Going into the off-season, the D-backs made it a priority to rebuild the bullpen. They jumped at the chance to add a proven, quality closer in Mark Melancon to the mix, signing him to a 2-year, $14 million deal early in free agency. They had multiple options to choose from besides Melancon, as 14 pitchers signed for $10 million or more in guaranteed money. Melancon’s 5.08 ERA (4.39 xFIP) is the 2nd to worst of the group, with only Joe Kelly’s disastrous 9.49 saving Mark. Still, it’s another bad signing for this front office group, who have continuously targeted pitchers with declining velocities to give big guaranteed money. It remains to be seen what they’ll do with him going forward, but with Ian Kennedy on the shelf, he’s the de facto closer. Let’s just hope things normalize for him.
It was a bad start to the game for Dallas Keuchel, who looked to be on his way to Reno with the way this was going. Connor Joe doubled off the face of Hummel in left (it short-hopped him after he dove for it, but still) and Kris Bryant smashed a double off the center-field wall for an RBI. Then with 1 out, Brendan Rodgers singled to drive home Bryant, and it was quickly 2-0 Rockies.
But then, Keuchel settled down. He would go on to retire the next 10 batters faced before a Grichuk double with two outs in the 4th gave the Rockies a runner in scoring position. They pounced, as Ryan McMahon singled past the diving glove of Kennedy at 2nd for the Rockies' 3rd run of the game. After that it was smooth sailing for Keuchel, showing glimpses of the pitcher he was with the Astros and Atlanta. He still doesn’t throw very hard, mixing an 88mph sinker and high 70’s changeup. But he pounds the bottom of the zone with all of his pitches and didn’t walk anyone tonight, going 7 innings, a season-high. He allowed 7 hits (4 across the last 6 innings), striking out 4 and walking 0. Another point for Brent Strom!
Fortunately for Keuchel, Carson Kelly was playing in this game. Down 2 runs, Kennedy grabbed a hustle double on a ball to left, and Kelly smashed a ball to left against Austin Gomber, tying things up at 2.
The Kelly-led offense again responded in turn in the 4th. A Marte single started things off but he was thrown out at 2nd on a ball in the dirt serendipitously bounced into Elias Diaz body, and a sharp throw nabbed the hobbled Marte taking 2nd. Weird play, and another example that Marte just isn’t 100% out there. Walker immediately doubled, although I’m not sure Marte would score on the hit, nonetheless it was an opportunity squandered. Still, Kelly was up to the task, singling to left to tie things up.
Unfortunately for the offense, the Rockies bullpen was up to the task tonight. They did allow walks in every inning, but the bats failed to produce much of anything outside of a 2-out single in the 8th.
Also unfortunately for the team, Mark Melancon was summoned to hold a tie ballgame. Two batters in and that tie was gone, as Jose Iglesias and Grichuk singled and doubled respectively for the deciding run in this one as Daniel Bard shut down the D-backs in their half of the 9th. 4-3 Rockies.
Carson Kelly was your player of the game, going 2 for 4 with 1HR and 3 RBIs for a +.169 WPA. Keuchel came in right behind with his pitching performance and a +.116 WPA.
It was a very sparse crowd tonight, even the Rockies telecast had a couple of conversations about how jarring it was compared with the full crowds they saw at Dodgers stadium. Guess D-backs fans are just built different. Same teams meet tomorrow, first pitch at 6:40pm.