Rockies bounce back to win series vs. first place Giants

May 4, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Rockies right fielder Charlie Blackmon (19) runs off a three-run home run to defeat the San Francisco Giants in the ninth inning at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Rockies on Wednesday wrapped up a not-so-ordinary series victory over the first-place San Francisco Giants at Coors Field in Denver.

The two clubs were scheduled to begin a three-game set on Monday, but Mother Nature had other ideas. The delay was a good thing, though; had it not happened, we never would’ve been graced with what turned out to be a wild Tuesday doubleheader.

The Giants scored 10 runs in the first inning of Game 1, capping off the scoring with back-to-back home runs from Brandon Belt, whose big fly was of the grand variety, and Buster Posey. The Rockies got a grand slam of their own off the bat of Raimel Tapia, but it was nowhere near enough for the Rockies to overcome an eventual 12-4 loss. The Giants did the majority of their damage against Rockies ace Germán Márquez, who allowed eight earned runs on six hits and a pair of walks in just two-thirds of an inning. It was Márquez’s worst start since July of 2019, when he allowed 11 runs in 2 2/3 innings against—you guessed it—San Francisco at Coors Field.

Things turned out quite a bit better for the Rockies in the nightcap, though they certainly didn’t start that way. Colorado fell into a 6-2 hole after the sixth inning, when Giants infielder Wilmer Flores hit a two-run homer off of Mychal Givens. But the Rockies’ bats came alive in the bottom of the seventh. Trevor Story and Ryan McMahon came through with run-scoring hits off of Giants closer and former embattled Rockies reliever Jake McGee, setting the stage for struggling veteran Charlie Blackmon to launch a three-run, walk-off home run into the right field mezzanine to secure an 8-6 victory.

The Rockies used that momentum en route to taking the rubber match, 6-5, on Wednesday thanks in no small part to a big inning of their own. Colorado scored six runs in the bottom of the fourth to support starting pitcher Jon Gray, who struck out eight in six innings of two-run ball. The win upped the Rockies’ home record to 10-8.

What (else) went right

Blackmon and, to a lesser degree, Trevor Story didn’t exactly have a great start to the season. But it appears the two faces of the franchise are getting back to their old selves. Story had five hits in the series and is now hitting .304/.370/.527 for the season. The star shortstop boasts career-best strikeout and walk rates, and he’s hitting the ball with authority after initially struggling to do so. Blackmon, meanwhile, rebounded from an 0-fer in Game 1 by notching three hits, including that big homer, over the last two contests. His climb out of the abyss has been slow but sure; the 34-year-old outfielder has hit .313 with a .389 on-base percentage and has struck out just three times in his last nine games.

Out of the bullpen, offseason acquisition Robert Stephenson has been under-the-radar great thus far in 2021. After a scoreless inning of work in the series finale, Stephenson’s ERA sits at 2.70. The 28-year-old right-hander came into Wednesday averaging a career-best 96.4 mph on his fastball, and his strikeout (9.5 K/9) and walk (1.4 BB/9) rates are stellar.

What went wrong

Márquez just isn’t himself in 2021. He went through periods last season where he didn’t exactly resemble the ace he’d shown himself to be during the previous several seasons, but it’s a whole new experience this time around. Márquez is striking out more than a batter per inning, so that’s good, but his walks (5.7 BB/9) are astronomical. His fastball velocity is down about a tick, but his biggest issue is that he’s falling behind in counts; over the last three seasons, Márquez threw a first-pitch strike about 65 percent of the time. This year, he’s down to under 55 percent.

What’s next

The Rockies, who still own the National League’s worst record at 12-19, are about to be reunited with the star player who was forced out of town by former general manager Jeff Bridich and the rest of the front office. Colorado is scheduled to play three on the road against Nolan Arenado and the St. Louis Cardinals this weekend before returning home to face the division-rival San Diego Padres.

Colorado enters its upcoming road series with a 2-11 record away from Coors Field.