DENVER | For once, the Colorado Rockies head into the offseason searching for more pop at the plate to go with excellent pitching, not the other way around.
The Rockies lacked patience at the plate in getting swept by Milwaukee in the best-of-five NL Division Series with a 6-0 loss Sunday, their second straight shutout.
They were outscored 13-2 as they hit .146 with three extra-base hits and no homers. They didn’t score in their last 19 innings and set an NL Division Series low for runs,
So much for a return to the thin air of Coors Field to spark a dormant offense.
“I don’t know what it is,” third baseman Nolan Arenado said. “It’s just a bad stretch at the wrong time.”
Rockies fans have a long winter to lament that and manager Bud Black’s decision to start German Marquez in Game 3 rather than hometown hero Kyle Freeland, who was 17-7 and pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings in the 2-1 wild-card win at Wrigley Field last Tuesday.
“Everyone wants to be the guy that takes the ball or has a big at-bat or makes a big play in the field,” Freeland said, admitting he was “a little bummed. I mean, it would have been great to pitch in this atmosphere, in Denver, my hometown.”
Carlos Gonzalez also lamented not seeing Freeland on the mound in this series.
“I really like our chances with Kyle on the mound because he’s been our horse all year long,” Gonzalez said. “But we’re talking about a guy who has a brilliant future, and I’m sure he’s going to have plenty of opportunities to pitch in front of this home crowd in big games.”
Until this week, Colorado was known for its hitting, for teams like the Blake Street Bombers who outscored opponents in games that resembled church softball leagues more than the major leagues.
Then came the humidor and while Coors Field was no longer the slugger’s Shangri-La, its cavernous dimensions still made it a hitter’s dream and a pitcher’s nightmare.
Not so much anymore.
After losing the NL West tiebreaker 5-2 to the Dodgers in Los Angeles and flying to Chicago for the win over the Cubs, the Rockies seemed flat as they lost 3-2 in 10 innings at Miller Park and then 4-0 — their first postseason shutout in franchise history.
And when they got back to Coors, they were still impatient at the plate, expanding their strike zones.
“We were trying to get things going. You saw a lot of guys chasing bad pitches, including myself,” Gonzalez said. “I think we were anxious. But at the same time, they have a great staff there. Their bullpen did a tremendous job.”
Arenado, eligible for free agency after the 2019 season, issued a challenge to teammates and the organization in July, suggesting he wanted to play in meaningful autumn games.
They did just that, but Arenado went 3 for 16 in the postseason, although he flashed the glove that could turn help him earn free-agent riches.
Fellow All-Stars Charlie Blackmon (2 for 15) and Trevor Story (5 for 18) also failed to emulate their regular-season grooves at the plate, and Gonzalez went 2 for 12.
“Our pitchers pitched great. They did exactly what we needed,” Arenado said. “It’s on the offense. We just couldn’t get anything going.”
By the ninth inning, what was left of the sellout crowd was booing the bad at-bats, and Arenado didn’t take offense.
“It was a bad loss. It was bad at-bats,” Arenado said. “It comes with the territory. It’s October. You’ve got to do something and we weren’t able to — I wasn’t able to.
“This game teaches you something every year, and I’ve obviously learned a lot about myself and I’ve got to get better. That’s basically what this game is telling me, what October’s telling me.”
Colorado won nine of its last 10 regular season games to force a one-game playoff with the Dodgers. The Rockies’ 91-72 record and .562 winning percentage was second-best in franchise history. They reached the playoffs for the second straight season, a franchise first.
That isn’t enough anymore.
Now they need some hitting to go with that young pitching.
Freeland thinks all that is needed offensively is a change of fortune.
“You know this lineup with the bats is going to have success. I know it didn’t show too much against the Brewers with this series. But we all know what they’re capable of one through nine,” he said.
“So, knowing we have both pitching and hitting, it makes the future very exciting.”