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The Rockies Won Another Game In San Francisco, But We Need To Talk About The Bullpen

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Sometimes winning can't entirely erase the bad taste of shaky performances and questionable decisions.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Friday was a day of celebration in San Francisco. The K strikeout cards on the right field wall were rainbow colored, one of the boats in McCovey Cove flew a pride flag, and another ostensibly sold-out crowd celebrated LGBT Night at AT&T Park.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="und" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LGBTNight?src=hash">#LGBTNight</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SFGiants?src=hash">#SFGiants</a> <a href="http://t.co/axDm0shP7r">pic.twitter.com/axDm0shP7r</a></p>&mdash; San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) <a href="https://twitter.com/SFGiants/status/614608413759123456">June 27, 2015</a></blockquote>

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Unfortunately for the hometown fans, the Rockies spoiled the fun; taking yet another game in the former house of horrors by a score of 8-6.

Any concerns that Carlos Gonzalez's hand injury would cause a drop in his production were all but erased last night, as he went 5-for-5 for the first time since May of 2014, coming up just a home run shy of the cycle. Both of the home runs hit by the Rockies belonged to Nolan Arenado, who continues to murder seemingly every baseball unfortunate enough to cross his path. His three-run blast in the sixth inning traveled 416 feet through the heavy nighttime air, and his solo shot in the ninth went nearly as deep. The man is on fire, and it's a joy to watch him turn into a superstar before our eyes.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Nolan Arenado’s bat is looking as good as his glove. That’s SCARY: <a href="http://t.co/7W8K1XQKC6">http://t.co/7W8K1XQKC6</a> <a href="http://t.co/0uKCkNVKkc">pic.twitter.com/0uKCkNVKkc</a></p>&mdash; MLB GIFS (@MLBGIFs) <a href="https://twitter.com/MLBGIFs/status/614666819912085504">June 27, 2015</a></blockquote>

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Chad Bettis was solid once again for the Rockies, making only one mistake in his first 5 2/3 innings pitched, an Andrew Susac home run. However, with two outs in the sixth and no one on base, he allowed four straight singles that tied the game at three. He still picked up his fourth win of the season by virtue of the Rockies regaining the lead the following inning.

The Rockies nibbled at Giants starter Tim Hudson through the first five innings, accumulating hits but not runs, before breaking out in the sixth and seventh for three runs apiece. They added two much-needed insurance runs in the top of the ninth to make the score 8-3. The game looked safely won. It wasn't.

For the third consecutive game, the Rockies ran into trouble in the ninth inning. The star of last night's melodrama was Tommy Kahnle, who was tasked with getting three outs before allowing five runs. That would turn out to be a bigger challenge than anyone (except those who watched the last two games against Arizona) had expected. He started the inning off on the wrong foot by walking Brandon Crawford, and then with one out he also gave Justin Maxwell a free pass.

Having runners on first and second with one out in a five run game isn't quite nail-biting territory, but things got worse. Kahnle threw a wild pitch that allowed both Crawford and Maxwell to move up, before Nick Hundley let ball four to Travis Ishikawa get by him, allowing Crawford to score and cutting the Rockies lead to four without a ball having been put in play.

It was only then that Walt Weiss finally got some action going in the Rockies bullpen, sending Christian Friedrich out to warm up. There would be no pitching change forthcoming, however, as Weiss decided to leave the fate of the game up to Kahnle. This did not seem like a particularly good idea after Gregor Blanco dumped a broken bat single into right field to close the gap to 8-5, bringing the tying run to the plate in the form of Joe Panik. Panik did not tie the game, but he did hit another single, narrowing the lead to two with one out and Matt Duffy representing the winning run at the plate.

Duffy nearly tied the game on a line drive to right that fell mere inches foul, causing Rockies fans all across the land to experience irregular heartbeats. That turned out to the the Giants' last gasp, as Kahnle managed to finally settle down, striking out Duffy and then Buster Posey, both swinging, on full count pitches out of the strike zone.

Though Kahnle managed to escape, his adventures tonight were the latest episode in a disturbing series of events this week, in which Rockies relievers have given up seven runs in the ninth inning of the last three games. Somehow the Rockies are 2-1 in that stretch, but they should be 3-0 with considerably less stress along the way. When you give your closer a multi-run lead going into the ninth, you expect to win, and when you give any Major League relief pitcher a four or five run margin with three outs to go you don't expect too many shenanigans.

The performance of the Rockies bullpen the last three games has been unacceptable, but the managing habits of Walt Weiss have been downright strange. He used three pitchers in the sixth inning of a game on Wednesday, but allowed Kahnle to remain in a game he was in danger of giving away last night, and he allowed Boone Logan to face right-handed hitters in the ninth inning on Thursday, before being forced to insert John Axford into the game after he had thrown over 30 pitches in a blown save opportunity the night before. Weiss could be seen visibly congratulating Kahnle after the end of tonight's game in the handshake line, which leads me to wonder whether or not he saw tonight's outing as a character building exercise. Tommy managed to get two huge strikeouts to win the game but, had he allowed the giants to complete their comeback, Weiss' character building exercise would have looked more like hanging a pitcher out to dry and blowing what should have been an easy victory.

Though, for the second day in a row, the Rockies escaped with a victory last night, they need to get more steady results out of the bullpen, and fast. Most of that is on the pitchers, but some of the blame has to go to the manager.

Oh yeah, and did I mention that the Rockies are still undefeated in San Francisco this season? How crazy is that?