DENVER -- The spark Nolan Arenado's heady baserunning play provided in the fifth inning was what a team in need of a turnaround welcomes. But the Rockies ended Saturday night still faced in the wrong direction.
The Rockies carried a one-run lead that Arenado provided into the eighth. But reliever Carlos Estevez entered with one out, didn’t retire any of the four batters he faced and lost the lead on Buster Posey’s two-run, pinch-hit double that led to a 6-5 loss to the Giants at Coors Field.
During a summer when it seems nothing is enough, not even Arenado’s brilliance, could clear any of the Purple Malaise that is swallowing the season. The Rockies (51-60) have won two in a row just once since June 29, and twice since a three-game run ended June 21.
Arenado went first-to-third on Daniel Murphy’s double. But Giants catcher Stephen Vogt left home plate uncovered to chase second baseman Scooter Gennett’s wild throw, so Arenado raced home and beat Vogt’s late tag, with the force of the meeting flipping him forward. Arenado’s hustle provided a 5-4 lead against vaunted starter Madison Bumgarner, whom the Rockies touched for Trevor Story’s 24th homer of the season, which plated two runs in the third, and Charlie Blackmon’s 22nd, which opened the fifth.
“That was a great play -- instinctual,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “Watching the play unfold, he saw the throw way off line, took Vogt way off home plate. Nolan saw the throw, crept down the line and made a nice baseball play.”
There were other little sparks that didn’t last. Starter Jon Gray threw 35 pitches and gave up four first-inning runs, including Gennett’s first-inning, less-than-smashed, opposite-field homer, and exhausted 96 pitches through four innings plus two batters in the field. But Bryan Shaw replaced Gray, forced a double play and stayed for two scoreless innings. Lefty Jake McGee was effective for 1 1/3 innings, and relievers Sam Howard and Chad Bettis escaped bases-loaded jams in the eighth and ninth.
But nothing can cool a spark like a first-batter walk -- and after McGee fanned Gennett to open the fifth, Estevez granted one to Joe Panik.
“Most of the time when stuff like that happens, that’s what happens,” Estevez said. “We want to make them beat us, not hand it to them.”
With no command, Estevez gave up Austin Slater’s single and Posey's game-turning double. He left after walking Brandon Belt.
Sometimes sparks go the other way. Ian Desmond, who had a possible home run stolen by Steven Duggar’s leaping reach over the center-field wall in the fifth, singled to open the eighth. With one out and Garrett Hampson up, Desmond had the defensible desire to move into scoring position. But reliever Tony Watson caught him leaning, and Desmond couldn’t make second in time on what Black termed “an aggressive play that didn’t work out.” Hampson tripled, but Tony Wolters grounded out.
The game ended with Giants closer Will Smith striking out Murphy with two on in the ninth to complete an 0-for-8 night with runners in scoring position.
“We haven’t gotten the big hit, bottom line. We’ve gotten some baserunners out there but we haven’t gotten the key hit a number of times over the last month,” Black said. “But overall the approach has been OK. To a man, we can go back and look at each and every one and we can critique that, but overall it was pretty good.”