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Rockies split doubleheader in exhausting fashion

Finally, McMahon homered and Chi Chi held on to end the maddness

Game 1: Cubs 5, Rockies 2

Game one of the doubleheader was a closely contested contest for about four innings until Cubs third baseman Patrick Wisdom took an Austin Gomber slider over the left field bleachers. The Rockies offense went silent without a hit for the second half of the game and two runs were just not going to be enough.

Joe, Hilliard collide in the outfield

About two weeks ago, we saw the first partial collision in the outfield of the season in San Francisco between Connor Joe and Garrett Hampson. Thankfully, both players were ok but today in the first inning of game one we witnessed a full on collision involving Connor Joe in left field and Sam Hilliard in center.

Joe appeared to take the brunt of the collision and was understandably shaken up afterwards. Bud Black and trainers came out to check on the left fielder but he remained in the game. Most incredibly, somehow, Joe managed to make the catch and keep it in his glove despite the collision.

Wrigley enters the Cron zone

One of the hottest hitters in baseball continued to make big plays in game one of the doubleheader when C.J. Cron hit one to the center field bleachers of Wrigley Field.

It was Cron’s 22nd home run of the season, putting him just nine shy of besting his career high in a season of 30 which he achieved with the Rays in 2018. It’s Cron’s eighth home run in the month of August which puts him tied for second most entering Wednesday evening.

Brendan Rodgers continues to impress

The Rockies have had a lot of players play exceptionally well this month, especially at home. One player who continues to play well both at home and on the road is Brendan Rodgers. Coming into today, Rodgers was hitting for a .267 batting average on the road with seven of his nine home runs on the year coming in foreign ballparks, the second most on the team.

Rodgers did not homer in game one but he did drive in the game’s second run on an RBI single in the third inning. With that single, Rodgers has now incredibly recorded a hit in 22 of his last 24 games.

Wisdom imparted on the Rockies

Patrick Wisdom proves to be the difference maker once again. Earlier this month, he hit a big double that put the Cubs ahead of the Rockies in Denver and today in Chicago he spared no effort and hit a big three-run bomb to put his team ahead. It was the rookie’s 21st home run of the season and it knocked Austin Gomber out of the game.

Gomber allowed three total home runs in game one for just the second time this season. He’s also given up a combined 13 runs in his last three starts giving him a concerning 6.53 ERA in the month of August.

★ ★ ★

Game 2: Rockies 13, Cubs 10 (10)

If you watched or listened to that game in its entirety, be sure to treat yo’self. Eat some chocolate. Have a cold one. Do whatever makes you happy to deal with the emotional roller coaster you just witnessed. On the bright side, it was worth it. No sweep today.

Despite Germán Márquez giving up a sloppy-five run inning, Daniel Bard blowing a save by serving up a three-run homer, Trevor Story making a very untimely throwing error to blow an extra-innings lead, and the Rockies running out of position players, forcing Kyle Freeland to play right field in the 10th inning, the Rockies pulled off something rare – a road win. Their 15th of the year to be exact.

I have rewritten this recap so many times that I am not sure which way is up anymore, but I am pretty sure this is what just happened:

Bard = bad; Bullpen overall = good

What we learned is that if three Rockies bullpen relievers throw scoreless innings, just as Lucas Gilbreath, Jhoulys Chacín, and Carlos Estévez did, then you will pay for that. Alternatively, the lesson could be that Daniel Bard should not be the Rockies closer anymore. I’ll let you all decide. Get this - the Rockies bullpen threw six scoreless innings in one game. It was really 6 23 innings without an earned run. That’s amazing. Hats off to the Gilbreath, Chacín, Estévez, Robert Stephenson (2/3 inning), Ben Bowden (1 13 innings), and Chi Chi González. Tip of the hat to Yency Almonte who suffered because of the error.

Let’s start in the seventh, which should have been the last inning of a long day, when the Rockies, thanks to a grand slam from Connor Joe, had an 8-5 lead. It was bad from the start for Bard. Matt Duffy and Frank Schwindel both singled, sandwiching a pop out by Rafael Ortega. Ian Happ then came to the plate and crushed a three-run homer to center field. Just like that, the joy of Joe’s grand slam and two insurance runs thanks to Brendan Rodgers and Rio Ruiz were erased.

In the 8th, Dom Nuñez came up huge with a pinch-hit single to score Garrett Hampson to put the Rockies back on top 9-8. In the bottom of the frame, Almonte got in trouble when he hit Robinson Chirinos and ended up with runners on first and second with two outs. That’s when Patrick Wisdom hit a grounder, Story fielded it and threw the ball many feet over the head of 6-foot-4 C.J. Cron, allowing the tying run to come to the plate.

Mac comes up big in 10th, Freeland flashes versatility

Did I mention this game featured at least two hours of rain? It rained on and off and that only added to the intensity. Just when the Rockies needed it the most, Ryan McMahon stepped up. He hit a two-run homer just into the basket in left field. It honestly didn’t seem like it was going to make it and probably cleared the wall by inches.

The score was 11-9 and it was beautiful. But knowing that a two-run cushion is not enough, the Rockies added more. After Sam Hilliard walked, Kyle Freeland entered as a pinch hitter because the Rockies were out of position players. Freeland snuck in a bunt single to put runners at first and second. Enter Rodgers, who crushed a double down the left field line. Freeland flashed his speed and made it home to give the Rockies a four-run lead. This did turn out to be enough.

Chi Chi and K-Free = Happy

On the final out of the top of the 10th, Story seemed to hurt himself running to first on a ground out. In the bottom of the 10th, he had to come out. That’s bad enough, right? But don’t forget that the Rockies had no bench players left to take his spot, which left Bud Black in a pickle. The answer? Kyle Freeland. Put him in right since he already had a bunt single and came around to score and why shouldn’t he do more on an off day to help the team win?

At the same time, Black was trying to figure out who should pitch the 10th. With only Chi Chi González, Jon Gray, and Antonio Senzatela as available since Austin Gomber and Tyler Kinley had both pitched in game 1, Black went with Chi Chi. That turned out to be the best call. He got Justin Heyward to line out and Robinson Chirinos to ground out. That scored Patrick Wisdom, who started the inning on second, but the Rockies still had a three-run lead and two outs. That’s when Chi Chi caught Sergio Alcantara looking on a 92.4-mph sinker. And it was over. And we could all take a deep breath.

In the end, González got his first career save and Freeland got to take part in the celebratory outfielder jump-bump. He was so happy.

Grand old Joe

Joe! Joe! Joe! How much do we love this guy right now? Outside of emerging as a pretty darn good leadoff hitter with a .377 on-base percentage with plate discipline and 20 walks, now he goes and hits a grand slam in a game when the Rockies were down and out emotionally and on the scorecard. Down 5-2 in going into the fourth, Joe hit a grand slam into the greenery just over the ivy-covered center field wall. The slam prevented the sweep and will give the Rockies much-needed momentum with six more games on this road trip.

Elias Díaz and Garrett Hampson led off the inning with back-to-back singles, but then Taylor Motter and Sam Hilliard both struck out. Charlie Blackmon entered to pinch hit and was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Joe. With a 3-1 count, Joe struck a 97-mph 4-steam fastball and sent it 410 feet at a velocity of 103.3 mph. Joe wasn’t sure it was gone, but once he knew, he cheered his way around the bases.

After he crossed the plate, the Rockies were up 6-5.

Rodgers and Ruiz provide a 3-run cushion - not enough

Brendan Rodgers also had a day, even if it was overshadowed by Joe. Rodgers got the party started with a two-run homer in the first (driving in Joe who walked to start the game).

With the Rockies carrying a delicate one-run lead going into the bottom of the fourth, Lucas Gilbreath and Jhoulys Chacín each threw a scoreless inning with Gilbreath even striking out the side. Despite the surprisingly quiet performance by the bullpen, the Rockies got some much-needed insurance runs in the sixth. Hampson again got the ball rolling with a single and then stole second. With two outs and Rio Ruiz at the plate, former Rockie and current Chicago reliever Rex Brothers, threw a wild pitch to allow Hampson to get to third. Then Ruiz doubled into the ivy to increase the Rockies lead to 7-5. Joe reached base when he was hit by a pitch and Rodgers made the Cubs pay with a single that hit 111.8 mph on the radar gun and scored Ruiz to give the Rockies a three-run cushion. Of course, this was not enough. Again, looking for positives, Joe and Rodgers combined for nine RBI.

Second inning circus

This inning was embarrassing. It could have been a Three Stooges skit, but more a tragedy than comedy. With the Rockies starting the frame up 2-0, David Bote kicked things off with a single and Heyward doubled to put runners on second and third with no outs. Chirinos then hit a grounder to C.J. Cron at first, but Márquez forgot to cover first. So a run scored and no out was had.

Bad luck struck on the next at-bat when Alcantara hit a single that evaded a diving Garrett Hampson in center field. The game was tied 2-2. Justin Steele followed with the bunt and Díaz made the head’s up play (the only one of the inning) to get the lead runner at third. With runners at first and second, Márquez hurled a wild pitch – his 10th of the season, which is tied for the most in the National League – and the runners advanced. Rafael Ortega followed with a single and the Rockies found themselves down 3-2. The game keep spiraling out of control when Schwindel added another single and the Cubs took a 4-2 lead.

Happ then hit a grounder and the Rockies got Schwindel at second, but couldn’t complete the double play as the inning stretched on. At least there were two outs.

With Wisdom at the plate, Ortega at third, and Happ at first, the Cubs tried and successfully pulled off a double steal. Díaz threw down to second, which allowed Ortega to steal home, and Rodgers ran toward home, which allowed Happ to sneak by him and steal second.

It was bad. Luckily, Wisdom then struck out and the misery was over.

Off the Marq

Gérman Márquez didn’t have his best game, only lasting three innings and giving up five earned runs on seven hits with three strikeouts. Since Joe hit his grand slam in the top of the fourth, the Rockies were somehow winning when he exited the game. Bowden ended up with the win.

Up next

The Rockies will have the day off on Thursday before heading to Los Angeles to play the Dodgers in a three-game series that starts Friday night. Kyle Freeland (4-6, 4.25 ERA) will get the start for the Rockies, while the Dodgers have yet to announce their starter.