It’s only one game, but the Rockies 7-2 win over San Diego on Thursday night on Opening Day continues a beautiful trend: The Rockies have the Padres number.
Going back to 2021, the Rockies are 22-17 against the Padres. Go back even further to 2016, and the Rockies are up on San Diego 69-56.
The Rockies and Padres have faced off on Opening Day seven times. Who has the advantage? After Thursday’s win, Colorado does 4-3.
The Padres payroll this year is nearly $236 million, the third highest in baseball. The Rockies come in at No. 15 at just over $166 million, just about $20 million above league average and the St. Louis Cardinals (where $16 million of the Rockies payroll goes to Nolan Arenado).
The records are contradictory for the Rockies, who haven’t been to the postseason since 2018, against the Padres, a team that’s been to the playoffs twice in the last three years.
The same paradox existed in the season opener at Petco Park on Thursday. The Rockies struck out 17 times. That’s two-thirds of their at-bats. The Rockies also committed three errors and left 11 runners on base.
Those numbers don’t normally match up with a victory.
But when C.J. Cron homers twice and drives in five runs (which tied a club record on Opening Day with Vinny Castilla from 1998) on a 4-for-5 night, a team can overcome many obstacles. It also helps when Kris Bryant and Charlie Blackmon add three hits apiece and every batter in the starting lineup gets at least one hit for a total of 17.
As the AT&T SportsNet crew said, no MLB team has had 17 hits and 17 strikeouts since 1901. That’s how weird that combination is — it only happens once every 122 years.
For only the third time in Rockies history on Opening Day, the Rockies had back-to-back homers when Cron’s second shot was followed by Elehuris Montero’s seventh career homer. Montero led the Rockies with five homers in Spring Training. In his first Opening Day start, after striking in each of his first three at-bats, he finished the night with two hits.
The Padres jumped on Germán Márquez early, hitting two doubles and scoring one run in the first inning. He settled in to throw three three-up-and-three-down innings and stranded five runners. He struck out five, including Jake Cronenworth, Juan Soto, and Manny Machado.
With the start, Márquez became the first pitcher in Rockies history to start on Opening Day three times. It was the traditional charm as the third start netted the first Opening Day win.
Two things the Rockies have struggled with the most in the last few years are poor hitting on the road and a shaky bullpen. Despite the strikeouts, the hitting was there. The bullpen had the highest ERA in MLB in 2022 at 4.85.
In Thursday’s win, the bullpen posted three scoreless innings to back up Márquez. Dinelson Lamet gave up two hits to start the seventh, but bounced back with two strikeouts and a groundout to end the inning. Justin Lawrence then put on a show, effectively mixing his sinker and slider, the latter of which struck out Machado, Xander Bogaerts, and Cronenworth. It was gorgeous.
Jake Bird gave up one walk in the ninth, but recorded a popout, groundout, and flyout to end the game.
It’s only one game. The Padres have strong odds to make the playoffs. The Rockies are at the bottom of the NL West in most predictions. With one game in the books, the Rockies are tied with the Dodgers for first place in the NL West. After day one, Cron is leading MLB in homers, RBI, slugging percentage (2.200), and OPS (3.000).
It’s not likely those standings and rankings survive the weekend, but it’s fun for now. On the bright side, the Rockies do have a bigger sample size: a .564 winning percentage in 39 games against the Padres since 2021.
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Hours before the Rockies started the 2023 season, they placed Daniel Bard on the 15-day IL because of anxiety. Bard earned the 2020 NL Comeback Player of the Year award after returning to MLB after seven years out of the game because of the yips. Bard struggled with his command pitching for Team U.S.A. in the World Baseball Classic, but MLB.com’s Thomas Harding clarified that Bard is not struggling with performance anxiety. Bard simply explained, “Mental health stuff – it’s affected me a little bit on the field, a little bit off the field. It’s not all the time. Most of the time, I’m great and feel pretty normal. It’s just something that came on a few weeks ago, mostly, that I noticed was starting to have an effect on my ability to do my job.”
Kudos to Bard for the bravery to admit his struggles with mental health, and to the Rockies and baseball for allowing him to step away and do what’s best for him.
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