The Colorado Rockies lost today because of bad offense and even worse defense -- two things they've been the best in baseball at so far this season.
Justin Morneau's throwing error -- which was aided by DJ LeMahieu arriving late to first base on a Billy Hamilton bunt attempt -- caused what amounted to a 40 foot home run as Hamilton scored easily on a ground ball to second. That was the first unearned run of the game but would not be the last.
Homer Bailey was magnificent today as best exemplified by a four-pitch strike out of Troy Tulowitzki in the sixth inning. The final pitch was a perfectly located 97 mph two-seem fastball that just caught the low-and-away corner.
The Rockies weren't without there chances though. Charlie Blackmon hit a home run off of Bailey in the fourth because not everything that the Rockies have been doing well could go wrong today.
The Rockies dealt with both bad luck and bad execution in the top of the fifth. Justin Morneau led things off with a four pitch walk and when Michael McKenry made contact in his ensuing at-bat it looked as thought the Rockies were about to add their second run of the day and put themselves in a great position to tie the game.
That ball took an unfortunate bounce over the wall though, and Justin Morneau was forced to stop at third.
Still, with runners at second and third with nobody out, the Rockies had their best opportunity of the day against an otherwise untouchable Homer Bailey. DJ LeMahieu came to the plate with a .333 average with runners in scoring position and a notorious knack for opposite field contact.
He struck out on five pitches, all of which were above the strike zone, and predictably, Juan Nicasio followed with a strikeout of his own. Charlie Blackmon then popped out to third, and the rally was over without a score.
Juan Nicasio actually pitched pretty well on the day, going six innings and giving up only two earned runs.
So...about that other run.
Juan Nicasio got himself into trouble by giving up a lead-off double to backup short stop Ramon Santiago which raised his season average to .200. He almost got himself out of trouble by striking out Skip Schumaker after Bailey sacrificed Santiago to third. With another sacrifice now out of the equation Nicasio only had to worry about beating Brandon Phillips. And he did, inducing a routine grounder to third.
Then the best third baseman in the game made one of the worst fielding errors of the season. After easily fielding the hop, Nolan Arenado lazily lofted a laugher over the long arms of lanky Justin Morneau, scoring the second unearned run of the game.
Nicasio even did well to prevent the inning from totally unraveling, getting one of the best hitters in baseball in Joey Votto to fly out in the next at-bat.
Had the ball not hopped over the fence and the Rockies played their usual brand of defensive baseball the score would have been 2-2 at this point. Had LeMahieu been able to deliver a hit, it could have been 3-2.
But the ball did hop over the fence, DJ did strike out, and baseball is hard.
In the top of the eighth Walt Weiss made what appeared to me to be a curious decision at first, opting to stick with Corey Dickerson against a left-handed specialist with LeMahieu on first and Drew Stubbs available on the bench. It occurs to me, though, that Johnathon Broxton was ready in their pen and likely would have been brought in to face Stubbs.
In that equation, I like Dickerson left on left better than Stubbs right on right. And the pitch he struck out on was a little bit outside.
The ninth inning was a great show for baseball fans. I don't care who you root for, what Aroldis Chapman did this afternoon was incredible.
After missing the entire season thus far due to a brutal injury -- the worst kind in sports, a liner off the pitcher's head -- Chapman dominated everyone in his season debut including the home plate umpire.
He sat on 100 mph, hit 102 twice (including on a strike out of Carlos Gonzalez) 101 on several occasions, and the Rockies really only made it look like they were making him work.
Troy Tulowitzki walked on a pitch that was completely inside the low-and-away corner of the strike zone but because it was 100 mph and missed it's spot, forcing the catcher to extend across his body, I doubt the umpire ever saw it. Chapman fooled the umpire again on a 101 mph pitch at the knees of Justin Morneau, but just smiled, laughed, and proceeded to strike out his fourth Rockie of the inning.
Look what people can do. I hope even the most die-hard Rockies fans had some part of them rooting for Chapman today. I bet some part of Juan Nicasio was. It was an incredible and inspiring performance. Congratulations Aroldis Chapman and welcome back to baseball. The game is better with this kind of talent in it.
The Rockies could have stole this one, but you still have to be pleased with a team that plays close and doesn't get swept on the road. On to Kansas City!