Rockies’ bats, bullpen falter in sweep at the hands of Giants

Apr 11, 2021; San Francisco, California, USA; Colorado Rockies first baseman Josh Fuentes (8) reacts to striking out during the sixth inning of a Major League Baseball game against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park. Mandatory Credit: D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Rockies scored just four runs en route to being swept by the San Francisco Giants in a three-game road series over the weekend.

Following a home series win over the Arizona Diamondbacks in which the Rockies plated 23 runs, the adjustment from playing at Coors Field to trying to hit at Oracle Park was too much for Colorado to overcome. The Rockies managed just one run in the opener before exploding for three runs in a heartwrenching loss on Saturday. There was absolutely nothing to see from Colorado offensively in the finale, which the Giants took, 4-0.

Usually night games result in most of the heavily suppressed offensive games typical of Oracle Park, but three afternoon games didn’t make much of a difference this time around. Colorado finished the series with just four extra-base hits, one fewer than the Giants had on Sunday alone. And one of the Rockies players who managed an extra-base hit, Chris Owings, landed on the injured list before the team had a chance to get out of town.

What went wrong

Aside from the poor offensive performance outlined above, the Rockies didn’t get good high-leverage pitching from their bullpen, particularly with veteran Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford at the plate. Tyler Kinley on Friday allowed the Giants to take a late lead by surrendering a two-run double with the bases loaded to Crawford on a poorly located fastball that was sat on after the reliever struggled to throw offspeed ptiches for strikes. A day later, Crawford sent a decent full-count offering from rookie reliever Ben Bowden over the right field wall to turn a 3-1 deficit into an eventual victory.

It also hasn’t been a banner start to the season for Germán Márquez. Entering 2021, the Rockies’ ace walked just 2.4 batters per nine innings over the course of his career. But through three starts this season, Márquez has issued a league-leading 11 free passes, equating to a staggering 6.3 walks per nine. Walks have been an issue for the rest of the staff, too; despite posting a 1.97 ERA during their second turn through the rotation, Rox starters walked 15 batters as opposed to just 19 strikeouts in 32 innings in that stretch.

What went right

Trevor Story and Raimel Tapia each had five hits in the series and, after a slow start to the season, are both creeping toward the .300 mark in terms of batting average. Ryan McMahon had only three hits during the series, but one of them was a monster home run to the deepest part of the park in Saturday’s loss. McMahon is tied for the major league lead with five homers and owns a .784 slugging percentage in the early going. A more aggressive, contact-heavy approach has benefitted McMahon thus far; the 26-year-old infielder’s swing and in-the-zone contact rates are way up over last year, while his swinging strike percentage is considerably down.

What’s next

The Rockies travel south for a three-game set against the division-leading, 8-2 Los Angeles Dodgers, who took three of four from Colorado—now 3-7—to open the season. The Rox will send Antonio Senzatela, Jon Gray, and Austin Gomber to the mound opposite Trevor Bauer, Dustin May, and Julio Urías.