DENVER - Manager Bud Black has consistently said, since taking the mantle as Colorado Rockies manager, that good pitching plays anywhere. We saw that in abundance on Sunday afternoon at Coors Field.
One of many rookie sensations in the starting rotation for the Rockies, Jeff Hoffman, pitched one of his best games in a while and Philadelphia Phillies ace Aaron Nola did his normal thing, spotting fastballs and devastating curve balls all afternoon giving us a good old-fashioned pitcher's duel.
Colorado lost 3-2 despite Charlie Blackmon's offense, Trevor Story's defense and a pitching staff that continues to rise to the occasion despite constantly being tested to their limits, especially the bullpen. On this day, though, the bullpen failed Black's boys. Greg Holland blew only his second save attempt of the season as the Phillies rallied in the ninth from a 2-1 deficit.
The Rockies got on the board in the first in their typical fashion, a lead-off double from Blackmon down the first base line and an RBI single from Nolan Arenado. On the play, Blackmon scored his 100th run of the season, which leads MLB by 12, and Arenado recorded his 98th RBI, which leads MLB by 10.
Hoffman gave up a solo home run in the second to Maikel Franco on an inside fastball that wasn't poorly located but caught a bit more of the plate than he wanted. He issued his first walk in the game after a long battle with Cesar Hernandez to lead off the sixth inning but erased him by inducing a double play off the bat of Freddy Galvis.
His final line: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K. He threw 63 of his 96 pitches for strikes. An excellent outing by any measure, even more so at Coors Field.
With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Raimel Tapia was called upon to pinch-hit, a role he has struggled in this season, and put together a fantastic at-bat drawing Nola's second walk of the game. Tapia stole second with ease and scored the go-ahead run on Blackmon's third hit of the game, an opposite field double that split the gap in left-center.
The Phillies came back with an infield single from Cameron Rupp that was followed by a double from Andres Blanco to left field on a ball that just fell out of the reach of a diving Gerardo Parra. Parra picked himself up, though, and fired the baseball back in quickly, giving Trevor Story a great opportunity to make his third impactful defensive play of the game, gunning down Rupp at home plate to preserve the lead. After allowing those two hits, Pat Neshek was removed in favor of lefty Mike Dunn who walked Cesar Hernandez but struck out Galvis. Then he got a tough call on a potential strike three that went as ball four to Daniel Nava, loading the bases. Dunn kept his cool, though, and induced a weak ground ball from Nick Williams and somehow the Rockies escaped without allowing a run.
Holland came on in the ninth and gave up a tough-luck double to Odubel Herrera on a grounder up the middle that took a funny hop away from Story and Blackmon allowing him to reach second on the hustle play. Maikel Franco followed with a single to right but Herrera had to see the ball down and didn't want to test Carlos Gonzalez' arm.
Holland then got Hyun Soo Jim to hit a ground ball to shortstop and Story made his fourth fantastic play of the game to throw Herrera out at the plate. It looked like the Phillies would again get the tying run to third with no outs and not score but Rupp came through huge, ripping a double into the gap in left, scoring a pair of runs to give Philadelphia the lead and Holland only his second blown save of the year.
Story led off the bottom of the ninth by surprising everybody with a perfect bunt up the third baseline for a single. He stole second with two outs and pinch-hitter Jonathan Lucroy worked a walk but Blackmon grounded out to first base to end the game.
Blackmon extended his NL-lead in hits with a three-base-knock day. He now has 150 on the season which is one shy of Jose Altuve for the MLB lead and 11 ahead of Ender Inciarte of the Atlanta Braves who is in second place in the National League.
The Rockies are now 59-1 when leading after eight innings. Nothing lasts forever.
Colorado fell to 64-48 but with Arizona and Milwaukee both losing today, maintained their lead in the Wild Card. After a day off on Monday, the Rockies will go out on the road for a two-game set against the Cleveland Indians. German Marquez faces Cory Kluber in the opener on Tuesday at 5:10.