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Hampson shows value with two-HR night

@harding_at_mlb
September 2, 2020

DENVER -- Garrett Hampson spent Tuesday night making sure he isn’t forgotten. Starting at shortstop as Trevor Story did not play for the first time this season, Hampson parked two home runs in the Rockies’ 23-5 loss to the Giants at Coors Field. In the grand scheme, concerning recent woes

DENVER -- Garrett Hampson spent Tuesday night making sure he isn’t forgotten.

Starting at shortstop as Trevor Story did not play for the first time this season, Hampson parked two home runs in the Rockies’ 23-5 loss to the Giants at Coors Field.

In the grand scheme, concerning recent woes of the starting pitching -- this time from Jon Gray -- have to be addressed before developments such as Hampson’s future role can even become important.

Box score

But as the Rockies try to find their way -- an 11-3 start is now a 17-19 entanglement as the final month of this short season begins -- Hampson argued that there is still a place for him. His homers were the only hits the Rockies managed in five innings against Giants starter Kevin Gausman.

The plan all along was for Hampson to move around, fill in and earn at-bats based on playing time. He was forced into daily duty when regular center fielder David Dahl slumped and then went to the injured list with a back injury. Through Aug. 16, Hampson was batting .321. But in his 13 most recent games (10 starts) going into Tuesday, Hampson hit .150 with 15 strikeouts in 40 at-bats.

But nights like Tuesday could keep Hampson in some kind of playing time rotation. Story won’t take many nights off, if any, but Hampson would be a right-handed-hitting option alongside the scuffling Ryan McMahon at second base.

“Those two guys are our second basemen,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “‘Hampy’ had a couple good swings today -- the breaking ball and he hit a fastball.

“We’ll see. They’ve both got to contribute, whether they’re playing or not. Whether we move ‘Mac’ to first for a game or two or whether we put Garrett in the outfield or infield, he’s got to contribute.”

Starting pitching: from stalwart to questionable
The offense is under scrutiny, and three wins in the last 13 at Coors Field points to a real problem. An important National League West homestand has seen the Rockies drop four of five games while being outscored 55-15. But the latest concern is starting pitching after Gray gave up seven runs in 2 2/3 innings, including two of Alex Dickerson’s three homers.

The rotation has 18 quality starts, but lately is springing leaks (7.63 ERA in its last 12 outings).

“We talked just a few days ago about our starting pitchers leading the National League in quality starts, and you look at the innings pitched and it’s right there with any rotation in baseball,” Black said. “But those guys have to perform to get us into the ballgame. It’s awful hard to claw back like we’ve had to do the last number of games. Starting pitching is critical.”

In his previous start, a win at Arizona, Gray had his best fastball velocity of the season and his secondary pitches played off that. On Tuesday, everything was mediocre and in the middle of the plate.

“We all have our own little battles to fight,” Gray said. “And how we deal with that is depending on how well we finish the year. Me, personally, I’ve got to find a way to get my velo back up. I’ve got to find a way to snap my slider off.

“It’s all individual things. I don’t think it’s a group thing or any kind of change that needs to be made like that. We’ve all got our little personal battles to fight, and we’ve got to overcome them, really quick.”

It takes a catcher
While the night was forgettable for the Rockies, it was also notable -- mainly because catcher Drew Butera took the mound in the eighth and then pitched a scoreless ninth to prevent the Giants from scoring in all nine innings.

The record book will say:
• The Rockies gave up the third-most runs in their history and the most since a 24-12 loss to the Reds on May 19, 1999. The record is a 26-7 loss to the Cubs on Aug. 18, 1995.
• The 27 hits the Rockies gave up were tied for second-most by an opponent, in the loss to the Cubs. The Rockies gave up 28 hits in the loss to the Reds.
• The Giants’ trio of Dickerson, Donovan Solano and Brandon Crawford became the first trio of teammates to drive in at least six runs in the same game since RBIs became an official stat in 1920.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and like his Facebook page.