For only the fifth time in franchise history, the Colorado Rockies have started the season 2-0. While the offense has done their part, the bullpen has been the biggest reason why the Rockies have won both of their games.
The bullpen has entered two games where runs were being scored at a pace that felt more like Coors Field than Miller Park and have not gave up an earned run. The only blemish on their record so far is when Scott Oberg allowed an inherited runner to score.
It hasn’t been just the big three in the back of the pen shutting out the Brewers. In both games, the bullpen has been asked to pitch more than expected and the middle relievers have been up to the task. The depth of the pen has allowed Bud Black to use quality relievers like Jake McGee and Carlos Estevez in the sixth inning. Considering that Estevez was a solid closer for a period last year, and that many teams would love to have his stuff in the back of the pen, the Rockies have been positioned to win despite their starters not getting the length they need.
To further appreciate the Rockies new bullpen let’s look at the individual contributors so far:
Unlike everyone else on this list, Oberg appeared in only the first game of the season. With a runner on second and nobody out, it’s extremely difficult to keep that runner from scoring. Oberg did allow the runner to score, but stopped the bleeding after that and gave the Rockies offense a chance to get back the lead.
Estevez earned the win in the first game of the season and a hold in the second. Of the four relievers who have appeared in both games, he’s the only one who has not surrendered a walk. He also hasn’t surrendered a hit while striking out two of the four batters he’s faced. The Rockies ability to use him in high-leverage situations like yesterday’s sixth inning is going to win games that last year’s team lost.
Coming out of spring training, Ottavino was still struggling to command his stuff and that was readily apparent in the first two batters that he faced on Monday. After walking both of them and then allowing them to double steal, Ottavino struck out the next three batters. His three walks in two innings needs correcting, but the nastiness of his slider has bailed him out.
Dunn had a great spring training, and that dominance has carried over to the regular season. He’s faced six batters so far this season and struck out five of them. The sixth walked, but was cut down by Tony Wolters on an amazing throw after Wolters held on to a foul tip for strike three. Last night’s outing is best described by this short video.
There’s been two save opportunities in two games and Holland has received the nod for both—a good sign about how he feels. The nastiness of his stuff in shutting down the Brewers for both saves is a good sign for how the Rockies playoff chances feel. The velocity has returned, though he still might tick up another notch or two as the season progresses, and the breaking stuff is as good as it’s ever been.
Other than the interesting decision to go with Jake McGee to face one right-handed batter in last night’s game, Black’s decisions have been gold. Tonight’s game will be a tougher test, as he probably won’t be able to use the relievers who have appeared in both of the games so far. Considering the Rockies won both of the games, that is an acceptable trade off. Holding onto one of those relievers just in case they might need them today and losing last night’s game is never a good idea. Hopefully, the Rockies will either have a larger lead tonight or Tyler Chatwood will duplicate his road performance from last year in tonight’s game.
The overall line for for the bullpen is now 81⁄3 innings pitched with 13 strikeouts. They’ve also surrendered five walks, but only two hits. While the walk total is a bit high, the inability of opposing hitters to get a hit or even make contact is an acceptable trade at this point. Tonight we might find out what the rest of the pen is made of, but the back-end of the pen looks as good as promised and most importantly the team is 2-0.