For five innings tonight, this was a very pleasant baseball game. For five innings tonight, Jordan Lyles pitched like the man we saw this spring before he went on the disabled list. For five innings tonight, it looked like the Rockies were going to win the season series against the Giants and inflict more damage on their playoffs hopes.
Unfortunately for the 2014 Rockies, baseball games don't end after five innings. This means that members of their bullpen, which is on pace to be the worst of the millennium and third worst in all of baseball history according to WPA, must record outs without totally embarrassing the themselves. That's a problem on almost any night for this group of run fairies, but couple it with game where Adam Ottavino is unavailable after pitching twice in Monday's double header and the starter is running out of gas in the top of the sixth inning with a six run lead, and you have a recipe for an unmitigated disaster.
Ever wonder how a farmer feels after working on a batch of crops all summer only to see a swarm of locusts appear on the horizon just before harvest time? What a helpless feeling that must be knowing there's nothing he can do but stand there and watch in agony as all his sweat and toil go for naught. Well, the positional players on this Rockies' team are experiencing the baseball version of that this season. It doesn't matter how many runs they score. It doesn't matter how well they play early. And it doesn't matter what moves the manager makes. On a night like tonight, all roads are going to lead to pain.
As the sixth inning unfolded, it was pretty clear Jordan Lyles had hit the proverbial pitching wall. Following a wobble in the fifth, a Buster Posey home run to lead off the sixth, a Hunter Pence single, and a brilliant catch by Rafael Ynoa on a line drive that was ticketed for the left field corner, Walt Weiss probably would have liked to trot out to the mound, grab the ball from Lyles, pat him on the butt for a nice outing, and call in a reliable relief pitcher. But in this scenario, there simply are no reliable relief pitchers because the Rockies have one of the most pathetic excuses for a bullpen this sport has ever seen.
As a result, Weiss left Lyles out there to drown in a flood of Giant hits even though by this point his offerings were flat and generally left up in the zone. He didn't just leave him in there for an Andrew Susac home run that cut the lead to 7-4 in the sixth, but Weiss also ran Lyles out there to start the seventh when he was clearly gassed and gave up a walk to Angel Pagan and a double off the bat of Joe Panik. The only reason he got one out that inning is because Matt Duffy got himself out by foolishly swinging at a pitch he had no hope of driving anywhere on Lyles' first offering of the frame.
In any case, Lyles' night was done; and what could have been a solid outing instead turned into an unraveling ball of yarn.
For the Rockies however, the nightmare was just beginning, as it was now the bullpen's turn to prove they could hold the lead.
HAHAHAHA!!! Yeah right!
Here's an image of what Coors Field looked like in the seventh inning after Matt Belisle entered the game.
Long story short, (Because you really don't want to read the gory details of the long version) the Giants scored 11 unanswered runs in the last four innings of this game. Matt Belisle ended the night getting booed off the mound after only recording one out and giving up four runs while racking up a -.580 WPA, and the rest of the team pretty much lost interest in doing anything that might stop the tidal wave of raw sewage that was rapidly engulfing the situation.
Just look at the defense to see how things changed. Early in this game, DJ LeMahieu made an outstanding stop on a ball hit to his left and turned it into a double play with a quick release from Josh Rutledge. LeMahieu would then make another fine defensive play on a ground ball to end the fifth when the Giants were threatening. Rafael Ynoa's play to snag Blanco's line drive in the sixth was also magnificent.
However, later in the game after they had to watch the meltdowns on the mound, the Rockies looked clueless defensively. Corey Dickerson, Josh Rutledge, and Rafael Ynoa all converged on a ball that should have been caught, but nobody took charge and it landed in foul territory. An inning later Drew Stubbs dropped a ball he normally would catch in his sleep. The Root Sports broadcast defended Stubbs by saying that the ball was "knuckling" in what seems like a daily effort for them to gloss over a situation where a player should be hammered, but the official scorer correctly ruled it an error.
The funny thing is that the Stubbs actually has an excuse here: the pitching on this team is such an atrocity that it's hard for guys to maintain the readiness it takes to play top notch defense at this level from start to finish every night. It's still not a good excuse, and Stubbs will be the first person to tell you that he has to make that catch, but it's much easier to play defense when you haven't just watched possibly the worst of what's been about 47 bullpen implosions this season unfold directly in front of you. At some point, you're going to become mentally fatigued and lose concentration.
The Rockies offense also slept-walked through the final few innings as their fate was sealed. After piling up seven runs in the first five frames, they managed just one hit in the last four. In fact, 14 of the last 16 batters didn't get on base as the team went quietly into the night.
In closing stages of the game, the Rockies looked like a team with a broken spirit; overwhelmed by the impossible task of scoring enough runs to keep the lead safe from this radioactive relief core. This would have been bad on any night, but to have it also come against the most insufferable franchise in the entire National League while they are fighting for a playoff spot makes it that much more revolting.
Hopefully, the Rockies will be able to win tomorrow afternoon and as a result take the season series from San Francisco. On paper, it looks like a high scoring game with Ryan Vogelsong facing off against Christian Bergman, but in baseball you just never know.
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