DENVER -- The Rockies’ strong start and new confidence in their pitching suddenly ran into an old problem -- Wade Davis’ struggles.
Davis entered the ninth inning with a one-run lead, got two outs and never saw the third. He yielded Fernando Tatis’ two-out solo home run. Three batters later, Tommy Pham’s three-run shot lifted the Padres to an 8-7 victory in the Rockies’ home opener on Friday night.
Before the wild ninth inning, Rockies shortstop Trevor Story had a remarkable inning of his own. In the top of the seventh, he managed to make a throw to first to retire Jake Cronenworth despite resting on his backside at the time. In the bottom of the inning, he hit a solo home run to give the Rockies a temporary 5-4 lead.
Before the season, the Rockies released lefty Jake McGee (now with the Dodgers) and righty Bryan Shaw (now with the Mariners). Davis is the last one left from a pre-2018 spending spree -- three relievers with three-year contracts totaling $106 million.
Davis converted his first two save chances of the season at Texas, but his blown save Friday came in the sixth game of a 60-game schedule, after the team’s 4-1 season-opening road trip. Manager Bud Black declined to acknowledge he has a big decision, much less deliberate on one for a media and regional television audience.
“We’re going to continue to watch all our players, like we’ve said,” Black said. “We’re going to critique them and evaluate them, on the pitching side, on their stuff and how they’re throwing the ball, knowing that if they’re throwing the ball fine and their stuff is fine, eventually you’re going to see good performances.”
But Black did offer a not-so-glowing critique on the fastballs crushed by Tatis and Pham.
“He missed with the fastball; that came back to bite him,” Black said. “He meant to go down and away to Tatis and left it up sort of middle. Then the fastball to Pham was meant to be away from him, and it sort of snuck to the inside part of the plate. It was down, but it didn’t get away from him.”
The Rockies, who enjoyed a two-run home run by Charlie Blackmon in the first inning and the tie-breaker by Story in the seventh, nearly pushed the Davis issue to the background. Trailing by three in the ninth, they scored on an RBI single by Blackmon and Ryan McMahon’s two-out, bases-loaded walk against Padres closer Kirby Yates. However, the Padres lifted Yates for lefty Drew Pomeranz, who worked a Chris Owings flyout to center.
The game was reminiscent of a crazy series last year, when the teams split four games at Coors Field while combining for a record 92 runs. Davis blew saves in the two losses -- 16-12 and 14-13 finals. Last year’s series had three delays, including one for a water main break, and Friday had its own odd delay -- 37 minutes for anticipated rain that never showed.
“We tend to have a lot of those with these guys, the Padres,” Story said. “We know it’s going to be a close game. I think we bring out the best in each other.”
The Padres can claim a co-starring role in Davis’ nightmares. He headed into last year’s season-turning series with a 2.16 ERA.
Davis’ first season under the contract was fine. In 2018, Davis led the National League in saves with 43, a club record. But the end of last year became an audition for the mantle of future closer. Scott Oberg handled it in early August, but his year ended with surgery to remove blood clots from his right arm. Righty Jairo Díaz finished the year handling the ninth inning.
Oberg began this season on the 10-day injured list with back soreness, but he will be back soon. Diaz and Carlos Estévez, who was solid in three appearances on the season-opening road trip, have been steadily proving late-game mettle.
The condensed schedule makes it clear that Black has to see where Davis and the other late-game relievers fall in the big picture. But he limited his evaluation to Friday.
“Overall, his stuff was the same as it was in Texas,” Black said. “He just didn’t locate that fastball to a couple guys with some power.”