Lambert eyeing next step after comeback

Rockies right-hander 'felt good' in his first start since TJ surgery in 2020

September 25th, 2021

DENVER -- Yes, the end of the 2021 season for the Rockies is a chance to play the proverbial spoiler -- the Dodgers were just at Coors Field, and on Friday night, the Giants came to town. Both clubs are vying for the National League West title, and Colorado could have a lot to say about which team wins the division.

But the end of the 2021 campaign is also a chance for a young club to finish strong and see what it has going into next season. Finishing strong wasn’t the theme of the night -- the Rockies lost, 7-2, buried by four San Francisco homers. But the second part of the equation came into play, with 24-year-old right-hander making his first MLB start in more than two years.

Lambert made his big league debut in 2019, and following 19 starts and a 7.25 ERA, he underwent Tommy John surgery, missing the entire ’20 campaign. He held his own against the club with the best record in baseball on Friday, giving up two runs on a pair of solo homers over 3 2/3 innings, yielding four hits overall while walking one and striking out two.

“I felt good,” Lambert said. “I wasn’t exactly as sharp as I would’ve liked to have been. A few badly-located fastballs in fastball counts, and they took advantage.”

The two pitches Lambert threw that ended up in the right-field seats were both fastballs -- and both were down the middle, at the belt. Velocity-wise, Lambert was touching 96 mph with the four-seamer, but location is what burned him.

“So as far as just the overall feel for the game ... knowing that he was on a pitch count [of 60] -- you know, give up two runs in 3 2/3 innings,” manager Bud Black said, “I think any pitcher will tell you, that's not their goal. But overall, considering the circumstances of where he's been in the last couple of years, I think it was passable.”

Lambert's return to the mound -- plus Brendan Rodgers’ performance at the plate (3-for-5 with a double) -- comprised the silver lining on an otherwise forgettable night for the Rockies, who scored twice in the first inning thanks to RBI singles from Charlie Blackmon and Elias Díaz. After that, they were blanked by San Francisco starter Alex Wood and relievers Kervin Castro, Tony Watson, Tyler Rogers and Camilo Doval.

Following the solo homers against Lambert, which were hit by Tommy La Stella to lead off the game and Brandon Crawford in the second, the Giants edged ever closer to their franchise record of 235 home runs in a season (2001) with their 233rd courtesy of Brandon Belt in the sixth, and 234th -- a three-run back-breaker -- from Mike Yastrzemski in the seventh.

The Rockies, who have been outstanding at home overall this season, have lost nine of their last 12 games at Coors Field. But as has been the case for this club in 2021, there were necessary growing pains mixed with glimpses of what the future may hold.

Lambert echoed the sentiments of many young players on the roster throughout the season after his first Major League appearance since Sept. 2019.

“You just would like to get into some better counts, and I fell behind a little too often tonight,” Lambert said. “So, I think, going into the next outing, I’ll be focusing on getting a little better.”