DENVER -- The scene is repeating itself -- Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado at Coors Field early, swinging and fretting and switching bats to try to escape a slump. He kept changing instruments during Wednesday’s 13-6 loss to the Astros, but each played the same tune -- a grounder to the left side of the infield, with the third beginning a double play to end the sixth inning.
Arenado, down to .225 after an 0-for-3 night, has company in his angst.
The Rockies have dropped eight of their last 10 games, including six of the last eight at home. It’s not a stretch they can ever afford, and it’s especially wasteful in a 60-game season.
Furthermore, after Thursday’s finale against the Astros comes a seven-game National League West road trip to Los Angeles (where they have gone 4-15 over the last two years and 1-8 last season) and Arizona.
Here are some observations of a Rockies team that is reeling after an 11-3 start:
The answers are in the track record
In Colorado’s three losses to the Astros, its offense has managed a combined eight runs. The starters the Rockies have faced have been a who’s who of low ERAs -- Brandon Bielak (1.69), Zack Greinke (1.84) and Framber Valdez (1.72, after holding the Rockies to three runs (one earned) off seven hits in 7 2/3 innings Wednesday).
Does manager Bud Black have to switch up the mix?
“We’ve got to try to get them going somehow,” Black said. “These are our guys. They’re the same group that got us off to a good start. Even then, we hadn’t hit our stride. We’ve got to collectively, as a group, get it going. We can’t have a couple guys swinging it well and rely on our pitching.”
Hampson became the leadoff man in place of David Dahl, who went on the injured list Wednesday with lower back soreness. Raimel Tapia lost his spot, then regained it and went 2-for-3 to improve to .302, and Matt Kemp (.269 after a 2-for-4 night) is a regular presence against lefties and in favorable right-on-right matchups.
The Rockies’ top prospect, second baseman Brendan Rodgers, who they recalled prior to the game, came in as a late substitute for Story and proceeded to hit a two-run single in the ninth.
Wednesday was a rare poor start for the Rockies in 2020, but at least this one was teachable.
Rookie right-hander Ryan Castellani was in a 1-1 game in the fifth when he had Carlos Correa spinning away from a curveball that landed for a strike. But when he went back to the pitch, Correa clobbered it 436 feet to left field for a solo home run.
Was he expecting it? Yes. But if a curve is expected, it needs to be placed better.
“I would have stuck with that same pitch,” Castellani said. “The first one was ‘get-me-over.’ My idea was to go a little bit down with it. I left it up. He got me.”
Castellani was charged with five runs in 5 2/3 innings, but he took some forward steps. After going four innings on 60 pitches in his debut at Seattle and 4 2/3 on 88 pitches at home against Texas, Castellani escaped jams with a couple double plays on solid fielding plays and was at 87 pitches when he was chased from Wednesday's game in the fifth inning.
“He’s got fantastic stuff, and as he gets his feet wet he’s going to continue to improve every single time,” said catcher Drew Butera. “He faced a loaded offense tonight and the second and third time through the lineup they made him work for it.
“That’s a learning curve. He’s a very intelligent guy, and he’ll respond quickly to that.”
A silver lining
Righty Jeff Hoffman had a 0.93 ERA in 9 2/3 innings before absorbing five runs on six hits while recording just two outs. Righty Ashton Goudeau in a 1 2/3-inning Major League debut and the struggling James Pazos (17.18 ERA) absorbed what was left of the Astros’ 20-hit, four-homer barrage.
But it was valuable rest for relievers Daniel Bard and Yency Almonte, who have pitched well of late, as well as Jairo Díaz and Carlos Estévez, who is healing after being hit on the right hand by a line drive on Sunday.
The Rockies will look at that as an unintended benefit of a bad night. Their closer situation is unsettled, but rested options are better than tired ones.