There was no point Monday night where I expected the Rockies to win their game against the Astros.
For starters, they were facing Dallas Keuchel, which means they were even more unlikely than usual to have a solid road game offensively. As expected, Keuchel was dominant early, retiring the first 15 batters he faced, but the Rockies did manage break through with two, two-out runs in the sixth, and another in the seventh to chase Keuchel from the game, push his ERA to over 2.00 on the season, and at least give the team a chance to win late. The Rockies didn't roll over and die after getting down big early, which is a good sign. In fact, they got the tying run to the plate in three of the last four innings.
The other main reason it never felt like the Rockies were going to win this game is because of Chad Bettis' dreadful first inning. If the Rockies were going to have a good chance in this game, they needed a great performance from Bettis. Since Bettis has been good lately, I felt this was the best formula to win going into the game, but those hopes were immediately dashed when the Rockies fell behind 4-0 in the first frame.
In other words, the game was all but officially over in less than 20 minutes. In Keuchel's last 25 starts dating back to last season, the Astros are not only 17-8, but the eight losses all came with minimal run support. In fact, here are the number of runs the Astros scored in the last eight games lost started by Keuchel:
So, allowing four runs in the first inning is always bad, especially when you have the road Rockies offense supporting you, but against Keuchel, it's pretty much a death sentence. Even if the the pitching staff didn't give up another run all night, the offense still would have been tasked with a job no team has successfully accomplished in a year: beat the Astros in a Keuchel start where the Astros' offense gave him at least four runs.
Still, as mentioned above, the Rockies made a game of it and kept things interesting. It never got to a point where you expected them to pull this game out, but it didn't get unwatchable late.
I bring all of this up because while I didn't expect the Rockies to win in the ninth when they got two men on with just one out, I absolutely detested Walt Weiss' decision to allow Rafael Ynoa to hit in that spot. The tying run was at the plate, and Carlos Gonzalez, who started the day on the bench thanks to a lefty being on the mound, wasn't allowed to bat.
Why, Walt? Why?
1) The tying run was at the plate, so ideally, you want someone with pop at the dish.
The Rockies, however, had pretty much the worst guy possible coming up in Ynoa, who in 142 career major league plate appearances entering the ninth, had a grand total of zero home runs. He also didn't represent much of an opportunity to move the tying run onto the basepaths either, as indicated by his .278 on base percentage and 52 OPS+ this season.
Fortunately for the Rockies, they had Gonzalez waiting on the bench, who despite his struggles this season is still batting .291 with an .841 OPS and five home runs in his last month at the plate. Unfortunately for the Rockies, their manager decided not to use him.
How Weiss elected to use Ynoa in this spot -- with a right-handed pitcher on the mound, no less -- is beyond me.
2) There was no other spot in the batting order coming up where using CarGo made more sense.
Ynoa came up with only one out before hitting into a brutal game-ending double play, so who was hitting behind him was an important thing to think about before the inning went in the toilet. The next five batters scheduled were Nick Hundley, Charlie Blackmon, DJ LeMahieu, Troy Tulowitzki, and Nolan Arenado, or in other words, a guy who you can count on to have a decent at bat followed by the top of the lineup in a normal NL game Carlos Gonzalez doesn't start.
Knowing this, there's no excuse not to use the CarGo there. While it's important to be mindful of who is hitting behind the current batter with fewer than two outs in the ninth, this was not a situation where saving CarGo made any sense. The weakest batter Houston was going to see that inning was coming up in the form of Ynoa, and it was in the Rockies' best interest to take that easy out (and what actually became an easy two outs) away from the Astros.
3) Creating a defensive alignment in the bottom of the ninth (if the Rockies got that far) wouldn't have been difficult
The Rockies already used two pinch-hitters in the ninth, creating a potential shakeup defensively, but everything was still workable. Ben Paulsen led off the inning with a hit in place of Wilin Rosario. That's an easy swap. Put Paulsen in at first base where Rosario was playing.
Michael McKenry was up next as the DH. He hit for himself and flew out to right. Again, no complicated shakeup.
Corey Dickerson then pinch hit for Brandon Barnes (who was playing right field), which made things a little bit more complicated since you want Dickerson in left while Barnes can play all over the outfield, but this was still an outfielder for outfielder swap. Easy enough.
The left fielder at this time was Ynoa, who was coming up next. So the sensible play here if the Rockies got to the bottom of the ninth was pinch hit CarGo for Ynoa, put him in right field where Barnes was playing, and put Dickerson in left where Ynoa was playing. If Dickerson's foot was bothering him, and it didn't appear to be when he ran to first, Weiss could have slid Paulsen from first base to left and allowed Daniel Descalso to appear at first in emergency duty, which he's already done five times -- including one start -- this year.
Long story short, CarGo pinch-hitting in Ynoa's spot gave the Rockies their best chance to win the game, and the manager decided that he'd rather have the light-hitting utility player bat. Again, I never expected the Rockies to win this game, and I don't think batting CarGo there would have turned this into a victory. But I do believe that Weiss didn't give his team the best chance to win the game, and that's very, very frustrating.