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Friday, June 21, 2024

Rockies Snake-Bitten on Opening Day

Colorado Falls to Arizona 7-6 in 11 Innings

By Dan Karpiel
Sports Writer

There was some good, more bad and an awful lot of ugly at Coors Field on Friday afternoon. The Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks played a game that, aside from the Chamber of Commerce weather, was utterly forgettable. Less forgettable for the D-Backs, however, as they walked away from the eleven inning, four-hour-and-four-minute affair with a 7-6 victory.

Ubaldo Jimenez, the Rockies pitching ace, looked more like a four of clubs on the mound as he struggled through six innings of work surrendering seven hits, six runs (five earned) and only one strikeout. Jimenez lacked velocity on his fastball and bite on his slider.  He also hit a batter, walked the opposing pitcher and allowed a pair of Diamondback homers. Jimenez’s five earned runs in Friday’s start were as many as he allowed in his combined first seven starts last season.

After walking Arizona pitcher Ian Kennedy and allowing a Willie Bloomquist single, right fielder Justin Upton belted a line drive into the left field stands to give Arizona 4-3 lead. Next inning the D-Backs took a 6-3 lead thanks to a two-run homer from catcher Miguel Montero. Arizona third baseman Melvin Mora, who played for Colorado last season, had reached base prior to Montero’s homer due to a fielding error from Rockies third baseman Ty Wigginton. Wigginton attempted to backhand Mora’s grounder only to see the ball slide literally right under his glove.

“They’re going to (hit homeruns) once in a while and that’s okay, but it’s about what is taking place leading up to a homerun…solo home runs won’t beat you, but three run homeruns will certainly hurt you,” Rockies Manager Jim Tracy said in his post-game press conference. The walk to Kennedy and error by Wigginton, both avoidable plays for Colorado, turned out to be two gift runs for Arizona and were ultimately decisive to the final outcome of the game.

The Rockies bats were, for the most part, as unimpressive as Jimenez’s pitching. As a team, Colorado was only 3/16 with runners in scoring position and stranded 12 base runners on the afternoon. Combined the Rox struck out 11 times in 44 at bats and $120 million shortstop Troy Tulowitzki went 0/5 with a walk. Tulo struck out twice and left four on base.

Not to be outdone by the ugly play on the field, Tim Tschida’s umpiring crew was guilty of two egregious calls.  Both bad calls came at Colorado’s expense.  With the Rox trailing 4-3 in the bottom of the fifth and Carlos Gonzalez standing at second with only one out, Todd Helton popped a pitch into foul territory where Arizona left fielder Gerardo Parra gave chase. Realizing he was going to be unable to make the catch, Parra began a slide to avoid crashing into the stands. When a Rockies fan reached out attempting to grab the souvenir foul ball, third base umpire Bill Welke called fan interference. Helton was called out and CarGo remained stuck at second base, along with the nascent Colorado rally.

The second umpiring error came when first base umpire Jeff Nelson ruled Colorado right fielder Seth Smith’s sliding catch was not a catch at all and awarded a single to Arizona’s Juan Miranda.

There were a handful of bright spots for the Colorado on opening day. Aside from the Wigginton error, the Rox fielding was relatively sound. Colorado turned in a pair of highlight reel defensive plays in the seventh inning. The web gems bailed out Rockies reliever Felipe Paulino who allowed all three batters he faced to make solid contact.

Bloomquist, leading off in the seventh for Arizona, attempted to stretch a double into a triple, but was cut down at third. A relay throw from centerfielder Dexter Fowler was snared by Tulowitzki who then threw with pinpoint accuracy to Wigginton at third for an easy tag and an easy out.

A few minutes later and after allowing a Kelly Johnson single, Paulino got Upton to hit a ground ball up the middle. Rockies second baseman Jose Lopez, who also hit Colorado’s lone homerun on Friday, fielded the bouncing grounder, tossed it behind his back to Tulowitzki who tagged second and spun 180 degrees before firing to Helton for the third and final out of the inning.

With some help from their defense, the Colorado bullpen pitched well on the afternoon. In five innings of work from six relief pitchers, the pen collectively struck out six and walked only two. True the one run they allowed was the game-winner for Arizona, but over five innings of work one should be good enough most games.

The loss drops the Rox to 0-1 on the season. Colorado will play two more with Arizona, take Monday off, and then play a short two-game series with the LA Dodgers before leaving for Pittsburgh.

One down, 161 to go.


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