Lambert leads heroic 'pen effort as Rox claim series vs. Bucs

May 10th, 2023

PITTSBURGH -- The Rockies were in a bind.

Starting pitcher was forced to leave the game with two outs in the third inning because of right forearm tightness with his team trailing by three runs. That left 6 1/3 innings for the Rockies bullpen to cover.

Five relievers combined to shut out the Pirates the rest of the way.

The bullpen's effort enabled the Rockies to rally for a 4-3 victory in the finale of a three-game series at PNC Park. The Rockies took two of three from both the Pirates and New York Mets in going 4-2 on their road trip.

set the tone for the bullpen by relieving Senzatela on short notice and striking out four over 2 1/3 innings, including Carlos Santana to end the third inning. It was Lambert’s first appearance in a Major League game since 2021 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Daniel Bard got one out and Brad Hand worked 1 2/3 innings before Justin Lawrence and Pierce Johnson finished with one inning apiece.

Hand got the win when snapped a 3-3 tie in the seventh inning with an RBI single. Johnson escaped a second-and-third jam in the ninth, striking out pinch-hitter Josh Palacios to end the game and notch his sixth save.

“To come in and get [Carlos] Santana with a called third strike to start his day and then six more hitters retired [by Lambert] and then Bard to Hand to Lawrence to Johnson, a bunch of zeros and some clutch pitches in there, even Pierce, some clutch pitches,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “That was impressive.”

Lambert was the feel-good story of the day as he returned after a long layoff.

“I was happy to be out there. I felt really good,” Lambert said. “It kind of came quick in the game and obviously I wasn’t really expecting Senzatela to come out in the third inning, but I got the call, got an adrenaline rush and it felt great.

“Everything was kind of working for me. I threw some good breaking balls, my changeup was pretty good, my slider was pretty good. It was a really good day.”

As it was for everyone who came out of the bullpen and helped the Rockies win for the eighth time in their last 10 games following an 8-20 start to the season.

“Obviously you hate to see Senzatela have to leave the game early, but our job is to pick the starters up when we’re called upon,” Lambert said. “It feels great when we all do a good job like that.”

The bullpen had a key defensive play made while Bard was on the mound in the sixth inning and the Pirates loaded the bases with no outs -- when rookie center fielder Brenton Doyle bailed Bard out by starting a double play.

Doyle caught pinch-hitter Rodolfo Castro’s line drive to center field then threw out a tagging Bryan Reynolds at home as catcher Austin Wynns applied the tag to end the inning. The throw was clocked at 98.1 mph, the second-fastest by an MLB outfielder this season. Pirates manager Derek Shelton challenged the call for a potential blocking of the plate, but the call was confirmed.

“I’ve always been a guy who takes a lot of pride in my defense,” said Doyle, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Rockies' No. 15 prospect. “I saw that ball go up and it was in a good spot where I could get some momentum behind [the throw]. I made a good throw and Wynns behind the dish made a great tag. It was a big momentum boost in that game. Everyone was fired up and we ended up scoring a run that next inning, so it was great.”

The news wasn’t all good for the Rockies. Senzatela will be examined by team doctors Thursday in Denver.

He was making just his second start after beginning the season on the injured list while recovering from knee surgery.

“Crossing our fingers,” Black said. “He’ll go through all the exams and tests. We’ll know more by the weekend.”

However, the bullpen helped it from being a lost day.

“All in all, it was a good team win,” Black said. “Lots of contributions.”