DENVER -- Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado spearheaded one of the most prescient double plays on Saturday night, and he made (or nearly made) multiple other big plays. Trevor Story had a triple and two doubles through his first three at-bats of the game.
Add to that a gritty performance from No. 1 starter Germán Márquez, who labored through iffy command but induced a pair of double-play grounders over six solid innings to keep Colorado in it.
But after their fifth defeat in six games, a 6-4 loss to the Rangers at Coors Field, the Rockies are vexed by the issue that every team faces -- and likely every one will struggle with -- during a season in which baseball is taking many measures to protect itself and its fans during a pandemic.
If there is no crowd, how much momentum do plays by superstars bring? A Colorado team that could self-generate its magic during an 11-3 start now seems in need of chants, or maybe even the wave.
Rockies manager Bud Black said, “The reality is, it’s not happening, so I don’t go there” -- and everyone knows what the deal is, and teams compete. But Black also acknowledged that crowds are a big part of the game.
“Obviously, the entertainment value of a game with filled, packed houses is awesome -- players are entertainers, they'd like playing on a big stage, they like showing their talents,” Black said. “They can feed off the crowd -- that's both the visiting team and the home team. That works both ways. The home team, obviously, can be uplifted by the fans, and a visiting team can act as the villain.”
Tony Wolters, who hit a two-run double as part of a 2-for-4 night, said the Rockies' lack of momentum may be nothing more than the usual heartbeat of a baseball season.
“We definitely miss our fans,” Wolters said. “I think all the teams miss their fans. But I think we're so focused on being in the moment, being pitch-to-pitch and keeping the line moving. And I think we're doing a really good job.
“I feel like we've been playing really good baseball. This is baseball. You know, there's a reason why we have a long season.”
Of course, long is relative, with a 60-game regular season.
The Rockies' missed opportunities in the third help tell this game's story.
With the Rockies up, 2-1, with one out in the top of the inning, Arenado fielded Willie Calhoun’s bouncer and caught Shin-Soo Choo in a rundown between third base and home. Choo kept the rundown going, hoping to give Calhoun time to reach second. But Arenado, who quickens his feet when necessary, chased down Choo and then threw out Calhoun at second.
It was a play many wouldn’t try. But Arenado was born to do it, and he has the seven National League Gold Glove Awards and three Platinum Gloves to back his argument.
Arenado’s defensive play was one that would drive a crowd wild. No one can measure what that means. Story’s leadoff double off Kyle Gibson in the bottom of the inning would then have created a crescendo.
But Charlie Blackmon (who had 11 hitless at-bats before his ninth-inning leadoff triple) struck out. Then, Arenado and Daniel Murphy each grounded out.
The Rockies went 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position, and in their past three games, they are 4-for-32 in those situations.
“We didn't string a lot of hits together, but they were out there,” Black said. “We just couldn't get the single, the sac fly -- just enough to keep a little bit of momentum going to jump-start the offense.”
Defensively, a ball that Murphy couldn’t scoop gave the Rangers the lead. With one out in the fifth, Arenado made a leaping stab of a Calhoun and tried to double Isiah Kiner-Falefa off first with a low throw. The degree of difficulty was high for Murphy to catch it and either get his foot to the bag or tag Falefa-Kiner. Instead, Texas took a 3-2 lead as Jose Trevino scored from third on the play.
In the bottom of the fifth, Story doubled with one out, only to see Gibson (who pitched around seven hits in 6 1/3 innings of two-run ball) retire Blackmon and Arenado on groundouts to end another Colorado opportunity.
Derek Dietrich’s three-run homer off Rockies right-hander Carlos Estévez in the eighth left the cheers of the Rangers’ dugout the only non-piped-in sound at Coors Field, putting the game out of reach.