The Colorado Rockies needed a big hit. For most of the game on Thursday, they didn't get it. Just when it looked like that was going to explain another loss as it has so many for the last couple weeks, Pat Valaika came through. Valaika smashed a hanging slider from Mike Minor in the 8th inning to save the Rockies and put them on their way to a 3-2 win over the Kansas City Royals.
That's not to say that the Rockies' offense broke through or looked good in this game. Before we talk about good things, we should note the continued bad offense and all the missed opportunities in this game:
- Gerardo Parra flared a harmless grounder to end the 3rd inning with men on the corners.
- DJ LeMahieu struck out with two on in the 5th inning.
- Nolan Arenado followed that with an inning-ending groundout.
- Valaika popped up in the infield with two in scoring position and nobody out in the 6th.
- Trevor Story rolled into an especially gut-punching double play to end the 6th inning with a run in and men on the corners.
- LeMahieu stranded Charlie Blackmon at second in the 9th inning, failing to provide what would have been a welcome insurance run.
The hitter who did come through to put the Rockies on the board before Valaika's home run was Raimel Tapia. The rookie outfielder, not yet known for his poise, showed more poise than most of his veteran colleagues have in recent weeks. He went with a pitch, lined it to left field and drove in Colorado’s first run in the 6th inning.
All of the missed opportunities almost once again squandered outstanding pitching. German Marquez was stellar once again; he went six solid innings, allowing just two solo home runs and otherwise working around eight hits and a pair of walks. He was matched on the other side by Jake Junis, whose name might sound like it came out of a video game's name generator but is in fact a real person who pitched 5.1 innings and struck out seven Rockies. He was also the author of multiple escapes, as outlined above.
Of course, all eyes were on the back of the bullpen and what Bud Black would do in a save situation. He went with Mike Dunn in the 8th inning. The veteran lefty put a man on to start the inning, but he then struck out Eric Hosmer on a nasty slider in the dirt. That became the theme of the inning; Dunn followed that with a strikeout on a back-foot slider to Bonifacio and a strikeout on a similarly nasty slider to Brandon Moss.
At that point, the only question you might have had is if Dunn or somebody else should have been the one to try to close this game out in the 9th. Instead Black stubbornly went with Greg Holland despite his recent struggles.
So how did the Rockies’ closer do? He got Alcides Escobar on a bad-luck line drive right at LeMahieu. Cheslor Cuthbert drove one to the warning track for the second out. Finally, Mike Moustakas, the Royals' leader in home runs with 35, flew out to center field to end the game.
Hey, a save's a save and this team desperately needed a win, so nobody is complaining here. But Holland still worked up in the zone too much and floated a couple sliders. Hat's off to Black for knowing the right button to push and sticking with his guy, but we'll still hope to see sharper locations from Holland in his appearances to come.
Colorado now turns to a three-game series in Atlanta, but they'll have the same questions to answer on offense. Chad Bettis will take the mound on Friday against Julio Teheran for the Braves. In case you wanted to prepare yourself for Friday's feeling of dread, Teheran pretty well baffled the Rockies at Coors Field earlier this month. He threw seven shutout innings in Bettis's motivational season debut, which the Rockies ultimately went on to win.
The offense will try to catch up with the pitching so that the Rockies can turn this into a successful road trip. Here's hoping that "The Rockies needed a big hit, they didn't get it" doesn't become the mantra for this season's home stretch. For one day, Pat Valaika saved the team from another loss in that category.