Rockies drop 3 of 4 vs. Dodgers in final home series of 2020

Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Antonio Senzatela (49) pitches in the first inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Coors Field. Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Rockies are three games out of what is currently a three-way tie for the eighth and final National League postseason spot after dropping three of four to the Los Angeles Dodgers in what was the final series at Coors Field in 2020.

Colorado was outscored by 20 runs by the MLB-best Dodgers in the first three games of the series, getting decent starting pitching in Games 1 and 3 but watching the bullpen and offense struggle to hold up their end of the deal. That has been a consistent theme in 2020 for the Rockies, who still have an outside shot at reaching the postseason but will need to near flawless baseball in a season-closing eight-game road swing.

Lefty starter Kyle Freeland departed Thursday’s game having allowed just two runs in 6 1/3 innings, but Carlos Estévez proceeded to let both of the runners who reached base against Freeland to start the inning to score. It highlighted an issue that has plagued the Rockies’ bullpen all year; Colorado relievers, entering Sunday, had allowed 40 percent of the runners they’ve inherited to score. That mark is, by several percentage points, the highest in baseball. All of the runners Estévez allowed to reach base eventually scored, as well, raising his ERA to 7.89. He’s far from alone in his poor performance; Rockies relievers own a collective 6.96 ERA, the second-worst mark in the majors and the highest single-season bullpen ERA in franchise history by more than a full run.

Ryan Castellani and just about everyone else who pitched for the Rockies struggled during the Dodgers’ 15-run outburst on Friday, but Colorado got more decent starting pitching from Chi Chi Gonzalez on Saturday. Sadly, deadline acquisition Mychal Givens allowed a pair of earned runs in his inning of work, putting the game out of reach for the anemic Rockies offense. Givens hasn’t been the answer the Rockies hoped he’d be when he was picked up in a trade with the Baltimore Orioles late last month; he’s posted a 7.71 ERA while allowing opposing batters to hit .296/.387/.667 over the course of eight appearances.

One of the reasons the Rockies brought in Givens was the health and ineffectiveness of Wade Davis, who spent a significant chunk of the season on the injured list. Davis returned to Colorado’s bullpen in time for the series against the Dodgers, and things didn’t go well. Davis gave up a homer to the first batter he faced on Thursday and was tagged for four runs on four hits in 2/3 of an inning on Friday. The Rockies designated him for assignment as a result, putting an end to three seasons of mostly poor performance by the veteran reliever.

Josh Fuentes, who was the clear offensive star of the series for the Rockies, and Antonio Senzatela took it upon themselves to ensure Colorado wasn’t swept in its final home series of the season. Fuentes, who had three hits—including a three-run homer—in the Rockies’ 15-6 loss on Friday, added three more hits and three RBI on Sunday. He finished 8-for-19 with a couple of homers and 10 RBI against the Dodgers in 2020. Meanwhile, Senzatela followed his complete game earlier in the week with 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball. The right-hander allowed just three hits and lowered his rotation-leading ERA to 3.13. In five home starts, Senzatela posted a 2.11 ERA while walking just five batters in 34 1/3 innings.

Kevin Pillar led the Rockies with seven hits during the four-game set. Colorado’s other deadline acquisition enjoyed his brief time at Coors Field, hitting .359 in 11 games at 20th and Blake. Nolan Arenado was one of many Rockies hitters who struggled in the series, going 1-for-10 at the plate before sitting out the finale. There’s a chance Arenado could be shut down for the season, Rockies manager Bud Black told reporters after the game. If so, it will put an end to what has been a tremendously disappointing campaign offensively (Arenado, by just about every metric, has been the best player in baseball on defense). Arenado has hit just .253/.303/.434 in 201 plate appearances, good for an 83 OPS+, which would be the second-worst mark of his career and lowest since he was a rookie in 2013.

The Rockies hit the road starting Monday with four games against the San Francisco Giants, who are three games ahead of Colorado in the NL playoff standings. A sweep there—however implausible it may seem at the moment—would do wonders for the postseason chances of the Rockies, who close the season with a four-game set against the last-place Arizona Diamondbacks, whom Colorado swept the last time the two teams played.

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