For the first time in over a month, the Colorado Rockies won a series this week when they took two out of three games from the Reds at the Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. The success in Cincinnati marks the first series won for Colorado since they swept the San Francisco Giants midway through April.
Game 1: Rockies 5, Reds 4- Third baseman Nolan Arenado powered the Rockies to a win in the first game of the series Monday night, as he went 3-4 with a homerun and three RBIs in the contest. Arenado got the Rox on the board in the first inning with an RBI single that scored centerfielder Charlie Blackmon. After Reds’ third baseman Todd Frazier clubbed a two run shot off of Colorado’s starter Eddie Butler in their half of the first, the Rox answered with two runs in the top of the second, courtesy of an RBI single by second baseman DJ LeMahieu. The Rox and Reds traded runs again in the fourth, as Arenado smashed his ninth homer of the season. But with the score tied 4-4 headed into the ninth, it was Arenado again who came up clutch and put the Rockies up for good. He hit a sacrifice fly to right field off of the Reds’ hard throwing closer, Aroldis Chapman, to score Blackmon, who was on third after walking to lead off the inning. Closer John Axford put the Reds down without issue in the bottom of the ninth, earning his seventh save.
Butler had a mediocre outing but escaped with a no decision (reliever Rafael Betancourt got the win, his second of the season). Butler lasted six innings, giving up four earned runs on nine hits while walking two and striking out one. The limited walks could be a good sign for Butler, though. He has struggled with control this season and coming into Monday’s game had lost his last four starts.
Game 2:Rockies 1, Reds 2- The Rox dropped a close game on Tuesday thanks to a walk-off RBI double by Reds’ pinch hitter Skip Schumaker. Colorado called up Chris Rusin from AAA Albuquerque to take the mound in place of Jorge de la Rosa, who was scratched with a cut on the middle finger of his throwing hand. Rusin was fantastic in his first career start for Colorado (he had previously gotten Major League experience with the Chicago Cubs organization), going seven innings and allowing only one run on four hits. He walked four and struck out five while earning a no decision, a promising start that could potentially earn Rusin future work out of the Rockies bullpen. The Colorado lineup though was befuddled by Reds pitcher Michael Lorenzen. They managed only two hits off of him in his seven innings of work. Colorado’s lone run came off a solo shot from catcher Nick Hundley, his fifth of the season. After Rusin exited, reliever Brooks Brown came in for the Rox and gave up Schumaker’s walk-off hit, taking his second loss of the season.
Game 3: Rockies 6, Reds 4- The Rockies put their bats to work on Wednesday and survived a late rally by Cincinnati to win their first series in over a month. Arenado got things rolling early again with his tenth homer of the year, a three run shot in the first inning off Reds’ starter Mike Leake. The Reds got one back in the bottom of the first, but Blackmon added two more for the Rox in the second inning with a homerun of his own, his seventh deep ball of the year. In the fifth, Colorado first baseman Ben Paulsen hit an RBI single to plate Carlos Gonzalez, which made the score 6-1. The Reds mounted a comeback in the eighth inning, however. After the Reds’ Tucker Barnhart hit a solo shot off of Rox’ starter Kyle Kendrick, he was relieved in favor of Boone Logan, who inherited two baserunners with Schumaker on first and the speedster Billy Hamilton on second. Logan would allow both baserunners to score, walking in Hamilton after consecutive walks to first baseman Joey Votto and third baseman Todd Frazier, and an RBI single by outfielder Jay Bruce. Logan was replaced by Rafael Betancourt following the Bruce single, who pitched out of the bases-loaded jam and preserved a 6-4 Colorado lead. John Axford came on in the ninth and worked a quick 1-2-3 inning for his eight save of the season, and Colorado’s first series victory in the month of May.
Series Positives: First and foremost- the series victory. After an abysmal start to May, the Rockies have been playing decent baseball of late, highlighted by their first series victory in about six weeks.
Nolan Arenado has been on fire. He’s leading the team in homers with 10, RBIs with 31, and is second on the team in Runs with 23, and batting average, with a .287 mark. Combined with his stellar defense, Arenado is becoming a key component of the Rockies’ success so far this year. Vote him into the 2015 MLB All Star Game here.
DJ LeMahieu has stayed hot, too. He recorded a hit in every game in the series, and is leading the team with a .338 batting average. Manager Walt Weiss has put LeMahieu all over the Rockies’ lineup, and no matter where he bats, he has performed well.
Series Negatives: Troy Tulowitzki is slumping. He went 1-8 with three strikeouts in the series and his batting average has dipped to a lackluster .266. If there’s anyone on the Rockies capable of figuring things out at the plate, it’s Tulo, but the Rox need him to heat up soon if they want any semblance of a competitive season.
Even worse than Tulo is Carlos Gonzalez, who is making a snail’s pace at the plate. It seems that every game his average rises above the Mendoza Line (.200) only to drop back below it in the following game.
The lack of production from Tulo and CarGo, arguably the two greatest talents on the team is hurting the Rockies in ways seen and unseen. The rest of the lineup has been stepping up big time, but having the dynamic duo that is Tulo and CarGo back to producing like they have done in the past will be a major boost to Colorado’s offense.
Contact CU Independent Rockies Beat Writer Justin Guerriero at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @TheHungry_Hippo