On Saturday, the Colorado Rockies pitching core had one of their best home performances of the season. They carried the team to victory over the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers. The Rockies pitching was equally impactful on Sunday, but not in a way that Colorado fans liked. The inconsistency that has marred Rockies pitchers all-season long returned and was the primary reason for their 10-5 defeat.
“We have to pitch better. There's no doubt about it,” said Rockies manager Bud Black. “We talk about it every day. We have to pitch better as a group. We’ve got some guys throwing the ball well, but collectively each and every night we need to have good performances.”
The two teams split the series 2-2, with the Dodger holding a 12-game lead over the Rockies in the race for the NL West.
Could the offense have been better on Sunday?
Yes, but the offense can’t be expected to bail out the pitching staff with 10+ run performances like they have been able to do at times this season.
The Dodgers offense should get some credit as well. After all, they do boast three hitters with more than 20 home runs. They came to play and were eager to avenge their two prior losses in the series. Nonetheless, it's easy to imagine a different outcome had the Rockies pitching been there.
Chi Chi Gonzalez got the start for Colorado and had flashes of good. He allowed just one hit through two innings. Unfortunately for the Rockies, he couldn’t maintain that form.
Gonzalez only lasted four innings plus four batters. His early departure put the Rockies already depleted bullpen in a rough spot.
Gonzalez finished the game surrendering five hits, three earned runs, two walked batters and two strikeouts.
The fifth inning is when things began to fall apart for the 27-year-old. He committed a pitchers cardinal sin--allowing a leadoff walk. He then gave up a single to catcher Russel Martin, before Dodgers pitcher Kenta Maeda hit a sacrifice bunt right back at Gonzalez. The pitcher made a throwing error by hitting Maeda in the back as he ran to first base. This allowed Kiké Hernandez (the player walked to start the inning) to score on the play. Joc Pederson hit another single the next at-bat, driving in Martin and ending Gonzales’s night.
“ I started falling behind in counts and they started getting fastball counts," Gonzalez said. "They took advantage of when the ball was up in the zone.”
At this point in the game the Dodger lead was 3-0.
Carlos Estevez replaced Gonzalez and turned in the Rockies best pitching performance of the evening. He struck out one and got two other outs via a fly ball and a grounder. When he entered the game the Dodgers had runners on first and second base.
The Rockies offense built off this with a huge four-run fifth inning that gave them a 4-3 lead.
It was all downhill from there.
Chad Bettis, who has played well recently was next in for Colorado to start the sixth. The plan was for him to go two innings. That didn't happen.
Bettis gave up five hits, six earned runs and surrendered a walk in ⅓ of an inning of play.
“We felt pretty good about it,” Black said. “Chad’s been throwing the ball well. We thought that was a tuning spot for Chad to throw the sixth and seventh. They got the three consecutive singles, (the) hit by a pitch, (the) ball in the gap. He was just a little bit elevated on his pitches."
Black has consistently preached getting the ball down in the strike zone all season. This especially important when playing at a field like Coors.
Jesus Tinoco and Jairo Diaz followed with fine performances, but the horrendous fourth and sixth innings were too much to overcome.
“We need to consistent pitching from our rotation and from our bullpen,” Black said. “Are we gonna have 13 guys pitching well all the time? No. Can we have 10 or 11 guys pitching (well)? Absolutely. I think there's talent, (but) we have to be able to put that together moving forward.”
It is no secret in the clubhouse, with fans or the media that the Rockies pitching will hold the key to their success or failure this season. Black has explicitly stated as much. On Saturday the rotation and bullpen gave fans hope, while Sunday was a reminder that the unit as a whole still has a long way to go.