What transpired between the Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres from June 13th-16th at Coors Field was unprecedented, exhausting and record-setting. It only takes a quick glance at the box-score to realize this. However, the full scope of insanity that occurred between the two teams went so much deeper.
“I've never really seen anything like that...those types of games. For me, it's hard to compare it to anything,” Rockies outfielder and leadoff hitter Charlie Blackmon said.
After four grueling games, and an MLB record 92 runs later, the Divisional rivals split the series at two games apiece. The feeling of disappointment for the Rockies was evident.
“It's just really hard to go out there and play that much baseball at altitude and end up split. It's just disappointing,” Blackmon said.
How much baseball did they play?
15 hours and 40 minutes of baseball played across four days. The average game time was approximately 3 hours and 55 minutes, which is a staggering 46 minutes longer than the league average of 3 hours and 9 minutes in 2018, according to sportsfanfocus.com.
In other words, a lot.
From an outsider’s standpoint, this series should have been Rockies sweep. They were the better team and positioned themselves to win each contest.
The Rockies led by at least four runs going into the ninth inning of each game, yet they won just two of those games.
How is that possible?
It wasn’t the fault of the offense. They scored an astounding 48 times in four games.
It came down to a little bit of bad luck and awful pitching.
It turns out they might not have been the better team after all. The Padres made big plays late in games when it mattered most. The Rockies didn’t, in at least two of the contests.
The Rockies bullpen is the obvious scapegoat, having been directly responsible for two late-game collapses. The team’s starting pitching wasn’t much better.
In Thursday’s victory, Gray gave up four earned runs and had an up and down performance. The team’s current ace, German Marquez gave up seven on Saturday, and in the final game of the series promising rookie Peter Lambert gave up eight earned runs in only three innings.
The Rockies best starting pitching performance came on Friday from Jeff Hoffman, who otherwise has been having a difficult season. Hoffman is 1-3 on the year with an ERA of 7.03 and has cracked the starting rotation only because of injury.
“The pitchers who elevated the ball got hit. The guys who kept the ball down with (their) action down got their outs,” Black said.
The poor performance from the starters added pressure on the bullpen, who in turn had to pitch more innings, which proved disastrous. Relievers were either unavailable or not at their best. This effect snowballed and contributed to the abysmal overall pitching performance by the Rockies.
For the Rockies, the series was draining mentally and physically. The highs and lows was unprecedented.
Wade Davis, an 11-year MLB veteran felt like it may have been the most exhausting series of his career.
Colorado won the first game on Thursday, 9-6. They matched every offense outburst of the Padres, with a better one of their own.
Friday had all the makings of a Rockies blow-out victory before the team blew a six-run lead in the ninth inning. They wound up losing a heartbreaker 16-12 in 12th innings. The Rockies bullpen gave up 15 of those runs and all eight bullpen pitchers were forced into action.
Saturday was all about redemption for Colorado. The Rockies bounced back and came away with a 14-8 victory that mirrored much of Friday's game, with a different result.
Sunday’s game in and of itself encapsulated the craziness of the series. It featured 1 hour and 3 minutes of delays mid-game due to weather and a partially flooded field.
“Guys’ bodies are really on the edge and then to sit down and have a delay and sit down and have another delay, it's part of the reason why it just seems like such an emotional series with all the hard work we put in and all the back and forth, it just makes it really tough to swallow,” Blackmon said.
The Rockies responded to a three-run opening inning from the Padres with six runs of their own. From there, both teams’ offenses continued to click, but a strong relief effort from Jesus Tinoco, making his second MLB appearance, gave the Rockies a cushion.
Entering the ninth inning, the Rockies held a commanding four-run lead,13-9. With the comeback that the Padres pulled off two days prior still fresh, it never truly felt like any lead was safe. At the same time, it seemed highly unlikely that Colorado could blow another huge lead late in the game.
That scenario soon became more viable, and eventually came to fruition after a series of puzzling events in the ninth inning.
Davis, the usually reliable closer for the Rockies, came into the game to start the ninth inning. He gave up two walks, a single and a triple that enabled the Padres to bring the game within one run and have a runner in scoring position on third base. The Rockies secured the first two outs during this stretch.
Black pulled Davis from the game and replaced him with Pitcher Jon Gray, who was making his first career relief appearance. With first and second base open, Gray intentionally walked the first two batters, anticipating a match up with Padres pitcher, Gerardo Reyes.
The Padres were out of positional players to pinch hit. San Diego decided to bring pitcher Matt Strahm into the game to bat for Reyes.t. Gray proceeded to walk Strahm on six pitches and walked in the winning run. Strahm did not even attempt a swing on a single one of Gray’s pitches, and the Rockies were unable to respond in the bottom half of the inning.
This sequence encapsulates the frustration of the series. The Rockies had many chances to put the game away but were unable to do so.
Not only did the series expose the serious weakness within the Rockies bullpen, but it taxed the entire organization.
“I think a lot of guys gave up a lot physically to be able to play this much baseball,” Blackmon said. “Everything has a cost. Hopefully, that doesn't come back and get us down the road.”
The losses overshadowed a record setting offensive output from the team and individual players. Charlie Blackmon had 15 hits across the four-game series, the most by a player in the modern era. Additionally, Ian Desmond extended his hitting streak to 10-games while also contributing 12 RBI.
The entire offense played out of their minds, but the team was unable to capitalize on the momentum.
The series also broke the home hot streak Colorado has been on as of late. Coming into the series, Rockies had gone 15-4 in their last 19 games at home.
“We've been playing really well at home and unfortunately, we didn't keep it going all the way through the homestand,” said Infielder Ryan McMahon “It's (just) baseball and it happens.”
“We’ve been through this like two days ago and then we came back and scored and won yesterday,” Arenado said. “It's nothing new. It’s disappointing going through it in general but we got through it and we know how to recover from it.”
The Rockies will have a chance to recover on Tuesday against the Diamondbacks. Unfortunately for Bud Black and company, t may take a hot streak with solid pitching to fully recover from this series.
That’s easier said than done, considering the Rockies are on the road for the next nine games. They will face the Arizona Diamondbacks (38-35), the San Francisco Giants (30-39), and the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers (48-24). After that, Colorado will play the Dodgers again at home, before a two-game tilt against the AL-West leading Houston Astros (48-24).
Black has seen the schedule, knows what is right around the corner, but is focused on bouncing back against the D-Backs.
“Those (losses) are tough ones, no doubt about it. I mean, it's part of the 162-game season,” Black said. “We've got to turn the page, like we do very well. We’ve got to do that again this next series against the Diamondbacks.”
This 15-game stretch for the Rockies, ahead the All-Star break, has the potential to make or break the season. The team has shown resilience all year long and must display that yet again, in what may be its toughest challenge yet.