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Rockies snap skid behind Melville's strong start

Right-hander strikes out career-high eight in bounceback outing
@oapostrophesd
September 7, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- If Tim Melville is on an audition for a spot in the Rockies’ rotation to open next season, he seems certain to get a callback. He passed yet another important test Friday night against the Padres. Coming off his first poor outing since he returned to the

SAN DIEGO -- If Tim Melville is on an audition for a spot in the Rockies’ rotation to open next season, he seems certain to get a callback.

He passed yet another important test Friday night against the Padres. Coming off his first poor outing since he returned to the big leagues last month, he did not let it fester. He did not lose faith in his approach, nor did he overcompensate and develop bad habits.

Instead, he flustered Padres batters with his mix of sliders, fastballs, curves and changeups -- in that order -- and helped the Rockies prevail, 3-2, at Petco Park to snap a nine-game losing streak.

Box score

He became the first Rockies starter to earn a win since Melville himself on Aug. 21 at Arizona. The right-hander went 5 2/3 innings in the series opener Friday and allowed two runs on five hits with a career-high eight strikeouts.

“I just kept my mind as simple as I can, pitch to pitch, and worked on executing the next one,” said Melville, who was coming off a two-inning, five-run outing vs. the Pirates.

The Rockies’ bullpen, 28th in the Majors with a 5.19 ERA entering the weekend, proved stout on this night. Four relievers combined for 3 1/3 hitless and scoreless innings. Jairo Díaz earned his first Major League save with a 1-2-3 ninth.

The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Melville has thrown his slider on more than half his pitches this season, with good reason. In his first three starts, he held right-handed hitters to a .100 batting average on the pitch and lefties to a .176 mark, per Statcast tracking.

The Padres also had little luck with the pitch. They saw 49 sliders, which included 11 swings-and-misses, 12 called strikes and seven foul balls. They put five sliders into play -- all outs.

“He’s such a big guy, and he hides the ball well,” said Rockies manager Bud Black. “The hitters, if they haven’t faced him, which is the case now, it looks like it might be a little bit more than what it is. I see a lot of guys out in front of it. He disrupts their timing; that’s the big thing.

“But he can spin the ball. He’s got a couple variations of his breaking ball.”

Melville’s slider was particularly effective against Padres star Manny Machado, producing four outs in three at-bats. In the first inning, Machado tried to pull a slider away and popped it high into left field with baserunner Greg Garcia on third base. Raimel Tapia moved to his right to catch the high fly and then completed a double play with a throw straight into catcher Dom Nunez’s mitt as Garcia tried to score.

“That was huge,” Melville said. “That was the turning point for me.”

Machado struck out swinging at a slider the next two times up, slamming his bat and helmet to the ground after he ended the fifth inning with his second strikeout.

“I didn’t see it,” Melville said of Machado’s outburst, “but I heard it.”

The damage against Melville came in the third on Eric Hosmer’s two-run single on an 0-1 fastball. But the Rockies built an early 3-0 lead in the first two innings against right-hander Dinelson Lamet, benefiting from two unearned runs.

Melville’s baseball saga from Royals prospect to Major League journeyman -- he made a stop in San Diego in 2017, among other places -- to independent ball to a barbecue joint and back to the Majors has been well-chronicled.

In four starts with the Rockies, Melville has shown he can get big league hitters out. He has shown he can win without his best stuff. And now he has a bounce-back outing under his belt. To earn starts across a full season, a pitcher has to show he won’t let adversity snowball into a losing streak.

Melville has seen enough in this sport that one bad start falls well short of his definition of adversity.

“You just keep the same routine and keep it simple,” Melville said. “I think that limits the time of those bad spurts. If you try to change up too much, it takes some time, some trial-and-error. So I just stick to the routine.

“At this point in my career, it’s not about adding things. It’s more about taking them away. That last start, I can see, ‘OK, I tried a little too much there, tried a little too hard.’ So I just come back and interpret things a little differently and have a better mindset.”

Story nabs 20th steal

Rockies shortstop Trevor Story swiped second base in the first inning ahead of an RBI single by Charlie Blackmon. It was Story’s 20th stolen base of 2019, giving him two straight years with at least 20 home runs and 20 steals. Only two other Rockies players have had multiple 20/20 seasons: Dante Bichette (1994, ’96) and Carlos Gonzalez (2010-13).

Story actually has hit at least 30 homers in the past two seasons. He joins Alex Rodriguez (1998-99) as the only shortstops in Major League history with two 30/20 campaigns.

Shaun O'Neill is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in San Diego. Follow him on Twitter @oapostrophesd.