The Rockies are off today, their second in four days. When you start the season with 14 straight games, an off day, while a welcome respite for the players, can be a devastating gap left in the lives of us fans. To fill this gaping hole in our lives, I want us to remember a game that, despite 686 comments in the game thread, nobody seemed to watch.
The game in question happened in Cincinnati on Wednesday afternoon, April 20, 2016—exactly one year ago today. The season was still young, and the Rockies and Reds both still had a winning record. This represented the rubber match of a three-game set, winner takes the series.
And yet, only 12,979 tickets were sold, and, judging by the look of the stadium, many of those went unused. With a 5.0 percent unemployment rate in Ohio in April 2016 and kids still aching for summer break, potential viewership was doomed from the start for a weekday afternoon game. To make matters worse, neither regional sports network was televising the game, so even those who were available to watch on TV had little (legal) recourse to do so.
What all those people missed was one of the most exciting Rockies games—according to average leverage index—of 2016. What did they miss, and why?
First, the lineups. Manager Walt Weiss gave Charlie Blackmon and Nick Hundley the
day morning off, while the Reds were trotting out more-or-less their “A” lineup as well. But peek that tweet a little closer.
MORNING BASEBALL!— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) April 20, 2016
1st pitch at 10:35am MT, let's take the series! pic.twitter.com/XfcuzRZEUT
Here we have perhaps the most obvious example of why so few people saw this game. If your game starts at the 10 o’clock hour—either one—in any time zone, you’re pretty much guaranteeing nobody is watching. When it starts just after one fanbase’s second cup of coffee, where following the game may result in a visit to your HR rep, well, buddy, nobody will be watching. I’m starting to understand why both RSN’s didn’t broadcast.
The game started innocently enough, with starters Raisel Iglesias and Chad Bettis pitching clean first innings. Bettis had a rough bottom of the second, though. He gave up a single to Brandon Phillips, followed by a home run from Jay Bruce, who was kind enough to deposit it in the most densely populated spot in the ballpark:
Bruce’s home run made it 2-0 Reds, and Adam Duvall followed it up with a solo home run of his own to push it to 3-0. Dozens of fans were beside themselves with excitement.
That was Home Run Derby participant Adam Duvall’s—who you totally remember, just like me, because how could you forget someone like Alan Duvall—first home run of the season.
Bad Chettis became Good Chettis after that, retiring the next 15 batters he faced, including four strikeouts. He would have to wait to the fourth inning to get any run support. After a leadoff double from DJ LeMahieu, Carlos Gonzalez hit a one-out double to put the Rockies on the board. Parra, before he was known to be awful, drove in Cargo to make it 3-2. Both starters mowed down one full turn through the lineup before CarGo did this in the sixth:
The Rockies were unable to capitalize, and we moved on to the seventh. Dustin Garneau laced a two-out double just inside the left field line to give the Rockies a chance. Ryan Raburn pinch-hit for Bettis, who had just 78 pitches and was cruising, but the Rockies needed some offense. Fortunately, Raburn came through and Garneau slid by the tag at home to make it 3-3.
Or did he?
The Reds, believing Garneau failed to touch the bag, appealed to third base where Adrian Johnson called him out. Of course, he had a great look at it so surely he got it righ—
Look, that is a tough, tough call, I get it. And the way that Dustin slipped as he went around the bag sure makes it seem like he missed it altogether. But if you’re going to call runners out for barely coming off the bag in a tag situation, surely you can give Garneau the benefit of barely touching the bag here. Replay review was no help to the Rockies anyway—though, had there been just one full broadcast crew available, I wonder if they would’ve had a better camera angle than this to show whether he hit the bag.
As so often happens when a tying run gets called out on appeal for not touching the bag in the top half of the inning, the Reds extended their lead in the bottom half. Weiss brought in Justin Miller to face the heart of the Reds lineup and got two quick outs before Duvall hit a fly ball to left. Remember that early afternoon start time? And that one of the Rockies’ starting outfielders was getting the day off? That led to this scene with Ben Paulsen:
The ball eventually fell near the warning track, and Duvall ended up on second base. Two doubles (that a regular center fielder might have caught) later and the Reds would have a seemingly insurmountable 5-2 lead.
The first three Rockies reached in the top of the eighth and then the Reds were unable to convert a one out grounder into a double play. Two batters later Ben Paulsen, seeking to make amends for his misplay in left, roped a two-run double to left to tie the game at five. Alas, Mark Reynolds got back picked off third to end the inning and the rally.
You can only make so many mental and physical errors in a game and still expect to win. That final error came when Weiss elected to bring in Christian Bergman into a tie game in the bottom of the ninth. Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce led off the inning with back-to-back singles and, after a strikeout, Tucker Barnhart lined a single into an empty left field. Like, really empty.
So ended a back-and-forth affair that had an average leverage index of 1.72 (fewer than half of all games have an aLI greater than 1.00). It was by no means a pretty game, but it would have been pretty fun to watch, had more people had the opportunity to do so. Whoever decided this would be a good time for a game to take place obviously has no concern for the fans who would’ve loved to watch such a wacky game. Or Reds ticket sales, for that matter.