On Sunday, April 14 Rockies starter German Marquez pitched the first complete game in the Major Leagues this season. His 105 pitch, one hit, nine strikeout, 4-0 win not only halted the Rockies precarious eight game slide but also stands as the only complete-game one-hit shutout in Rockies history. The $43 million five-year extension he recently signed looks like an astute investment.
It was another rough week for the struggling Rockies who dropped two games to the Atlanta Braves as their premier starters Kyle Freeland and Marquez both had shaky five-inning outings. Wednesday’s game was canceled due to inclement weather. Then Jon Gray turned in a quality start in the opening game with the Giants Thursday allowing only one run on five hits in 6.2 innings. The Rockies hitters unfortunately were stymied by Giants starter Jeff Samardzija for seven innings and game was a 1-0 Rockies loss. Friday night’s game turned out to be a grueling 18 inning marathon during which the Rockies used 10 pitchers. It ended as a numbing 3-2 loss. Saturday afternoon Kyle Freeland took the mound against the Giant’s ace Madison Bumgarner. Freeland lasted 5.0 innings allowing three runs but “Madbum” limited the Rockies to two runs in seven innings as the Rockies lost that one 5-2. It was their eighth loss in a row which set a dubious club record.
Naturally there’s a rash of speculation about the Rockies disappointing start. There’s no question about the talent on this 2019 team. The problem is that the talent is either injured (David Dahl, Ryan McMahon and Daniel Murphy) or just flat not performing. Of the projected big bats in the lineup, Trevor Story leads the way with 10 RBI including four home runs and a .242 batting average in 62 at bats. Nolan Arenado has struggled recording only nine RBIs with just one home run and a modest .254 batting average in 63 at bats. Charlie Blackmon trails even further behind with four RBI, no home runs and a .234 batting average in 64 at bats. The overall outlook has so far been just as bleak with the team batting average hovering barely over the Mendoza Line (.200).
The Rockies lack of offensive production puts that much more pressure on their starting pitchers as there is little room for error when they can’t count on sustained run support. It may be that this added psychological burden has affected even the team’s best starters. Freeland who in 2018 had 17 wins and seven losses with an ERA of 2.85 has already recorded three losses in four starts with an ERA of 5.40. Gray has been spotty with three losses and an ERA of 4.19.
It doesn’t get any easier this coming week as the Rockies will play two games at Petco Park with the Division-leading San Diego Padres, then return home to face the Philadelphia Phillies and the Washington Nationals.
We’ve watched the Rockies struggle with prolonged slumps or pitching woes in years past. But we also remember the remarkable runs in 2007 and in August of last year. Let’s hope that Sunday’s 4-0 win highlighted by Marquez’ outstanding performance and Arenado’s first home run in 64 plate appearances sparks the breakout we’ve been waiting for.
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