Stellar night from 'pen sets up Doyle as walk-off hero

June 20th, 2024

DENVER -- From a center fielder’s-eye view, the Rockies’ sees possibilities even when others see pain.

The Rockies’ bullpen has been hurting all season, but Doyle sees the stuff. So before he delivered the sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth for a much-craved 7-6 walk-off victory at Coors Field on Wednesday night, Doyle delighted in the work of his team’s often-aspersed relievers.

A night earlier, relievers Tyler Kinley and Victor Vodnik gave up homers and the Rockies yielded a five-run ninth-inning lead in an 11-9 Dodger dandy.

But on Wednesday, struck out two in two scoreless innings, caught Shohei Ohtani looking at a third strike with two on in the eighth, and forced a Miguel Rojas flyout after Andy Pages doubled with two down in the top of the ninth.

Doyle -- who on Tuesday had his four hits, including a homer, and a diving catch in center washed away -- delivered his first career walk-off plate appearance. But he was just as happy that the pitchers he wanted to brag about showed their wares in just the team’s fifth victory in 18 June games.

“It’s crazy, because this was one of the best bullpen nights of the season,” Doyle said. “After last night, it’s awesome for them to do. They kept us tight in the ballgame for us to be able to win it.

“This game is really mental. Sometimes the confidence can get hurt. But I have all the faith in the world. We have a lot of gross dudes in the ’pen, and it showed tonight.”

“Gross” can certainly describe the frequent late blown leads, which are a leading reason for the Rockies’ 26-48 record. But in this case, it means “plus,” as in pitch action that’s above Major League average on a scouting scale.

Manager Bud Black is known to say the Rockies are “under construction.” Maybe a closer will emerge, although the prospects look iffy so far. Nonetheless, current bullpen members have to show they are worthy of being part of the foundation.

“Bring it,” Mears said. “I know that last night was a tough night for the bullpen, but tonight was about rebounding. You know that you have those flashes and glimpses of really good stretches. It’s about how you can recreate those flashes and glimpses to compile into a good stretch.”

Michael Toglia had a three-run homer and a triple against Dodgers starter Bobby Miller. The Rockies trailed, 6-4, going into the seventh, but doubles from Sean Bouchard and Adael Amador led to a two-run frame.

Doyle’s sacrifice gave sweetness to , who boiled over with anger after a game-turning check-swing call by first-base umpire Lance Barksdale on Tuesday. On Wednesday, it was Cave who ended the game crossing the plate -- where Barksdale was working.

All the while, the bullpen fought with the vaunted Dodgers.

Or not.

“I personally don't even think about the Dodgers,” Mears said. “It’s just another team coming to town. If you give them too much credit, then you're out there thinking about it. In my mind, it's, I don't care who's in the box. I have one objective. I need to get this guy,”

Bird categorized his faceoff against Ohtani similarly.

“You’re thinking too much if you have that come into your mind,” he said.

Before missing nearly a month with right elbow inflammation, Bird, who made 70 mostly effective appearances last year, fell into trying to do too much with his stuff. But there wasn’t much thinking in his 0-2 slider that froze Ohtani.

“I just wanted to throw the pitch with as much conviction as I can,” said Bird, who celebrated his second outing back with the club with fist pumps and shouts. “If it happens to be a chase pitch, great. If it happens to go in the strike zone like it did, that’s great, too. It was all about conviction.”

The ninth was sweet for Beeks, who like his mates has had to decipher poor outings. He’s had long conversations with Daniel Bard, who would be the closer if not for season-ending Tommy John surgery. Beeks sat with Kinley on the team plane during the last road trip to discuss how to be better. The whole crew urged Vodnik to keep his head up after Tuesday.

“I’ve been saying all year we’ve got great stuff down here,” Beeks said. “It’s hard to pitch at Coors. We’re getting better at pitching at Coors. We’re moving in the right direction, even though last night happened.”