One day after his terrible late throwing error and in a season in which he has been much maligned through underwhelming play in the shadow of signing a five-year, $70 million contract, Ian Desmond played hero for the biggest win of the Colorado Rockies 2017 campaign.
Creating a run out of nowhere, driving in another, and contributing with a key defensive play -- of course, on a throw
After being no-hit through the first several innings in their last two games, the Colorado Rockies got right to work against the San Diego Padres, taking a 1-0 lead in the first inning of Sunday's final game of the series. Charlie Blackmon, who has been in a funk lately, led things off with a solid line drive single to right field. Nolan Arenado and Mark Reynolds backed up that hit with a pair of singles of their own, to centerfield though, driving in the first run of the game.
With runners at first and third with just one out, Gerardo Parra smashed one down the first base line but right to Wil Myers who turned a nifty double play to escape any further damage.
Colorado's lead was incredibly short-lived. The Padres jumped on a couple of two-strike mistake pitches out of the hand of German Marquez as Wil Myers and Yangervis Solarte launched solo home runs to make it 2-1, San Diego.
Another lead that lasted only a matter of moments, Desmond tied the game all by himself in the second inning by drawing a leadoff walk, stealing second, moving to third on a ball in the dirt and then scoring on an overthrow from the catcher on the play. As much as the Rockies have struggled to manufacture runs recently, it was fascinating to watch them plate the tying run without putting the ball in play. Desmond being one of the few players on the team who has the ability to force the issue on the basepaths paid off huge in that moment.
The Rockies scored for the third straight inning (again, coming off getting shut out in three of their last four games) after Blackmon walk and a DJ LeMahieu single. Though, it looked like Colorado might leave both men on base, as has been their custom of late, with Arenado and Reynolds making outs. But a solid single to right off the bat of Parra gave him a sense of karmic justice after some tough luck in the first and Desmond came through with an infield hit up the third base line to make it 4-2, Colorado.
Both starters settled down after that, not allowing any more scoring. But the Rox got after relief pitcher Kyle McGrath ins the sixth. With two outs, Trevor Story singled up the middle and Tony Wolters walked (after Story stole second) and the Rockies shortstop scored on a pinch-hit double off the bat of Pat Valaika. Valiaka set an MLB record for pinch-hit RBI by a rookie with his 16th.
Arenado also left the game in this inning, apparently experiencing some kind of injury on a jamshot swing but nothing has been made official. We will have details as they emerge.
As it turned out, the Rockies would need every one of those insurance runs after a two-run home run from Christian Villanueva off of Scott Oberg in the sixth made it a one-run game. It was a bit of a cheap home run at about 337 feet just down the left-file line, but make no mistake, the ball was crushed. On the very next play, Desmond made a huge defensive play from left field, gunning down Cory Spangenberg trying to stretch a single into a double, thereby taking the tying run out of scoring position and replacing it with an out. Oberg was able to settle down and retire the next two batters on a groundout and a fly out that would have brought in a run if not for Desmond's throw.
Pat Neshek worked a clean seventh inning with a pair of strikeouts. He stayed on to face Wil Myers in the eighth and struck him out after falling behind 2-0 and took a seat, giving way to Jake McGee who got Solarte to fly out to shallow right. That would be his only hitter as manager Bud Black used his third reliever in the inning, going to youngster Carlos Esteves in a big spot against the hot-hitting Villanueva. Estevez got behind 3-1 in the count but came all the way back to get a huge strikeout, throwing six straight fastballs, all at 97 mph and up, two in triple digits.
Through the shadows that emerged on the field halting almost all offense, Valaika smashed a ninth-inning home run, breaking his own record and giving the Rockies a 6-4 lead. It was his 13th homer of the year. Blackmon made it back-to-back shots by launching his 36th home run of the season, also breaking his own record of RBI out of the leadoff spot. He now has 96. With a two-hit day, Blackmon extended his MLB lead in that category, sitting at 203. He is six base hits from tying Dante Bichette for the all-time franchise record.
Ryan Hanigan delivered a pinch-hit single and was replaced by pinch-runner Ryan McMahon who scored all the way from first on a Reynolds double that was badly misplayed by Spangenberg in left, giving the Rockies an 8-4 lead.
Greg Holland came on in the ninth suddenly protecting a four-run lead and struck out the side to end it.
Colorado improved to 84-72 and with the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals both losing on Sunday, now hold a two-game lead over the former and a two-and-a-half game lead on the latter for the second NL Wild Card spot.
With the win, the Rockies secured only their second road winning record in a season.