DENVER -- After each appearance, Rockies right-handed reliever Scott Oberg jots down his reflections to study later, either at his apartment in Denver or at the hotel on the road.
Maybe those volumes have some Coors Field secrets. Oberg threw another two scoreless relief innings Tuesday night, but he couldn’t stop the Rockies from losing another wild one, 9-8, to the Astros.
Over the past two homestands, Oberg has allowed just one run in eight innings. Tuesday, Oberg fanned three and pitched out of a two-on, one-out jam in the eighth -- finishing the inning by forcing a Josh Reddick grounder on the 11th pitch of the at-bat.
“I’m not sure I know the specific answer to that,” Oberg said. “I’m very familiar with this mound, the sights, the way the ball moves a little bit. So I at least have a good feel for pitching here at home. I think having that experience helps [me] build moving forward.”
The problem is that everyone pitching for this team has some familiarity, but over the past 11 home games, everyone but Oberg has had a harrowing outing.
Oberg has been remarkable, considering that in the past 11 games at Coors, the winning team has scored at least nine runs. Tuesday was the seventh time the losing team scored at least eight. The Rockies must win on Wednesday to salvage a split of this six-game homestand, their last before the All-Star break.
Bryan Shaw has taken some lumps lately after starting the year with a 1.23 ERA in his first 18 appearances but seeing that rise to 4.40. He took his turn by entering with an 8-5 lead in the seventh and giving up three straight doubles, to George Springer, Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman.
“They were good pitches, away on the black -- one was about thigh-high, one was about knee-high,” Shaw said. “And Altuve’s was a slider off the plate, almost in the dirt."
Rockies lefty Jake McGee replaced Shaw and retired three of the four he faced, but gave up Yuli Gurriel’s second homer of the night, a two-run shot that flipped the game.
Oberg held the difference to one run, but the Rockies couldn’t do enough to make three-hit nights from David Dahl, Ian Desmond and Ryan McMahon count for anything more than nice box-score lines.
“When I take the ball, I try not to read too much into what’s already happened in the game,” Oberg said. “I just try to throw my game, execute pitches, and hopefully my misses are in good spots where they can’t do too much damage. I feel I did that tonight.”
It has been so rough on Rockies pitching that Tuesday starter German Marquez giving up five runs (four earned) on eight hits in six innings could be considered a solid effort. Actually, except for Gurriel’s second-inning leadoff homer and Michael Brantley’s two-run double in the third, most of the contact was soft.
The Rockies had won Marquez’s previous eight starts at home, even though his ERA in those was 5.36 and his batting average against was .312. Many of his starts were like Tuesday's -- grounders, broken bats and bloops accounted for many of the hits.
After two seasons of solid home pitching, the numbers scream that while the Rockies have faced formidable lineups (Cubs, Dodgers and Astros) and one that teams can’t sleep on (Padres), the park is an issue. When the same pitching staff has a 6.93 ERA at Coors and a 3.90 in other venues -- all while the team is treading water a distant second to the Dodgers in the National League West -- the questions fly.
Rockies manager Bud Black, who thought Shaw’s pitches to Springer and Bregman were not low enough for his tastes, noted that Astros relievers Chris Devenski, Ryan Pressly and Roberto Osuna threw scoreless ball to prevent a comeback. Of course, Houston has just a two-game set here, and not 81 possible exposures, but that’s beside the point Black is making. He wants Oberg to be the example, not the exception.
“It’s going to take more consistent pitching on our end, and Scotty has been doing it pretty much all year,” Black said. “The slider is in a good spot. The fastball has been commanded with velocity. When you do that, you’ll get your outs.”