Rockies Made Off-Season Investment, Waiting for Payoff
While the Rockies bullpen was adding to a growing list of late-inning ugliness on Monday night, the Washington Nationals were adding yet another arm to a bullpen that general manager Mike Rizzo overhauled at the trading deadline a year ago.
With the Nationals looking for a fifth division title in seven years -- hoping this time they can piece things together and advance out of the opening round for the first time since 1981 when the franchise was still in Montreal -- Rizzo acquired Royals closer Kelvin Herrera in exchange for three prospects.
Herrera, who had a 1.05 ERA and 14 saves in 27 games with the Royals, will be part of what is now a three-man mix with Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler as setup men for Sean Doolittle. Doolittle, added last July along with Madson and Kintzler, is 18-for-19 in save opportunities this year.
Time will tell if it all works out. There is no-sure thing, which the Nationals reaffirmed last October when, despite the in-season bullpen reinforcements, they were eliminated by the Cubs in the Division Series.
The Rockies are finding out about how the best of plans don't carry guarantees.
They did their leg work in revamping the bullpen in the off-season, retaining Jake McGee, and signing free agent closer Wade Davis, and right-handed setup man Bryan Shaw to join with McGee in handling late-inning chores. And they have had a best-of-all-possible returns from last year's lost season by Adam Ottavino, who has been the one sure-thing in the bullpen.
The investments have not paid off -- so far.
And it has been painful, particularly in the last 17 games.
They have lost 13 of the 17, including a home-field losing streak that reached eight games with Monday's loss.
And there's plenty of blame to go around, but the bullpen has been the focus. The relievers have a combined record of 0-8 in the 17 games. They are 2-for-7 in save situations, having failed in each of the last five save opportunities. They have a composite 9.62 ERA.
"This group is pretty much the group we are going to have going forward," said manager Bud Black. "This guys are very capable. Look at what they have done in their careers. You have to believe the worm is going to turn for these fellows."
The last 19 games, however, it's been a continuation of wrong turns.
No Relief in Sight
x-on disabled list
y-denotes at AAA Albuquerque
The inconsistency of the bullpen was on display on Monday night. Harrison Musgrave got the call to take over for starter Tyler Anderson with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth. He stranded the three runners, getting Jacob deGrom to ground into a fielder's choice out at the plate, and striking out Amed Rosario.
Musgrave being able to bail out Anderson has been the exception to the rule of late for the Rockies. The relievers have given up plenty of their own runs, but also have struggled when they have come into a game with men on base.
And the problems continued after Musgrave's strong-arm effort in the sixth.
In the final three innings, Musgrave, Jake McGee, Jeff Hoffman and Brooks Pounders combined to give up nine runs on three walks, and eight hits, including three home runs. Brandon Nimmo led off the seventh with a home run off Musgrave. McGee gave up a two-run home run to Devin Mesoraco. And then came a six-run Mets rally in the ninth off Jeff Hoffman and Brad Pounders.
“We were in slam range going into the ninth inning," said Black. "At 6-2, you never know what happens if we put up a zero in the top of the ninth, but two of our lesser-service time pitchers had a tough go.”
Squandering the Inheritance
|Last 19 Games||Season|
The Rockies 17-game slide has seen them fall from first-place in the NL West, 1 1/2 games up on the Diamondbacks, to fourth place, six games being the Diamondbacks, and just one game ahead of last-place San Diego. They are in eighth place in the NL wild-card race, seven games back in a bid for the second NL wild-card spot.
Black, however, looks for good things, and sees them coming soon.
He has a hand full of proven big-league relievers, who after the first eight weeks of the current season have plenty to prove -- again.
"For them to gain confidence they are going have to put a zero up, and pitch well," said Black. "If those guys put up zeros they gain confidence, gain momentum, start feeling good about themselves."