The Colorado Rockies jumped out to an early lead on Thursday night, and it looked like they were going to blow out the San Francisco Giants. Not so fast, so they say, and this is where you might insert a "COORS" meme if you felt so inclined.
Rockies' pitchers played with fire all night, and the bullpen ultimately collapsed and coughed up an eight-run lead. The score was 9-1 and we were all happy, and then it was 9-9 and we were all miserable.
We could have stayed happy, maybe, or at least been less stressed out if we had known this was all setting up the first walk-off win of the year. It was the kid Raimel Tapia who delivered with a walk-off single, bailing out the bullpen and giving the Rockies a 10-9 win.
The way this game started, it looked like the Rockies might score 30 runs. The top of the order had the early stars on offense. Charlie Blackmon scored three runs and had a triple, DJ LeMahieu had four hits, and Nolan Arenado drove in four runs on three doubles.
Mark Reynolds and Ian Desmond chipped in as well, and Tapia drove in an early run of his own. They had three runs on the board and five straight hits in the first inning before Matt Moore even recorded an out.
Once the top of the order piled on again in the second inning, the Rockies had seven runs on the board through two innings. Having staked rookie Jeff Hoffman to that big lead, it looked like everybody could relax and enjoy an easy win against the terrible Giants.
But we all should know better, right? Hoffman might have managed to go five innings while giving up just one run, but if we're being honest with ourselves, he set the tone for the shaky pitching that the Rockies got all night. After a masterful first frame, Hoffman fought his command and dealt with traffic all night. He issued three walks, including a bases loaded walk to the pitcher Moore in what could have been a much uglier second inning.
With some grittiness and some luck, Hoffman escaped those jams with minimal damage and stranded nine Giants runners. He was also helped by a truly spectacular defensive play from Trevor Story to escape more damage with the bases loaded in the second.
Thank goodness things didn't get worse under Hoffman's watch, because the Giants came roaring back against the bullpen. The trouble started in the seventh inning when yes, the score was still 9-1.
Buster Posey hit a two-run shot off Scott Oberg, a sentence any reasonable person could have guessed would appear if the two faced each other. Posey was responsible for a couple bad defensive plays early in this game, so it was inevitable that the team captain of the "Rockies Killers" would strike back sometime later in the game.
At that point it was 9-3. I'm going to tell you that Mike Dunn and Chad Qualls tried to handle the eighth inning, and I'm going to guess that you will see that it's obvious when things really went off the rails. Dunn surrendered a home run to old friend Nick Hundley and then handed Qualls a bit of a pickle.
The veteran righty gave up an RBI single to pinch hitter Ty Blach, who also happens to be the probable starter for the Giants on Sunday. The big blow came moments later, but you could reasonably argue that was the moment when we realized things might really go wrong.
Jake McGee was called on to face the left-handed Brandon Crawford and hopefully clean up the mess. No such luck, and a three-run home run made this an honest-to-goodness ballgame in the eighth inning.
It had to be against the Giants. Their bullpen, which is bad, buckled down and kept the offense quiet after Moore only lasted three innings. Their lineup, full of veteran hitters, just kept chipping away like they have for years on playoff contending and World Series winning teams. Really, no matter their record, we should know better.
You could feel the air come out of Coors Field, even from afar or over the radio. The Rockies' half of the eighth inning ended with a wimper, a strike-'em-out, throw-'em-out that felt like an extra punch in the gut. In so far as you believe in momentum in a baseball game, it was up to Holland to stop it. For the first time this season, he wasn’t up to the task.
Holland put the tying run on after a leadoff single from the suddenly annoying Austin Slater, who had four knocks in the game. Holland was able to strike out Hundley, but a single from Denard Span put runners on the corners.
Span moved up on a pitch in the dirt, and then a sacrifice fly from Gorkys Hernandez plated Slater and tied the game. Span then stole third with pinch hitter Jeff Samardzija (tomorrow’s starting pitcher) at the plate, a detail that will be relevant in a just a moment.
At this point this dumb game was tied, and Holland kept it tied in the dumbest way possible; he dutifully covered the plate after a wild pitch, catching the toss from Tom Murphy and tagging Span out at the plate. Credit to him for being there and all that, but it was a fittingly clumsy third out for the way this game went. It was Holland’s first blown save of the season.
In a bottom of the ninth inning that they never thought they would play, the Rockies showed some nice resolve and rallied for the win. Reynolds singled to start the inning against Hunter Strickland (he’s the big angry one). Carlos Gonzalez appeared as a pinch hitter with one out and worked a four-pitch walk. That brought Tapia to the plate, and he delivered the winner on a sharp single to right field.
It would have been nice to see the Rockies establish the dominant tone it looked like they might set, but after the collapse you won’t catch me complaining about the win. This up-and-down affair sets the stage for what should be an interesting weekend series.
The Rockies will be back in action Friday against the Giants, with Antonio Senzatela on the mound opposite Jeff Samardzija.