PHOENIX, Ariz. — The Colorado Rockies just finished up their opening series against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. While they dropped the first two, they avoided the sweep thanks to Charlie Blackmon’s two home runs and some bullpen wizardry in Saturday’s finale. Here are some early takeaways from the first series of the season.
Adam Ottavino, Bryan Shaw, Jake McGee, and Wade Davis all looked outstanding. The four of them struck out 11 while allowing just two baserunners (a hit and a walk) in six scoreless innings. Not bad, considering the Rockies spent $106 million on their bullpen in the offseason.
(Some of) The Offense
After some well publicized struggles during Spring Training, Ian Desmond seems to have found his swing. He’s at least finding good results so far. In 10 plate appearances, Desmond went 4-for-10 with a home run and just one strikeout. Chris Iannetta also had a solid first two games, going 5-for-7.
The standout performer of the moment, however, is Charlie Blackmon. All three of his hits have been home runs (the first two on the first pitch of the at bat, the third on the second pitch) and his two homers on Saturday night were the difference in the game. He doesn’t seem to have slowed down from his MVP-caliber 2017.
Jon Gray and Tyler Anderson didn’t exactly have memorable 2018 debuts. They combined for 61⁄3 innings, 11 hits, 10 runs, seven strikeouts, and seven walks. On Saturday, third starter Germán Márquez had a decent game, but it still left something to be desired. He threw five innings, allowed four hits and a run, and walked four. He did strikeout four batters as well though. It wasn’t exceptional, but it was a better start than the Rockies got in the first two games.
Trevor Story has had some ups and downs during his tenure with the Rockies. In 2016, he lad rookie shortstops in home runs. In 2017, he led the league in strikeouts. After three games in 2018, he’s struck out seven times in 12 plate appearances. He also recorded the Rockies’ first error of the season, which allowed the Diamondbacks to take a 1-0 lead in the midst of Saturday’s duel.
The Rockies grounded into four double plays in three games. That doesn’t seem terrible, except for two of those four double plays came off the bat of DJ LeMahieu in Thursday’s 8-2 blowout loss. It’s unfortunately common for LeMahieu, who has led the Rockies in double plays over the last few years (Arenado has been second in that category in each of those years also). Double plays happen, but hopefully there aren’t as many multiple offensive double play games in the future.
The situation at first base has been tricky. Desmond was named the started and so far he has been playing well. However, on Saturday he was lifted from the game with left knee soreness. Bud Black said, “he’s felt it the last couple days, a little bit of back knee, when he’s in his stance putting weight on that back knee a little bit. It got a little bothersome at the end and he came to me and said ‘hey, you know Buddy it’s probably the right thing to do. Let’s think about getting Mac in there.’ He wasn’t at full strength as the game wore on.”
That left the door open for Ryan McMahon to finally play at first base. But McMahon has so far gone 0-3 with three big swinging strikeouts. Some of that could be due to limited Major League experience and also spending the majority of the first few games on the bench, but hopefully Desmond’s injury isn’t extensive and/or McMahon is able to start making contact. After one series, first base is still a looming question mark.
Reasons for Optimism
Trevor Story’s Saturday
Trevor Story is 1-for-12 with seven strikeouts and a slash line of .083/.083/.083. That’s not good. The Rockies considered sitting Story on Saturday, according to Black: “We debated a little bit as to whether to get him in there tonight but the history against [Zack] Greinke was pretty good and three games into the season, we want to get our guys going, get them in there, get their rhythm going.”
Story set a different tone on Saturday night. He watched extensive film in the clubhouse before the game. While he still went 0-for-3, he didn’t strike and had some quality at bats. His first at bat lasted seven pitches until he finally flied out to center field; his second at bat was another fly out on the first pitch; and his final at bat lasted 13 pitches before an eventual fly out to right. After the game, Black praised the adjusted at bats, saying, “Trev’s going to be just fine, believe me.”
While Márquez didn’t have a great game, he was also able to contain Paul Goldschmidt, and that’s a cause for some optimism. He said that his plan for Goldschmidt was, “attack, attack the zone hard and then finish with something soft.” That plan succeeded—Goldschmidt went 0-for-3 against Márquez with two strikeouts. (But as good as Márquez was on the mound, his pitch counting in the batter’s box might need a little work.)
The Rockies flew to California last night to open up a four game series against the San Diego Padres before returning home on Friday, April 6. Here are the probables for the San Diego series:
Monday, April 2 at 8:10 pm MDT – RHP Chad Bettis vs. Bryan Mitchell
Tuesday, April 3 at 8:10 pm MDT – LHP Kyle Freeland vs. RHP Tyson Ross
Wednesday, April 4 at 8:10 pm MDT – RHP Jon Gray vs. LHP Clayton Richard
Thursday, April 5 at 1:40 pm MDT – LHP Tyler Anderson vs. LHP Joey Lucchesi