The Rockies returned home to LoDo Wednesday night searching for their lost offensive mojo and counting on the solid pitching that has been a silver lining during their recent fall from grace.
Well, the offense is still missing — at least when the game was still on the line. And their pitching took a beating in a 13-6 loss to the surging Houston Astros at Coors Field.
The Astros — who’ve whipped Colorado in seven consecutive games dating back to Aug. 15, 2018 — are on a seven-game winning streak. They tore into Colorado pitching for 20 hits, including four home runs.
The Rockies? After an 11-3 start that had some starry-eyed fans talking about playoffs and perhaps even a division title, they have now lost eight of 10 and are teetering just two games above .500 at 13-11.
“We’ve got to, collectively as a group, get it going,” manager Bud Black said. “We can’t have just a couple of guys swinging well and be relying (only) on pitching.”
Veteran catcher Drew Butera said the mood and direction of the team are still good.
“I think one thing that is pretty special about this team is our ability to
stay positive,” he said. “We know how good we are. We know that you know we can play with anybody and compete with anybody.
“So we haven’t lost hope. But, you know, we don’t want to have it happen for too long because it is a shorter season.”
Wednesday’s game had the makings of a duel between two talented young pitchers — lefty Framber Valdez for the Astros and right-hander Ryan Castellani for the Rockies. Valdez won the duel. Valdez, who owns a 1.72 ERA after five starts, baffled the Rockies before faltering in the eighth.
His final line: three runs allowed on seven hits with five strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings.
According to Black, Valdez had good, late movement on his fastball and a “very good curve” that caused some “emergency swings” by some Rockies hitters.
Castellani, so good in his first two major-league starts, got roughed up. The Astros slugged him for five runs on eight hits over 5 2/3 innings. He was sharp early, yielding only a solo home run to catcher Martín Maldonado in the third.
But the fifth got messy for Castellani. After surprising Alex Correa with a big curveball for a called strike, Castellani threw it again on the next pitch and Correa blasted it 436 feet into the left-field bleachers. Castellani said he thought the idea of another curve was a good strategy, but said that he didn’t execute the pitch and left it hanging.
A triple by Kyle Tucker, followed by Taylor Jones’ RBI singles, stretched Houston’s lead to 3-1.
The lead grew to 6-1 in the sixth, on a two-run triple by Tucker off reliever Jeff Hoffman and a subsequent RBI single by Jones. It grew to 10-1 in the seventh with four more runs on six hits, four of them off Hoffman.
The right-hander entered the evening having allowed just one run in 9 2/3 innings, but he was charged with five runs in two-thirds of an inning Wednesday night.
The Rockies had the makings of a big second inning until shortstop Carlos Correa short-circuited the rally with a gorgeous play. Raimel Tapia’s single scored Matt Kemp to put Colorado in front, 1-0. Then Chris Owings singled and Ryan McMahon was hit by a pitch, loading the bases. But Correa made a diving stop on Drew Butera’s smash into the hole between short and third and turned it into an inning-ending double play.
The Astros, however, suffered what could be a big loss when star third baseman Alex Bregman pulled up lame running to first base after hitting a leadoff double in the fourth. He barely made it to second base. The Astros officially called it “right hamstring discomfort,” adding that Bregman is “day-to-day.”
Colorado has gone 3-16 vs. the Astros since they moved to the American League in 2013. The two teams finish up their brief two-game series at Coors Field on Thursday afternoon.