Prior to the Rockies’ series opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday, manager Walt Weiss was asked about his club’s inconsistency.
“That’s the $1 million dollar question,” Weiss said, shaking his head.
Weiss’ frustrations were understandable, given how his team had performed in its previous five series before L.A. Consider:
- The up-and-down stretch started with a four-game series against the Phillies on the road. Philadelphia, fourth in the NL East, swept Colorado.
- The Rockies bounced back to take two of three from the NL East-leading Washington Nationals at Coors.
- They won another three-game set at home vs. the best club in the MLB, the Chicago Cubs.
- The Brewers swept Colorado in four games in Milwaukee.
So it made sense when the Rockies were two innings away from sweeping the Dodgers on Wednesday night, they did something completely and utterly baffling.
Colorado entered the eighth up six runs. Matt Carasiti came out of the bullpen and quickly gave up two doubles before he was yanked. Carlos Estevez was sent in to try and clean up the mess, and he wasn’t much better. Three runs scored in the inning, but the Rockies still led 8-5.
Impossible to screw up, right? Even for this bullpen. Adam Ottavino, who hadn’t given up a run in 18 2/3 innings this season, was closing.
Ottavino got to two outs OK. He walked Corey Seager before inducing a strikeout and a lineout to short. Then it all fell apart. He loaded the bases. Andrew Toles stepped to the plate. Ottavino hung one. Toles hit it out for a grand slam to put the Dodgers ahead for the 10-8 win.
Impossible? Not entirely. But almost.
“That one sucked,” Weiss said post-game. “No doubt about it. We won the series, but it doesn’t feel like it. We had that game in hand.”
Figuring this team out isn’t easy. This year, the Rockies have actually performed better against clubs above .500 (40-41) than they have against clubs below that mark (24-28). They are the only sub-.500 team in baseball (64-69) to go along with a positive run differential (.2).
Their record should be better than it is. Charlie Blackmon, D.J. LeMahieu and Nolan Arenado are raking. Their rotation isn’t a mess for the first time in forever.
Part of it is luck. Historically, teams with great records in one-run games one season can’t continue it the next, just as the opposite is true. Most of it is the bullpen, which Arenado couldn’t help but point out after the game Wednesday.
“This one hurts,” he said. “It kind of puts a little damper on the series win. I think we’re all happy because we won the series. But we’re in a position where you can’t give up games. When you have a chance to sweep, you’ve got to be able to sweep them. It’s frustrating. … We’re playing good baseball. And our starting pitching is doing a great job. We just need our bullpen to come a little bit more. We’ll see what happens.”
Hitting, fielding, starting and relief pitching — putting it all together in baseball is as difficult as it is frustrating.