Rockies suffer rare home sweep vs. Giants

Sep 6, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Kyle Freeland (21) hands the ball to manager Bud Black (10) after being pulled in the fifth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Rockies ran into a San Francisco Giants team this week that looks every bit like its current standing as the best in all of baseball.

The Giants scored a combined 29 runs en route to a three-game sweep, the first one by a visiting team at Coors Field in more than two years. San Francisco is the first team in baseball to reach 90 wins and sits atop the NL West with a 90-50 record.

In the first game of the series, which took place on national TV on Labor Day, the Giants roughed up Rockies starter Kyle Freeland to the tune of seven runs–including four homers–in 4 1/3 innings en route to jumping out to a 10-1 lead. Garrett Hampson and Trevor Story hit late home runs to help the Rockies cut into the huge deficit, but ultimately the home team still lost, 10-5.

The Giants on Tuesday picked up right where they left off, plating five runs in an inning and a third against Rockies starter Chi Chi Gonzalez before taking the Colorado bullpen to task in an eventual 12-3 drubbing. The Rockies got three hits from C.J. Cron in the losing effort.

Colorado appeared poised to avoid being swept on Wednesday, when Jon Gray struck out eight batters through five innings and was staked to a 3-0 lead. But Gray failed to record an out in the sixth, ultimately surrendering a game-tying, three-run homer to Brandon Crawford before being pulled. Elias Díaz put the Rockies back on top with a solo homer in the bottom half of the inning and Colorado held onto a 4-3 lead heading into the ninth, when Carlos Estévez allowed four runs on four hits and a walk, giving the Giants a 7-4 lead that they’d ultimately hold on to.

The final result was the first three-game sweep of the Rockies at home since early September 2019, when the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates took four from Colorado at Coors Field.

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It seems like eons ago that the clear strength of the Rockies was their starting pitching. Since the All-Star break, the unit owns a collective 5.49 ERA, which surprisingly ranks as only the fourth-worst mark in the NL during that span. But the last month or so has been quite a bit worse, and with injury and weardown problems plaguing the unit, improvement might not be in sight down the stretch.

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It was good to see Elias Díaz deliver a strong performance on Wednesday. Díaz has been notoriously good since about the beginning of June, but he was in the midst of a rough patch–.136/.269/.273 over his previous 26 plate appearances–prior to his 3-for-4 effort in the series finale.

Díaz, because of his ability to consistently hit the ball hard, is at his best when he’s making contact and not striking out. Because he’s not afraid to take a walk, he becomes a very good hitter when he’s zoned in on specific pitches and locations. That’s the approach he had during the series against the Giants, and the one that will best suit him going forward. Regardless, the catcher position–thanks to Díaz and Dom Nuñez, who is quietly having a good second half (.829 OPS in almost 60 PA)–has been a breath of fresh air for the Rockies for the majority of the season, and it’s safe to say not too many people saw that coming.

Up next

After a rare losing home stand, the Rockies–now 63-77 overall–embark on a 10-game east coast swing–a scenario that has not been friendly to them even in years when the team wasn’t 30-plus games under .500 on the road. The Rockies visit the Philadelphia Phillies for a four-game set beginning Thursday before traveling to Atlanta and finishing up the trip in Washington next weekend.