ST. LOUIS — The Rockies invested heavily in their bullpen during the offseason, trying to avoid late-game collapses that could crush the team’s chances of making the playoffs.
Yet as the Rockies enter the final third of the season, the bullpen remains the club’s overriding, unsolved issue. The just-completed series against the Cardinals, in which the Rockies lost three of four games, offered more proof. Colorado lost two games in agonizing, walk-off fashion, including Thursday’s 3-2 decision.
Monday night, the Rockies lost 5-4 when Marcell Ozuna hit left-hander Jake McGee‘s fastball 429 feet into the left-field seats for a walk-off home run in the 10th inning. Thursday afternoon, Jose Martinez roped a one-out, two-run, walk-off single off closer Wade Davis to win it for St. Louis.
Davis still believes in the bullpen, even though its ERA stands at 5.17, the second highest in the majors (only Kansas City’s 5.33 mark is worse).
“We’re good, we have a lot of talent,” he said after Thursday’s loss. “It didn’t work out today, but we have to come back tomorrow and then win the series against Milwaukee.”
Still, the numbers are troubling, and history is not on Colorado’s side.
The Rockies have made the postseason four times in their history, and each time, they employed a bullpen with an ERA well below 5.00: In 1995, it was 4.64; 2007, 3.85; 2009, 4.49; 2017, 4.40.
In close games, down the stretch, the Rockies must be able to shut down the opposition. Right now, that’s an iffy proposition.
When asked about the state of his bullpen manager Bud Black said: “It’s fine, overall. We have to continue to work with these guys all of the time and get them to where the group is pitching well. That’s the goal.”
Currently the two most trusted relievers in Black’s bullpen are right-hander Adam Ottavino (1.38 ERA) and newcomer Seunghwan Oh, who’s not given up a run in four appearances since being traded to Colorado from Toronto last week. There are no plans, by the way, for Ottavino to supplant Davis as the closer.
“‘Otto’ is in a good spot, Oh’s doing well and (Scott) Oberg seems to be in a nice spot, and Wade’s a pro,” Black said, adding that the remainder of the bullpen must contribute more going forward.
General manager Jeff Bridich spent $106 million during the offseason to shore up the bullpen with three major free-agent deals. Here’s how the trio has fared:
— Davis: Signed for three years, $52 million. He has a 4.57 ERA, 1.19 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) and a .196 batting average against. Davis has converted 31 saves in 36 opportunities.
— McGee: Signed for three years, $27 million. He has a 6.81 ERA, 1.54 WHIP and a .299 batting average against.
— Bryan Shaw: The right-hander signed for three years, $27 million. He has a 6.91 ERA, 1.87 WHIP and .326 batting average against.
Clearly, Shaw and McGee have not provided the Rockies with the performance the team expected. Overall, the seventh inning has been a rough ride for Colorado’s bullpen, as its 7.51 ERA illustrates.
The team added Oh before the trade deadline, and even though it did explore adding another reliever, it didn’t find a deal to its liking. Now the team has to hope that its big investment will, somehow, someway, start paying dividends.
Rockies RHP German Marquez (6-7, 3.43 ERA) at Brewers RHP Junior Guerra (6-7, 3.43), 6:10 p.m. Friday; ATTRM, 850 AM
Marquez has been rolling, going 4-0 with a 3.03 ERA over his past five starts. He’s 5-3 with a 3.15 ERA on the road this season, but has never pitched well against Milwaukee. In three career starts vs. the Brewers he’s 1-1 with a 6.06 ERA. In Colorado’s 5-2 loss to the Brewers on May 10 at Coors Field, Marquez gave up five runs on 12 hits in 5 ⅔ innings. Guerra will be making his 21st start of the season, and the Brewers are 11-9 when he’s been on the mound. He’s coming off a lackluster start in an 8-5 loss at San Francisco, during which he allowed five runs on five hits (including a home run) over four innings. The right-hander’s only appearance vs. the Rockies came on opening day, 2017, when he left the game in the third inning with a strained calf, having giving up two runs on one hit. — Patrick Saunders, The Denver Post
Saturday: Rockies LHP Tyler Anderson (6-3, 3.69) at Brewers RHP Freddy Peralta (4-2, 3.61), 5:10 p.m., ATTRM
Sunday: Rockies RHP Jon Gray (9-7, 4.99) at Brewers LHP Wade Miley (2-1, 1.53), 12:10 p.m., ATTRM
Monday: Pirates RHP Joe Musgrove (4-5, 3.63) at Rockies LHP Kyle Freeland (9-7, 3.20), 6:40 p.m., AATRM