matched AL Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber out-for-out on Tuesday night in Cleveland. In fact, heading into the bottom of the ninth, the Rockies held a 1-0 lead on the 2014 Cy Young winner and last year’s winner of Games 1 and 4 of the World Series. In 12 innings pitched in last year’s fall classic, Kluber allowed one run – against the No. 3 offense in baseball, no less.
For any team, even having a lead against Kluber is something of a minor miracle lately. In his last 10 outings, Kluber has allowed just 13 earned runs. Over that time he has pitched into the eighth inning seven times, and has allowed one earned run or less on eight occasions. He has struck out at least eight batters in each of his last 13 starts. Simply put, the Rockies can’t be too upset about not putting up much offense against Kluber. No one in baseball has been able to do that for two and a half months.
Charlie Blackmon’s home run on the second pitch of the game was the only offense either team could muster until the bottom of the ninth inning, so it was a bit of a punch in the gut when Blackmon got a (only slightly) late break on an Austin Jackson line drive to center and couldn’t come up with the diving catch for the final out of the game. But Blackmon has made more than his share of catches he shouldn’t to save games, end innings and rob hits.
Instead of ending the game, Brandon Guyer (pinch running for Edwin Encarnacion) scored the tying run Tuesday. Yan Gomes would walk off MLB saves leader Greg Holland on the next pitch with a home run to right.
The home run isn’t disconcerting, nor is Blackmon’s missed opportunity. Holland has allowed just three home runs in 42.0 innings pitched.
The two walks Holland issued are the only really cause for concern. Encarnacion worked a nine-pitch walk to put the tying run on base. It was a good, old-fashioned power vs. power at-bat that the hitter got the best of. Holland made some very good pitches, but Encarnacion fought them off and earned the walk. Holland responded with a strikeout of Carlos Santana, but then issued a four-pitch walk to Bradley Zimmer.
If there’s one thing to be upset about following Tuesday’s loss, it’s that at-bat. It put the speedy Guyer in scoring position without forcing Zimmer, who was hitless on the night, to put the ball in play.
Walks have been problematic for Holland in his negative outcome outings. In his three blown saves, he issued a walk in two of them. In his three losses, he’s given a free pass in two of them. He has allowed 20 walks in 42 innings – not ideal for a closer. For comparison, the Dodgers’ Kenley Jansen has allowed five in 48.1.
Holland was at his best in April and May when he was attacking the strike zone. He’s still doing that for the most part, especially early in counts. But he’s sometimes trying to be a little too fine late, going for a strikeout when contact would suffice. That was the case with Encarnacion on Tuesday night. He’ll need to get back to being aggressive to bounce back from these two tough outings.
As for the bigger picture, Rockies fans shouldn’t get too bent out of shape after suffering a loss to Corey Kluber. Yes, it was heartbreaking to be so close to victory against one of the top two or three pitchers in the league. But German Marquez had yet another dominant outing and the bullpen outside of Holland had a stellar night. That’s something to build on.