As it so often is with the Rockies, it's not just that they lose, it's how they lose. Last night's game will make for a fascinating addition to the team's extensive library of excruciating losses. Well, excruciating might not be quite the right word. Maybe it's because I've come to accept that this is a lost season by this point, or maybe it's because this game was so downright strange, but I actually found myself more entertained than angered by the various twists and turns in the game.
The Rockies, stagnant offensively for an entire series in Oakland and a game in Phoenix, started the game off on the right foot this time. Actually, you can't start a game any better than with a lead-off home run, and that's exactly what Charlie Blackmon did, going deep off Arizona starter chase Anderson.
Anderson looked quite shaky in the first, surrendering walks to DJ LeMahieu and Troy Tulowitzki before allowing a two-out double by Wilin Rosario that scored them both, giving the Rockies their final runs of the night. Yes, aside from the first inning, the offense continued to be anemic.
It's concerning to see an offense that still has so many great bats in the lineup struggle so badly for this long. Even the sizzling hot Nolan Arenado has been cold since the team went to Oakland. Other than the first inning, the lone bright spot for the Rockies offensively was the continuation of Troy Tulowitzki's 16 game hit streak, as well as his 31 game on-base streak.
The Diamondbacks quickly cut the three run deficit to one, touching up Kyle Kendrick for two runs in the bottom of the first. Kendrick settled in for a few innings after that though, putting up zeroes for the next three innings.
In the bottom of the fifth, A.J. Pollock led off with a double for Arizona. Or did he? Despite appearing to artfully evade the tag of second baseman LeMahieu, a video review was called for. The umpires were on the phone with New York for what seemed like an eternity, as the replay officials debated whether or not Pollock had taken his right hand off the base before he put his left hand on while LeMahieu's glove was still in contact with him. On several angles it looked like this could possibly have happened, but it was nowhere near conclusive enough to overturn the initial safe call.
Could make a case that Pollock came off the bag and DJ still had the tag on, but probably not enough there to overturn the call on the field— Purple Row (@PurpleRow) July 4, 2015
The call was overturned anyways. Decisions like this, and the one two weeks ago where Charlie Blackmon was called out on a pop-up slide where the second baseman also kept his glove on the runner during the entire slide, obey the letter of the law but not the spirit of the law. These plays would not have been given much thought in the past, and none of the fielders seemed particularly angry about the original call in either instance. I'm not positive, despite having seen the play about 20 times, that Pollock was out, but even if he was I feel as though it was an unjust call. So did the 22,449 fans inside Chase Field, who booed the umpires at just about every opportunity for several innings. The Rockies got incredibly lucky on that play, and Kendrick was able to get out of the inning unscathed.
In the sixth, Kendrick gave up his third run before exiting in favor of Justin Miller with two outs. On the continuum of Kyle Kendrick outings, this one wasn't particularly bad. He kept the team in the game. Miller walked pinch-hitter Aaron Hill to load the bases before getting Pollock to ground out to end the inning with the score tied 3-3.
Both teams would get chances to seize control of the game in the late innings. Walt Weiss called on Scott Oberg, who had thrown 24 pitches in a third of an inning the night before, to pitch the bottom of the ninth. Oberg walked the lead-off man, and eventually loaded the bases with one out after a wise intentional walk of Paul Goldschmidt with runners on the corners. It was then that Walt Weiss decided it was time to gamble. He substituted Daniel Descalso for Carlos Gonzalez, putting five men in the infield in the hopes of preventing any ground ball from getting through.
FIVE MAN INFIELD ALERT— Throneberry (@TheGhostofMarv) July 4, 2015
The controversial decision was never tested, however, as Oberg got Yasmany Tomas to strike out. With two outs, Weiss substituted Ben Paulsen for Descalso, placing him in left field and returning to the traditional four man infield. The spacing proved to be tight enough as DJ LeMahieu made a nice play on a hard ground ball to improbably send the game to extra innings.
At this point in the game, the Rockies had exactly three hits and the Diamondbacks had eleven, and yet they were all even in the only category that mattered. Colorado had no business of being in a position to win the game, and yet somehow they almost managed to take advantage of it in the top of the tenth.
D'Backs reliever Andrew Chafin also committed the cardinal sin of pitching, issuing a free pass to Wilin Rosario to begin the inning. Rosario was advanced on an unexpected bunt by Nick Hundley that just barely stayed fair down the first base line. With runners on first and second with no outs, Weiss sent Michael McKenry to the plate to pinch-hit for Oberg. Instead of bunting, which probably would have drawn ire from some despite being the smartest option in that situation, McKenry swung away and hit a screaming line drive that was gloved by shortstop Nick Ahmed. Rosario strayed too far off second base, and was easily thrown out for the double play. Drew Stubbs was the last chance for the Rockies in the tenth but, predictably, he struck out.
For the bottom half of the tenth, Weiss went to Yohan Flande, who made his first appearance since May 23. I know that the bullpen is depleted, and that there really hasn't been a single reliable pitcher for the Rockies lately, but Flande is the guy you're gonna go to with the game on the line? It was another...I'll call it "interesting" move from the Rockies manager.
Yohan Flande is not a big leaguer. It's sad that he's seen as an option— Purple Dino Podcast (@purpledinocast) July 4, 2015
It took just six pitches for Flande to allow two hits and a sacrifice fly that ended the game and gave the Diamondbacks the victory they deserved. Apparently Weiss wanted to intentionally walk Cliff Pennington, the hero of the hour whose sac-fly brought home Welington Castillo, but he couldn't get his signals through in time. It probably wouldn't have mattered. Flande was throwing batting practice. If Pennington hadn't been able to hit a fly ball to the outfield, I'm sure someone else would have.
Weiss wanted to intentionally walk Pennington but didn't get the sign in quick enough. So many things wrong with that. So many.— Purple Row (@PurpleRow) July 4, 2015
I'm not going to wax poetic about this being "more than just another loss" like I did two weeks ago. It was, in truth, just another bad loss in a season that is already full of them and that will surely bring more in the coming three months. However, it was still a winnable game, in which the Rockies received some incredible luck, and it was thrown away by questionable managing and, more importantly, another pathetic offensive showing. I'm not enough of a fatalist to be swayed in my fandom by one bad game, but I can't say the same for some of my friends.
This could be the game I give up on you #Rockies.— Jake Shapiro (@Shapalicious) July 4, 2015
If the Rockies are starting to lose that guy, they're really doing something wrong.