DENVER -- Rockies center fielder Charlie Blackmon wasn't sure exactly what to do. And this time of the year, against an opponent like the defending World Series champion Astros, indecision often leads to defeat.Blackmon's first error of the season -- for two bases on Josh Reddick's 10th-inning leadoff single --
DENVER -- Rockies center fielder Charlie Blackmon wasn't sure exactly what to do. And this time of the year, against an opponent like the defending World Series champion Astros, indecision often leads to defeat.
Blackmon's first error of the season -- for two bases on Josh Reddick's 10th-inning leadoff single -- led to a six-run outburst that sent the Rockies to an 8-2 defeat on Tuesday night in the opener of a two-game set at Coors Field.
In the grand scheme, the Rockies didn't lose ground. They remained 2 1/2 games behind the National League West leading Dodgers, who dropped a 7-4, 16-inning decision to the Phillies on Tuesday night.
Blackmon charged in for Reddick's sinking line drive, then stopped and failed to block the ball, allowing Reddick to reach third. From there, the inning spun out of control against closer Wade Davis (0-3), who pitched more than one inning for the first time this season.
For a majority of innings, the Rockies have risen to the execution standard necessary against strong teams. They entered having won a club-record six straight series against teams above .500. Starter Tyler Anderson held the Astros to three hits in 7 1/3 innings, and the Rockies' offense used a patient hitting approach in the seventh to turn what had been a solid start by Astros righty Gerrit Cole into a no-decision.
"The team played a great game tonight, until that 10th inning," said Davis, who said he didn't put pitches where he wanted. "I thought we battled well. Offense was great. Starting was great. Everything was looking good."
However, Blackmon's misplay and Davis' struggles weren't the only areas where the Rockies fell short. After Chris Iannetta was hit on the right forearm by Astros reliever Joe Smith to open the eighth, pinch-hitter Raimel Tapia fouled off two bunt attempts then struck out when the Rockies were trying to play for one run and turn the game over to Davis with a lead.
"Our defense has been one of our strengths all season," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "You can look at the games that we've played, all 100 of them, and I would say we are one of the best defensive teams in the league, in all of baseball. And tonight there were a couple of mishaps. That's part of the human element of this game."
But Davis, who had not allowed a run in 10 of his previous 11 outings, couldn't stop the Astros after Blackmon's error. Davis gave up four hits, including Tony Kemp's go-ahead RBI single, pinch-hitter Kyle Tucker's two-run triple and George Springer's 17th homer.
Anderson started inauspiciously. Trevor Story committed an error on Springer's grounder to lead off the game then Alex Bregman hit his 21st homer of the season. Anderson said he misread the scouting report and went in believing to his eventual chagrin that an inside fastball was the way to go. Anderson had not faced any of the Astros before.
The earned run upped Anderson's first-inning ERA to 7.71. But Anderson settled down, giving the Rockies further reason to believe their starters are more talented than the realistically available pitchers available via trade before next Tuesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline.
After the homer, Anderson didn't allow another runner into scoring position and finished his outing holding the Astros to three hits. His biggest problems came in the fourth, when he walked Reddick and Marwin Gonzalez. However, he picked off Reddick using a similar move that also worked against Jose Altuve in the first inning.
"What we saw is really what we've seen the last number of starts from Tyler," Black said. "A good fastball, in and out, to both left- and right-handed hitters. A good change, a good slider, mixed in a couple of curveballs. He pitched.
"The trick is to continue that now for the next couple of months to give us a chance to win, which he did."
In his last seven starts, Anderson has compiled a sparkling 2.12 ERA while helping the Rockies into playoff contention. It was reminiscent of last September, when he went 3-1 with a 1.19 ERA while helping the Rockies secure their first postseason berth since 2009.
"It's just games, even from the beginning of the season," Anderson said. "Just right now, as the season goes on, you get into a better groove."
Cole struck out nine in 6 1/3 innings and didn't give up a hit until Ian Desmond's fourth-inning single.
But the Rockies' controlled hitting approach kicked in during the seventh. Consecutive doubles by Nolan Arenado and Carlos Gonzalez, the second driving in a run, were to the middle of the field. Gerardo Parra, who had struck out twice, chased Cole with a single to right-center that drove in the tying run.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
After Iannetta got hit by a pitch, Black turned to Tapia in the bottom of the eighth to try and put a runner in scoring position and break the 2-2 tie. On Saturday in Arizona, Tapia hit a pinch-hit grand slam to put the Rockies on top of the D-backs -- and the Rockies hoped Tapia could do more of the same on Tuesday.
But Tapia failed to execute his role, fouling off two bunt attempts to bring it to a 2-2 count before swinging through Smith's 86.6 mph fastball for the first out of the inning.
Blackmon struck out after Tapia, but Desmond reached first on an error by Astros' first baseman Yuli Gurriel. With runners on first and third base, Arenado popped out to Bregman, and the score remained tied.
Anderson picked off two Astros in Tuesday's game, which tied the franchise record. Anderson nabbed Altuve at first base in the first inning and Reddick at first in the fourth inning after walking Reddick.
Anderson is the ninth Rockies pitcher to pick off two baserunners in a game and the first since Tyler Chatwood on April 5, 2017, at Milwaukee.
Iannetta was replaced by Noel Cuevas as a pinch-runner and Tony Wolters at catcher after he was hit by a pitch, but he reported after the game that it was a bruise that didn't require an X-ray.
The Rockies will complete the two-game series with the Astros at 6:40 p.m. MT on Wednesday. Rockies right-hander Jon Gray (8-7, 5.44 ERA) will face Astros righty Charlie Morton (11-2, 2.96 ERA), as Gray tries to continue his comeback from Triple-A Albuquerque, where he spent two weeks. Gray was recalled on July 14 and started against Seattle, allowing one run on five hits with one walk and six strikeouts over 7 1/3 innings. Wednesday will be Gray's first start against Houston.
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.