Rockies rebound from horrid loss to split series vs. Giants

Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado (28) celebrates defeating the San Francisco Giants at Coors Field. Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Had the Colorado Rockies’ two games against the San Francisco Giants this week been reversed, there would be a much more awful feeling surrounding the team than there actually is.

That’s because the Rockies—one day after a 23-5 drubbing at the hands of the Giants—rallied from a five-run deficit to avoid a sweep with a 9-6 victory that moved the club back into third place and a game closer to .500, at 18-19. Colorado used good bullpen work and an offense that finally came alive after being largely inactive for the entirety of the six-game homestand up to that point to take away some of the pain left over from a three-day stretch during which the team was outscored, 42-7.

The Rockies hit their low point of the season to date on Tuesday when the Giants, on the strength of a staggering 26 hard-hit balls (batted ball events with an exit velocity of 95 mph or more), scored 23 runs on 27 hits. San Francisco, which got three home runs and two doubles in a historic effort from outfielder Alex Dickerson, scored in every inning of the game except for the ninth, which was pitched by Rockies catcher Drew Butera. Jon Gray, coming off of his best start of the season, allowed seven earned runs on nine hits in just 2 2/3 innings, raising his ERA to 6.69. Antonio Santos, in his major league debut, followed by giving up two runs on four hits and two walks in 2 1/3 frames. Jairo Diaz (7 ER in two-thirds of an inning pitched), Tyler Kinley (2 ER in 1 1/3 IP), and Jeff Hoffman (one out recorded, 4 ER allowed) were all roughed up before the Rockies turned to Butera, who got five batters out and allowed only one run. The 23 runs surrendered by Rockies pitchers marked the most allowed by the team in a single game since Aug. 18, 1995, when Colorado lost to the Chicago Cubs, 26-7.

Things started off poorly for the Rockies again Wednesday, when Kyle Freeland allowed four runs in the first inning. The Giants eventually took a 5-0 lead before Garrett Hampson homered for the third time in the series to get Colorado on the board. From there, it was basically all Rockies. Colorado’s bullpen—including Mychal Givens who, in his Rox debut, struck out a batter in a scoreless and hitless inning—combined to allow just one earned run in seven innings of work, striking out 10 and walking only two. That allowed the offense to come around in a big way—particularly in the  seventh inning, when Sam Hilliard homered to cap a five-run inning that included a huge RBI triple off the bat of newly acquired outfielder Kevin Pillar, who made a spectacular catch at the wall to end the top half of the inning. Pillar, Hilliard, and Hampson finished with two hits apiece, while Trevor Story led the Rockies with three knocks and a walk.

Despite the comeback win, the Rockies still have some issues that make the team’s upcoming road trip through Los Angeles and San Diego even more of a concern than usual. Over the past two weeks, Colorado starting pitchers have posted a 7.96 ERA, by far the worst in the majors during that span. The rotation has yielded the hardest contact in baseball (91 mph average exit velocity) during that span, and inducing groundballs—generally a strength for the Rockies—has been rare (39.3 GB%), while opponents’ home run rates (21.3 HR/FB%) have spiked accordingly.

Also working against the Rockies heading into the weekend is—surprise!—their offensive performance on the road; Colorado’s .645 road OPS is third-worst in the majors, and the timing for this trip is awful considering it just took five and a half games for the Rox to get their offense going at the friendly confines of Coors Field.