Denver — The San Francisco Giants got to Colorado Rockies’ starter Eddie Butler early and were cruising behind the brilliance of Madison Bumgarner … and then things got crazy. Both teams would rally late, but the Giants rallied last and made it stick, taking Game 2 of the series 10-5.
The Giants got three runs in the first all on an opposite-field blast from Buster Posey. The home run itself would not have been such a blow had Butler not walked Joe Panik and, even worse, plunked Matt Duffy on an 0-2 pitch.
Jarrett Parker jumped on Butler’s first pitch in the second, lining a double down the right-field line and would come around to score on a sac fly from Bumgarner after being moved over by Brandon Crawford. And even though Butler had only surrendered two hits, the Rockies trailed 4-0.
Butler settled down after that, scattering two hits over his final three innings finishing with the four runs allowed and just the one walk to four strikeouts. The Rockies offense was stagnant against Bumgarner and so Butler needed to be pulled in favor of offense even though he had only thrown 72 pitches. Even the pitch that Posey took out in the first wasn’t terrible and Parker’s score is just tough baseball sequencing. Butler ultimately made two mistakes in the game to the second and third batters. Yes, he put the team in an early hole, but he didn’t implode and kept his squad in the game against a great (and hot) team. He continues to show a ton of growth from a season ago.
The Rockies did get a run in that fifth, though pinch-hitter Daniel Descalso did not produce anything. It was a strange decision to go left-on-left with two runners on and DJ LeMahieu available on the bench. Descalso promptly popped out softly to shallow left. The next batter, Charlie Blackmon, was able to bring home Cristhian Adames — who tripled to lead off the inning — on a sac fly. Adames went 2-for-3 with a walk but unfortunately hit into an inning-ending double play in the sixth, a frame that saw the Rockies load the bases with nobody out and then fail to score.
Jorge De La Rosa made his first relief appearance since 2009, pitching the sixth and seventh, giving up two hits but no runs on a strikeout and zero walks. It was a solid first outing for him in his new role, and potentially something he could build on.
The Rockies finally broke through once Bumgarner was removed from the game in the seventh. Gerardo Parra started things by drawing only his third walk of the season. Blackmon followed with a base-on-balls of his own, setting the stage for the Rockies big-time stars to shine. Nolan Arenado smashed a two-run double off the “Bridich Barrier” and Carlos Gonzalez followed up with a two-run blast well over the center-field fence, putting the Rockies up 5-4.
The lead was short-lived as Buster Posey would strike again in the eighth with his second three-run home run of the game. Carlos Estevez has thrown a ton of innings lately and it was a tough spot for him on a day when he clearly did not have his best stuff. With the completely fresh Jason Motte having just returned from the DL, it made more sense to use him in that situation.
Gonzalez Germen replaced Estevez and didn’t fare much better, allowing three runs on four hits. Justin Miller finally ended the bleeding, surrendering one hit before getting a double play to mercifully close the frame. When the dust finally settled, the Giants had plated six runs in the inning and turned a 5-4 deficit into a 10-5 lead. And that would be the final score.
The eighth inning was a nightmare from the Rockies perspective. It’s especially tough because the bullpen has been very reliable in 2016 and after such early offensive struggles, the Rockies actually managed to take a lead late. To give it right back in such spectacular fashion hurts no matter how you slice it. It wasn’t a systemic failure (at least not yet) but it wasn’t pretty, either.
Heartbreaker games don’t usually come with this many positive signs. Butler showed more promise and toughness, CarGo is absolutely on fire at the plate with four multi-hit games this week, and the team maintained their level of fight throughout all nine innings. But losing these types of games is exactly what makes the Rockies not quite ready for prime time. This was also one of Walt Weiss’ worst managed games of the year. You can handle one of those every once and a while but this kind of bullpen management cannot become a recurring theme. Too many questionable decisions in high-leverage situations on Saturday.
“Those decisions are made before the game,” Weiss said on the decision to go to Estevez. He also argued that the young fireballer had “only thrown 29 pitches” the last few days. Hindsight is 20-20 to be sure, but it’s hard to buy the logic here with both Motte and Miguel Castro available.
Game 3 will decide the series Sunday afternoon. It’s a tough pitching matchup for the Rockies as Chris Rusin takes on Johnny Cueto. First pitch is at 2:10 MST.