Rockies win fourth consecutive home series

Aug 21, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Rockies catcher Elias Diaz (35) runs the bases after hitting a three run home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the bottom of the ninth inning at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Rockies used some solid pitching and late-game heroics to win their fourth consecutive home series, this time over the last-place Arizona Diamondbacks.

Colorado won the series opener, 9-4, on the strength of a pair of doubles off the red-hot bat of C.J. Cron, two hits apiece from Connor Joe and Brendan Rodgers, and a two-run homer from Garrett Hampson. Austin Gomber continued to struggle with his command, which has been somewhat of a consistent problem since his return from the injured list last month. He allowed three runs on six hits and three walks in five innings, but the Rockies’ bullpen stepped up with four innings of one-run ball, giving the offense a chance to put the game away during the final few frames.

Elias Díaz hit a three-run, walk-off home run on Saturday to clinch the series win for the Rockies. Colorado trailed 2-0 entering the bottom of the eighth inning, when Hampson hit his second two-run homer of the series. That, combined with a couple of strong innings from Tyler Kinley and Daniel Bard, set the stage for Díaz’s dramatics. Kyle Freeland was once again very good on the mound, allowing two runs on six hits while tying a career high with 10 strikeouts.

The Rockies failed to finish off a sweep on Sunday, when Jon Gray yielded five runs on six hits and three walks in 5 1/3 innings. Colorado fell into a 7-1 hole entering the bottom of the eighth inning, at which point the team had just one hit. The Rockies were able to string together a few hits late but ultimately lost the series finale, 8-4.

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Kyle Freeland finished the shortened 2020 season with the second-lowest strikeout rate–ahead of only teammate Antonio Senzatela–in all of baseball at under 16 percent. That made what was a slightly above-average season from a run prevention perspective seem a little fluky, especially given Freeland’s down year in 2019. But this year, Freeland’s K rate has jumped up to roughly 21 percent, a total that is still below average but is certainly playable when considering his propensity for limiting hard contact.

The end result is a downright solid run of 11 starts during which Freeland owns a 2.53 ERA with nearly a strikeout per inning.

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Jon Gray to this point has not rewarded the Rockies for their decision to hold on to him at the trade deadline. Gray has just one quality start in five tries since July 30, posting a 5.81 ERA in 26 1/3 innings during that timeframe. Gray certainly hasn’t had luck on his side; entering his start on Sunday, his BABIP-against during that aforementioned stretch was a hefty and downright unsustainable .424, and he does have 32 strikeouts to hang his hat on.

Still, Gray is finding himself in situations where a lack of consistent command has resulted in short outings and, by extension, a lot more having to be asked from a weak corps of relievers. That won’t earn the Rockies a lot of victories in the long term.

Up next

The Rockies, now 43-22 at Coors Field after a 5-1 homestand, are forced to go back out on the road where they’re 14-45. Their nine-game swing starts Monday at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs before taking them through Los Angeles and Texas to round out the month. Colorado has Antonio Senzatela, Germán Márquez, and Austin Gomber heading to the hill in the Windy City as the 57-67 Rox attempt to win their second road series of the season.