Brett Anderson gave the Rockies a taste of what might have been.
By Zach Marburger (@burchburger)
Zach Marburger is a transplant from Maryland who covers the Rockies and Nuggets as a staff writer at milehighsports.com. He also covers high school sports at CHSAAnow.com.
In the bottom of the third inning Friday, after a lengthy at-bat, Brett Anderson got reigning MVP Andrew McCutchen to rollover a 92 mph fastball for the easy 6-3 putout.
It was a great pitch by Anderson, part of a beautiful performance by the now-healthy lefty – six and a third innings, two hits, eleven groundball outs, and no runs.The Pittsburgh Pirates are no slouch at the plate (first in baseball in OBP), and Anderson has now gone 13 1/3 innings and allowed one run against them in his past two starts.
Games like Friday make you see what the Rockies envisioned coming into this season. It hasn’t worked out this year, but things might still work out for Anderson. The Rockies have a pricey$12 million dollar option on himfor 2015, and if he stays healthy and continues to pitch well, especially at Coors Field, it will present an interesting dilemma for the Rockies front office this offseason. Even if the Rockies don’t opt in on Anderson, he could earn himself a decent payday in free agency with a strong second half.
Anderson had to be on point against Pittsburgh, because the Rockies offense made some bone-headed plays early. Two instancesstand out - one bad, the other inexcusable.
With DJ LeMahieu on third after a triple and one out in the third inning, Charlie Blackmon struck out instead of just getting the ball in play. A lack of situational hitting has haunted the Rockies in recent years(particularly on the road) and Blackmon was bailed out when Josh Rutledge doubled, but Blackmon, who’s improved his contact rate this year, needs to put the bat on the ball in that situation.
Even more troubling was Nolan Arenado’s failure to run out a jam-shot in the fourth. Pirates’ starter Charlie Morton fumbled the weak grounder and still got Arenado at first. Arenado tried to turn it on after he saw the ball was mishandled, but by then it was too late. I usually shrug it off when a player doesn’t bust it all the way down the line, but Arenado didn’t even make it out of the batter’s box before giving up.The mental error was made worse after Ben Paulsen continued his hot start with a hit and Wilin Rosario singled.
It may feel like the Rockies have their B-team at the plate right now, with Morneau and Tulowitzki both out, but that doesn’t excuse a lack of hustle. In fact, it makes the little things even more important.
Arenado plays the game the right way 99 percent of the time, and looked upset coming off the field, but Walt Weiss stilled pulled him from the game. It would be easy for the Rockies to play lackadaisical baseball at this point, and Weiss made it clear that isn’t going to fly – though I do wonder if Cargo would have been benched for the same transgression.
Anderson continued to pitch well, getting into trouble in the fifth but escaping thanks to a near triple-play started by the man who replaced Arenado at third, Charlie Culberson. Culberson’s throw pulled shortstop Josh Rutledge off the bag, but a potential big innings was snuffed out. Culberson may struggle to hit his weight, but he can sure pick it.
The Rockies defense did a nice job all evening. In addition to the nice turn by Culberson and Rutledge, Blackmon made a nice leaping catch in center field to rob Josh Harrison of extra bases in the sixth.
Of course, it wouldn’t be an Anderson outing without a health scare, and he left with one out in the seventh because of a blister, turning the game over to the bullpen. A one-run lead hasn’t seemed safe in a while, but it wasn’t an issue Friday, as the Rockies poured it on in the seventh.
Josh Rutledge got the big hit, a three-run double that put the Rockies up 6-0, and Carlos Gonzalez homered two batters later to make it an eight run game. With plenty of wiggle-room,Tommy Kahnle, Rex Brothers, Nick Masset, Matt Belisle, and Adam Ottavino combined to finish off the 8-1 win. The only trouble came when Belisle walked two Pirates and allowed a few hard hit balls in the ninth. Belisle’s ERA is now nearing six – it’d be surprising if he finishes the year with the team given how bad he’s going right now.
The Rockies will try and put together a winning streak Saturday night. Tyler Matzek will be take the mound for Colorado, while lefty Jeff Locke gets the ball for Pittsburgh.
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