The pitchers were rocking and rolling all night on Tuesday, though with a 10:10 a.m. MST start time Wednesday, will not have time to party every day. In The Land known for dueling guitar solos and “battle of the bands”, the Colorado Rockies and Cleveland Indians engaged in another pitcher’s duel.
The Indians won, 4-1, on Johnny Gomes’ three-run walk-off homer.
Just two pitches into the game, the only run the contest would see until the final frame was scored on a Charlie Blackmon home run. It was his 26th home run of the season, taking over the lead from Nolan Arenado for the team lead. Cleveland starter Corey Kluber would allow a single to DJ LeMahieu right after, but then went on to retire the next 15 batters, allowing a grand total of three hits. He did not walk a batter and struck out 11, including getting the side in order to finish off his complete game.
Twenty-two-year-old German Marquez wouldn’t go as long, but for most of the night — with a little help from his defense — he was just as good.
Marquez allowed his first base runner with one out in the fourth inning. He worked ahead of Francisco Lindor but the star shortstop stayed off some tough breaking pitches to get himself back into a 3-2 count. Marquez’ fastball missed location by a few inches but still ended up in a good spot at the very top of the zone. Somehow, Lindor was able to get the barrel to the baseball and smash a line drive into right-center field that fell just shy of a home run as he settled for the double.
But Marquez was not shaken. He stared down the heart of the Cleveland order and kept dotting fastballs, sliders, and curves on the edges of the zone to induce some ugly swings and ultimately a pair of weak ground outs to second from Michael Brantley and Jose Ramirez to strand Lindor at third.
Colorado had a chance to add a run in the sixth when Raimel Tapia led off with a single to right, breaking a streak of 15 straight batters sat down by Kluber. Tapia then stole second on the very first pitch of Trevor Story’s at-bat, but the Rockies shortstop hit a fly ball to shallow right that wasn’t deep enough to advance the runner, then Blackmon struck out and LeMahieu grounded out to second to leave Tapia standing at second.
After Marquez got Yan Gomes to ground out to lead off the sixth, Jason Kipnis was given a free pass in the truest sense on a four-pitch walk. The Rockies rookie pitcher lost his command for a bit, issuing a second-straight walk to Lindor, the first time Cleveland had multiple base runners aboard in the game. But Marquez was bailed on on consecutive brilliant diving plays from first baseman Mark Reynolds. Reynolds stole what would have been a go-ahead double off the bat of Abraham Almonte on the first play and had to improvise on the second with Ramirez trying to slide away from a tag:
reMARKable! 😻 pic.twitter.com/YpYxd4dIbG
— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) August 9, 2017
Manager Bud Black decided to send Marquez back out in the seventh but he suddenly looked exhausted in walking Edwin Encarnacion and he would have to give way to Chris Rusin. The Rockies swiss-army-reliever got the groundball he was looking for from Carlos Santana but LeMahieu uncharacteristically spiked the transfer throw, failing to complete the double play.
Then Bradley Zimmer hit a pop up to the pitcher’s mound and failed to run to first. As of the publication of this article, it is unclear whether or not Rusin and Nolan Arenado purposefully decided to let the ball drop, but drop it did and Arenado quickly gunned the ball to second and LeMahieu fired to first for one of the most unlikely double plays you will ever see. That lowered Rusin’s ERA to 2.73 and gave him the NL-lead in innings pitched out of the bullpen. It also ended Marquez’ night on a bright note.
His final line: 6 IP, 2 H, 3 BB, 3 K. He threw 66 of 103 pitches for strikes. It was his sixth straight quality start.
Pat Neshek came on in the eighth and got Austin Jackson to fly out to center but narrowly missed fielding a comebacker up the middle that allowed Gomes to reach on a single. Neshek was replaced by Mike Dunn who gave up a single to Kipnis that bounced off the glove of LeMahieu’s sliding attempt at second, allowing Gomes to reach third. But Dunn, on the biggest pitch of the game, got Lindor to pop up a high-and-tight fastball on the infield. One batter later, Dunn retired Almonte on a grounder to short, preserving the shutout.
Kluber finished the ninth with another perfect inning. He tallied a 90 GameScore, but it looked as though he would be in line for the loss despite his dominance.
Corey Kluber, insane 87mph Slider. 😳 pic.twitter.com/JaXuyFgz3S
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 9, 2017
Two days and one game after blowing just his second save of the season, Greg Holland was called upon to carry the torch to the finish, trying to make the first swing of the game hold up. He lost a long battle to Encarnacion, ending in a walk, then struck out Santana and walked Zimmer to put the tying run in scoring position. After getting ahead of Jackson 0-2, Holland hung the slider just a little bit and it was looped into center just out of the reach of a diving Blackmon to tie the game and give the closer his second blown save in a row. One pitch later, Gomes took him deep for a three-run shot to walk-off the Rockies 4-1.
It was just the second time this season the Rockies lost when leading after eight and of course it comes in as many games.
Colorado dropped to 64-49 but will most likely maintain their lead in the Wild Card race because Arizona is playing the unbeatable Dodgers. Game tw0 (and the final game) of the series starts tomorrow at 10:10 MST. Antonio Senzatela makes his return to the rotation against Trevor Bauer.