Comeback victories have been the M.O. for the Colorado Rockies as of late, but on Wednesday night they relied on their bullpen to preserve a lead down the stretch against the Arizona Diamondbacks. In the absence of Wade Davis (due to injury), Scott Oberg filled in as the Rockies closer. He inherited a 5-4 lead in the 9th and did not falter en route to a Colorado victory. His performance culminated an impressive day for a Rockies Bullpen that has seen its fair share of criticism this season.
Oberg worked his two best pitches (slider and fastball) relentlessly in the inning to first strike out Alex Avila swinging, and then forced a groundout from Tim Locastro off a soft contact hit that bounced right back toward Oberg.
Next came Lledemario Vargas, who earned a walk, utilizing a great eye on some very close (to the plate) pitches from Oberg.
All that stood in the way of a Rockies victory was one last Diamondback hitter.
That hitter was Eduardo Escobar, who Rockies Manager Bud Black considers to be one of Arizona’s top hitters. He came into the game batting .290 with 13 home runs and a team-leading 42 RBI’s.
Oberg and Escobar battled with the game on the line for seven pitches before an 86 mph slider got Escobar swinging and secured the Rockies victory in the game, the series, and marked their fourth straight win.
“Our guys performed, Black said of his bullpen. “They did a nice job against a division rival who came in here playing pretty well. It's good W (win).”
Equally grateful was starting pitcher Jeff Hoffman, who gave up 7 hits and 3 runs in five innings of play.
Black was impressed with the bullpen as a whole but especially liked that Oberg came in and pitched “aggressively” against the top of the Diamondbacks batting order. He called Oberg’s play a “big lift” to the ballclub.
The performance was the first save of Oberg’s season and the third of his career. It came at a crucial time for the Rockies who have battled to get back to .500 since March 31. On Wednesday they achieved this, against a divisional rival no less.
“I think we've been playing really well, especially, in late, tight games,” Oberg said. “ I just think it shows the resilience that we have as a club.”
Oberg added: “We started off coming out of the gate a little bit slow, but we're playing good baseball right now and I think we're going to be hitting our stride pretty soon.”
When asked what Wednesday’s game meant for his personal establishment in the bullpen, Oberg warned the gaggle of reporters crowding his locker that he was “gonna be cliche here,” not wanting to stir the pot.
“(I’m) basically going out and trying to throw one pitch at a time,” Oberg said. “I'm happy to be called upon to be able to step into that role while Wade’s down, but I think going forward it's going to be good to know that we have a lot of different guys that have back end experience,”
The performance, although he was hesitant to admit it, was also big for Oberg from a personal perspective. It solidifies his spot in the bullpen moving forward and shows that he has the capability to close wins out when called upon. It also continues his string of solid appearances in recent games.
He has a 3-0 record on the season and sports an impressive 1.80 ERA.
Moving forward he appears to a valuable asset in an inconsistent bullpen. He has proven that he has the ability to close out games, which will be important for a Rockies team looking to get into playoff contention.