Every baseball game has a winner and a loser. It’s black and white. But the details within each game tell a more complicated story — they can temper a victory or pardon a defeat. The Rockies won today, and Rockies fans should rightly be pleased. Additionally, a lot of good things happened on the way to the win. Ultimately, however, the signals the game sent us are mixed. We’re left with a victory that neither authorizes optimism nor justifies pessimism.
The Bats are Still Struggling
The Rockies scored four runs, but it would be wrong to call it an offensive explosion — it was more of moderate pop. But considering that the Rockies scored just two runs in the first three games in Miami, it was welcome.
The bulk of the offense came in the first inning. Charlie Blackmon started things off with a leadoff home run, giving the Rockies an early lead. Troy Tulowitzki later walked. He scored on a Nolan Arenado two-run homer. The Rockies scored more runs in the first inning than in the previous three games against the Marlins combined. After that, the bats went silent again. Against Dan Haren, the Rockies mustered a single hit and worked a walk (Nick Hundley also got hit by a pitch) over the next five innings. In the seventh inning, the Rockies strung together a walk, a single, and a couple of groundouts to score another run. The Rockies ended the day with five hits.
Getting four runs in any game is a nice outcome, but today’s game doesn’t suggest that the team is off the schneid. Going back to the final two home games against the Cardinals, the Rockies have scored 12 runs in their last six games. The Rockies travel to Houston for two games tomorrow. While Minute Maid Park is friendly to the bats, they’ll be welcomed by tough lefty Dallas Keuchel before facing rookie Vincent Velasquez on Tuesday.
What the Rockies can do against tough and unseasoned pitching in a friendly environment will tell us more about whether today’s pop will turn into something louder. It would also be a nice way to head back to Coors Field for an eight-game homestand.
Jorge De La Rosa is on a Roll
Jorge De La Rosa pitched an excellent game, and it wasn’t even as good has his previous start. On June 9 against the Cardinals, De La Rosa threw seven innings, during which he gave up two runs, walked two, and struck out eight. It’s those types of performances that the Rockies need from their ace. Today, De La Rosa had another seven-inning effort. He gave up just one run, but he struck out just four and walked four.
Half of the hits De La Rosa allowed came in the seventh inning. De La Rosa started off the seventh with a walk. Walt Weiss then made his way to the mound. With Tommy Kahnle and Boone Logan both throwing in the bullpen, it appeared that his day was done. But Weiss left him in the game.
De La Rosa proceeded to record a couple of outs on the ground. One of those was a fielder’s choice that resulted in JT Realmuto making it to second base. With a runner in scoring position, Ichiro pinch hit for reliever Steve Cishek. Ichiro did what he was sent up there to do and plated Realmuto with a single. After that, Dee Gordon hit a squibber to DJ LeMahieu in the infield. He never had a shot to get Ichiro at second or Gordon at first. At that point, there were two runners on with two outs in a 4-1 game. Donovan Solano represented the tying run.
After Gordon’s single, I thought De La Rosa’s day was done. The Miami broadcast thought so as well — the "bullpen has been ready for fifteen minutes," they said. Judging by the way De La Rosa frustratingly took the ball back to the mound, it looked like he thought so too. Weiss approached the top of the dugout. He stared to the mound and clapped his hands twice. Weiss decided to leave De La Rosa in the game.
De La Rosa then got Solano to ground out to second base. Inning over. Lead safe. The game ended 4-1.
We don’t know the words Weiss and De La Rosa exchanged after he opened the seventh with a walk. In such situations, it seems better to have a manager who won’t be persuaded by a competitive athlete. Maybe the athlete, who wants to succeed and is wired to think that he can, will insist he stay in the game. The manager, however, should come equipped with knowledge of the pitch count, approaching 100, and the fact that Marlins were about to see De La Rosa for the fourth time. Leaving De La Rosa in seemed to be a mistake.
The results showed otherwise. Though the inning could easily have turned out differently, they also could also have turned out differently if Weiss relieved De La Rosa. (Insert Boone Logan joke here). Aside from results, there are other ways to see the way the seventh unfolded in a positive light. Weiss saw a pitcher who had a 2.92 ERA in his four starts prior to Sunday — that’s eight runs allowed in 24.2 innings pitched. He had reason to have confidence in him, and he gave it to him. That matters.