Series Recap: Starting Pitchers Only Rockies Back from Vacation

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Series Recap: July 18-20, 2014

Colorado Rockies at Pittsburgh Pirates

The United States is the only advanced economy in the Western world that does not guarantee workers paid vacation. Europeans are guaranteed between 20-30 days per year, and even Canada mandates 10 paid vacation days per year. But, according to a survey from Expedia.com, even when Americans get vacation days, we don’t even take them.  In short, we Americans don’t really take vacations. Many people much smarter than I have posited several possible explanations why this is the case, including how industrious and hardworking Americans tend to be. Think about it: how often do you take vacations? Not just a long weekend here or there but an honest to goodness vacation. Based on personal experience, I know that I haven’t taken such a vacation since I moved to Memphis and I talk with several folks who work in high-up positions at big companies who talk about the stress of taking extended time away from work. We always come up with reasons not to take these vacations, even when the evidence for vacations is so strong, including reduced risk for heart-disease, lower stress and depression levels, and greater pleasure in life. The point is this: Americans don’t often take vacations.

After one of the most atrocious stretches of baseball in Rockies history, one might think that a vacation would be just what the doctor ordered! Take 4 days off, Rockies. Clear your heads, get your mind off the distractions and get back to playing baseball and everything else will be just fine!

Benefited from Vacation: Rockies Starting Pitching

Coming into series, Rockies starting pitchers (there have famously been a dozen 13 of them) had put up an ERA of 5.33 in 96 games, which is what you’d expect your buddy with elbow tendinitis to put up at your local slow-pitch softball league on Thursday nights.  While the bullpen has been getting it’s fair share of blame (and they’ll get more soon) with it’s 4.70 ERA, the crux of the failures of the Colorado Rockies have fallen, not on Dan O’Dowd (at least, not directly) but the starting rotation. They really needed a break.  How did the first guys out (Jorge De La Rosa, Brett Anderson, and Tyler Matzek) respond? In short: better than adequately.

Day Starter IP H R ER BB SO Pitches-Strikes Game Score
Friday Jorge De La Rosa 6 4 1 1 3 2 100-59 59
Saturday Brett Anderson 7 4 1 1 1 8 110-70 72
Sunday Tyler Matzek 6 7 3 3 3 8 99-61 51

I included Game Score mostly because of Brett Anderson, but also to note that a game score above 50 is considered a good start from a pitcher.  Anyway, that game score of 72 by Brett Anderson represents the 3rd highest by a Rockies pitcher this season (De La Rosa, 79 on May 16; Tyler Chatwood, 76 on April 18; Jhoulys Chacin, 76 on June 12), and the best performance he’s turned in since returning from the disabled list, which is a very encouraging sign indeed for one of the most important Rockies acquisitions from this past offseason.

Most importantly, none of these pitchers was losing when they left the game. In fact, De La Rosa and Anderson were both in line for the win (#pitcherwinz) when they came out. This tells you that, at the very least, they did their jobs: prevent runs in order to keep their team in the game. The rest of the team, however…

Did NOT Benefit from Vacation: Rockies Offense, Rockies Relief Pitchers

This one is much easier to summarize.  In fact, it’s so easy, I can use a bulleted list! In this series, the Rockies offense:

  • …scored 7 runs in 3 games, tied for the second lowest in a three game series (Lowest: 3 at Los Angeles in the no-hitter series, June 17-19).
  • …left 18 men on base, including 11 on the Friday night game
  • ..hit into 7 double plays, and
  • …struck out 24 times.
  • BONUS: Carlos Gonzalez on Friday became the first Rockies batter ever (no, really) to strike out 5 times in a game.

It was bad.  It bears mentioning that, while PNC Park has traditionally played as a pitchers park (as evidenced by their park factor of 97), the Rockies were not facing the same caliber of pitchers they faced on June 17-19 (Hyun-Jin Ryu, Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw) when they only managed 5 runs in 3 games (though they did manage to make Jeff Locke look like a genius).  This stands out as a weekend where, when the Rockies were able to overcome what has been one of the weakest areas of their game this season, the offense couldn’t hold up their end of the bargain.

However, this hardly seems to matter considering the work that the bullpen did this weekend. The Rockies bullpen…

  • …put up a 7.36 ERA over the weekend (6 runs in 7.1 innings pitched),
  • …entered with the Rockies ahead or tied in every game,
  • …walked 6 Pirates in 7.1 innings
  • …earned the loss in every game, with Matt Belisle “earning” 2 of them.

It was bad. Watching it firsthand led to a certain sense of inevitablity. From our friends at Purple Dinosaur Podcast:

So continues the Rockies 2014 season: if it’s not one thing it’s another.

Oh, and Tulo got hurt this weekend but I don’t really want to get into that because it hurts my soul. 

Game Recaps

Jorge De La Rosa took the mound on Friday night in the Rockies first game back from the All-Star Break amid swirling trade rumors.  While he didn’t deliver the most incredible performance, he was able to push through 6 innings of work, allowing only 4 hits, 3 walks, and just 1 run. Alas, he racked up 100 pitches (and only 2 strikeouts) in that timeframe which meant it was time to hand it over to the bullpen, with the Rockies holding onto a 2-1 lead. Things came unraveled for Matt Belisle in the 8th inning as he gave up 3 straight hits to give the lead to the Pirates. Tommy Kahnle came in to relieve Belisle and retired both batters he faced—except one of those outs was a sacrifice fly to push the score to 4-2. Mark Melancon came in for the Pirates in the 9th and, despite a leadoff single to Corey Dickerson, retired Rutledge, Gonzalez and Tulo to end the game, 4-2 for the Pirates.

On Saturday night Brett Anderson delivered perhaps his most encouraging start in a Rockies uniform, going 7 innings, allowing 1 run on 4 hits and 1 walk while racking up 8 strikeouts, including striking out the side in the 7th to end his night. Carlos Gonzalez hammered a 2-run home run in the top of the 7th to give the Rockies the lead, but on came the 8th and Adam Ottavino walked two and gave up a hit to load the bases. Kahnle came on in relief and promptly gave up a base hit to Neil Walker to push the tying run across, but Carlos Gonzalez was able to keep the game tied:

The game went into extras with neither team mounting a significant threat until the top of the 11th when the Rockies had runners on the corners with All-Star Charlie Blackmon at the plate. He lined a rocket back to pitcher Jared Hughes who made a deft grab and then threw over to third to double up Charlie Culberson. As so often happens, the Pirates were able to strike back in the bottom half as Jody Mercer doubled “past” a diving Charlie Blackmon to bring home Neil Walker to wrap up a 3-2 victory for the Pirates in 11 innings. In more troublesome news, Troy Tulowitzki left the game in the game in the top of the fourth after running out a ground ball. He initially made a grab toward his hip flexor region, but Rockies fans everywhere let out a collective sigh of relief when it was revealed to merely be a cramp. So don’t worry, fans: the only good best part about watching the Rockies should be fine after a day or two, as will the rest of the MASH unit from Saturday night’s game.

Same story, different day on Sunday. The Rockies jumped out to an early 3-0 lead on Sunday thanks to two home runs from Josh Rutledge in the first and Mike McKenry in the 2nd. The bats went silent as Pirates pitcher Jeff Locke made the necessary adjustments to keep the Rockies off balance for the rest of the game. Meanwhile Tyler Matzek, much in the mold of De La Rosa on Friday, battled through 6 innings, allowing Jody Mercer to drive in two runs in the bottom of the second. He cruised through to the sixth, when Mercer (again!), who reached on one of Matzek’s 3 walks (which, again, is still an improvement on where he’s been with the walk rate in previous years), scored on a Chris Stewart ground rule double. He left with the game tied, having turned in a quality start: 6 innings, 7 hits, 3 runs, 3 walks, and a season-high 8 strikeouts.

But, of course, you know the formula by now. This time it was Matt Belisle who allowed a leadoff walk to Josh Harrison who would come around to score to give the Pirates the lead in the 7th. In order to prevent the Rockies from losing another 1-run game Matt gave up a home run to Neil Walker, making the score 5-3, which turned out to be the final, resulting in a series sweep in Pittsburgh, the sixth time they have been swept this season.

 

Looking Ahead

Colorado Rockies Record: 40-58

Games Behind, NL West: 14 (First Place: San Francisco Giants)

Games Behind, NL Wild Card: 13.5 (Leaders: Washington Nationals/Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers–yes, it’s crowded at the top)

Run Differential: -56

ESPN Playoff Odds: 0.1%

Games Remaining: 64

Next Series: 3 games v Washington Nationals (53-43, T-1st NL East)

 

In every game of this series the Rockies, going into the home half of the 7th inning, either had the lead or, in Sunday’s case, were tied. In every game of this series the Rockies lost. It’s not often that it is so easy to place blame over a three game stretch but the bullpen (and, in a slightly lesser way, the offense) get to wear this one.

This week I’m taking my first real vacation in two years so I might see some Rockies games in person (tweet at me if you’re going to any of the games: I’ll be at all of them from Tuesday to Sunday). I can only hope the bats and the bullpen come back from theirs so they don’t ruin mine.

About Adam Peterson

Born and raised in Denver, I stopped playing baseball in high school due to a lack of what some would call “talent,” but then my passion for the game, and the Rockies, only grew. I went to the University of Colorado at Boulder to study Civil Engineering, where I picked up a minor in Applied Statistics. After college I took a job in suburban Memphis, over 1,100 miles away from Coors Field. While my Rockies-loving wife and I enjoy spending time out and about in Memphis, any free time spent not doing something baseball-related is a rare moment indeed.
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