Small Signs Create Big Hopes for Rockies Reliever Revival

Don't focus on the snapshot.

Take a look at the big picture.

The Rockies 10-8 victory against the Mets on Tuesday night, snapping an eight-game Coors Field losing streak, had signs of a revivial in the bullpen.

Yep, the bullpen, which did give up the final four runs in the final three innings.

Look past the surface.

This wasn't merely a night the Rockies ended their eight-game Coors Field losing streak, the longest home struggle since they opened the ballpark in 1995.

It was a glimpse, at least, of hope.

Three key things to build off were the continuation of Adam Ottavino's dominating efforts, Chris Rusin answering the call with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh inning, and Wade Davis keeping his ninth-inning focus.

Ottavino came on with the bases loaded in the seventh, and after a passed ball against Chris Iannetta allowed a run to score, he got Todd Frazier on a tapper in front of the plate to end the inning. And then he returned in the eighth and with 12 pitches he struck out Dominic Smith, Wilmer Flores and Kevin Plawecki.

"The more guys you have pitching well, there's a collective, contagious, momentum-building situation," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "Ottavino is leading the pack right now as far as a guy throwing the ball great. It doesn't happen overnight. You need consecutive outings."

Enter Chris Russin. 

Rusin got the call with the bases loaded, and no outs in the seventh. Hstruck out Michael Conforto on three pitches, and then gave way to Ottavino.

Big deal?

Yep. It was another step in getting Rusin back on line. Rusin is unscored upon in his last three appearances, and has started to get his mechanics back in order, pitching like the versatile bullpen arm who was so critical for the Rockies a year ago. 

"The last three times have helped," said Rusin. "It definitely helps me believe in myself a lot more. You build off each time."

Rusin earned the recognition of being the Rockies pitching staff's Swiss Army Knife a year ago. He was versatile -- his role stretching from coming into get one out to picking up a three-inning work load. And he did it well. 

He was 5-1 with a 2.65 ERA. He worked 85 innings in 65 appearances. Rusin worked three or more innings five times; 2 to 2 2/3 innings 12 times; 1 to 1 2/3 innings 35 times, and less than one inning 13 times. 

Prior to Tuesday, Rusin allowed three of 10 inherited runners to score this season. A year ago, he allowed only six of 33 for the season.

And the final say belonged to closer Wade Davis.

Don't get caught up in the fact that Davis gave up two runs -- one unearned. What hit home was that he came into the game with a four-run lead, walked the first batter and was the victim of an error. He, however, kept his focus in getting three outs.

He didn't overreact to the two early missteps. He kept himself focused on finishing off the victory.

"It wasn't the sexiest (team) win, but I'll take 50 more just like that if I have to," said Davis. 

It was a win. And he maintained his focus on getting the job done. Taking over with a four-run lead, the two runs that scored did nothing, except inflate his ERA a bit.

He remained focused after the initial challenges,  something that had been missing in games like Sunday at Texas, where he inherited a 12-9 lead to start the bottom of the ninth, and suffered a 13-12 loss. It was the sixth appearance in a stretch where he reitred only 14 batters, and allowed eight runs on seven hits and six walks.

In Texas, he walked the first two batters of the inning on 3-2 pitches, got an out, and then gave up a run-scoring single, two more walks, forcing in a second run, and then gave up the game-losing two-run single.

"When you need to accomplish something and aren't, it is a natural instinct to try harder, fight harder," he said. "It gets you in trouble."

So on Tuesday, after a lead-off walk to Jose Reyes, and an infield single by Amed Rosario, on which an errant Nolan Arenado throw put runners on second and third, Davis was able to keep his focus, and avoid overreacting to a situation he couldn't change.

He gave up run-scoring ground outs, and struck out Conforto to end the game. Yes, he gave up two runs, but they didn't make a difference, and Davis didn't overreact to the situation.

"Wade doesn't get rattled," said Black. "He's been through this before. He's been an All-Star. He's pitched in the World Series. He's ready to pitch."




Tracy RingolsbyComment