By Quinn Jamieson
Rockies reliever Carlos Estevez pumped his fist emphatically and pointed to the sky as the stadium erupted in excitement. The momentum of the game had just changed.
This was the scene on a rainy Saturday night at Coors Field after Estevez closed out the eighth inning on a groundout against the San Diego Padres.
His night started an inning prior when he entered the game with two out in the top of the seventh in relief of Mike Dunn, the Rockies trailing 3-2.
The native of the Dominican Republic started out hot utilizing a deadly slider and fastball combination. He threw 11 strikes in his first 15 pitches against the best that the Padres had to offer at the top of their lineup.
The crowd of more than 37,000 people went wild after he sent $300-million-dollar man Manny Machado back to his dugout on an 89.7 mph changeup with a 2-2 count to start the eighth inning. He went on to strike out Eric Hosmer on three pitches, favoring his four-seam fastball.
Estevez’s night concluded after a groundout from Hunter Renfroe to close out the top of the eighth. He finished with three strikeouts and no hits surrendered against four batters in 1 ⅓ innings of action. It was the best performance by any of the Rockies pitchers that saw the field.
“I was attacking the strike zone early and getting ahead of hitters,” Estevez said. “When your command is that good, you just have to keep attacking.
In the bottom half of the eighth, moments after Estevez swung the momentum in favor of the Rockies, Charlie Blackmon crushed a solo home run 397 ft over the right field fence tying the game at 3-3.
His time on the field may have been short, but it proved pivotal in a contest that had all the signs of a Rockies come-from-behind victory. Unfortunately for manager Bud Black and company, this wasn’t the case. Sloppy pitching and defensive struggles in the ninth inning derailed the Rockies chances of winning. The final was 4-3 in favor of the Padres, who took the second game of the series.
Despite defeat, Estevez was glad that his performance vaulted the Rockies back into the game and got the fans engaged.
“It felt good to give my team a chance to win…” he said. “Even though we lost the game it’s still a good sign that we’re fighting until the end.”
Black liked what he saw from the 26-year-old pitcher.
“He was turning the ball loose,” Black said. “The fastball-slider combination was very good tonight, so that’s encouraging for what we’re seeing out of Carlos. The test for him is continued performance.”
If Estevez can back up games like the one he had against the Padres, his manager is excited for what it could mean for his team's depth.
“Right now, he is throwing the ball very well,” Black said. “I foresee that if he continues to throw the ball like this he will be a valuable addition to our bullpen.”
The loss to the divisional rival Padres was disappointing, but performances like that from Estevez bode well for his future with the Rockies, and the clubs inconsistent bullpen.