Rox can't get 'big blow,' road woes continue

July 7th, 2021

PHOENIX -- If as manager Bud Black said, his Rockies “bang our heads” in search of ways to stem their historically poor pace on the road, give third baseman Ryan McMahon points for creativity. But McMahon’s idea, like others this team has tried away from Coors Field, resulted in headache.

With the Rockies trailing the D-backs by a run with runners at first and third in the sixth inning, McMahon tried to bunt -- even though he had only two bunt hits and one sacrifice bunt in a career that began in 2017. But McMahon popped the bunt to back to the pitcher and the rally fizzled.

The Rockies still tied the game an inning later, but their inability to put together a big rally left them in position to end the night with heartache to go with the pounding head. Closer Daniel Bard loaded the bases on a single and two walks in the bottom of the ninth, then hit David Peralta with a pitch on the left leg, resulting in a 4-3 walk-off loss at Chase Field.

Still, the McMahon moment stands in infamy, but not because a player who doesn’t bunt often tried it. His two career bunt hits, it should be noted, were successful surprises late in games with the Rockies trailing -- in the ninth inning on Sept. 11, 2018, and in the seventh on Sept. 1, 2020.

The problem is, the Rockies are so challenged to put big innings together away from Coors that it’s hard to blame him for trying.

“I haven't spoken with him yet,” Black said after the game. “The only thing I can think of was maybe the element of surprise.”

The result was way too familiar. The Rockies fell to 6-32 (.158) away from Coors Field this season, which means they could end up linked to the worst road team of the Live Ball Era (since 1920) -- the 1935 Boston Braves (.167 road winning percentage). The juxtaposition of the road misery against home dominance -- where Colorado is 31-17 -- is unbelievable, yet an ever-present part of this team’s condition.

The pitching was colorful at the beginning and the end.

Rockies starter Jon Gray began the game by giving up four straight doubles as the D-backs took a 3-0 lead. He then dominated for the rest of his six innings, allowing only two singles from there while striking out eight.

“I had to forget what happened there [early] and just treat it as if it were a new game,” Gray said. “If you make one bad pitch, it's an opportunity to make a really good one and it's going to work out.”

Bard’s errant pitch to Peralta marked the first time in club history that the Rockies lost on a walk-off hit-by-pitch.

However, the offense seemed to be a continuation of the same story. Especially considering there were chances.

After hitting a one-out double in the second, Brendan Rodgers made an ill-advised and unsuccessful dash to third on a McMahon infield grounder, so no runs scored that inning. But Rodgers had a two-out RBI double in the fourth, while C.J. Cron's leadoff single in the fifth led to a Raimel Tapia RBI knock with two outs.

The Rockies tied the game at 3 in the seventh, when Yonathan Daza pushed across a run with a groundout. It was ruled a hit until the D-backs made a successful replay challenge.

But Colorado never strung together enough production to score more than one run in an inning. After Daza’s game-tying RBI, Trevor Story raised hope with a line drive, but Arizona shortstop Nick Ahmed caught it while tumbling. Story flung his bat up the first-base line in frustration.

“As the game went on, we got some hits, we fought back, tied the game,” Black said. “We couldn’t get the big blow to add on to the inning as the game progressed. We get a ball in the gap, we get a little more than what we got, the game is different.”

The Rockies' lack of power -- which they have overcome at home with strong starting pitching, speed and just enough balls hit into the gaps -- leaves them needing to string together hits. Or it leads to all kinds of ideas.

McMahon's just didn't work out.