DENVER — As a result of being forced to alter their rotation, the Colorado Rockies will start Chad Bettis on Tuesday in what will become a bullpen game against the Philadelphia Phillies.
In the opener of a four-game series Monday, the Rockies (85-70) pounded the Phillies 10-1 for their fourth straight win and handed the Phillies (78-78) their season-high tying fifth straight loss.
The Rockies are a half-game behind the St. Louis Cardinals in the race for the second NL wild-card spot are 1 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West.
Shortstop Trevor Story returned to the Rockies lineup for the first time since he suffered right elbow inflammation last Monday and went 2-for-5 with two doubles. Story has 80 extra-base hits and became the fourth NL shortstop to reach that mark joining Jimmy Rollins (88) and Hanley Ramirez (81) in 2007 and Ernie Banks (82 in 1955, 81 in 1958 and 80 in 1960).
“We’re full throttle right now,” Story said. “It’s a great position to be in. These games really do matter. We’re not where we want to be, but we feel like we will be in a few days.”
Jon Gray, who supposed to start on seven days’ rest Tuesday, instead started on Monday and worked seven innings when left-hander Tyler Anderson was scratched from his scheduled start due to shoulder soreness.
Bettis (5-2, 5.18) last started on Aug. 12 and was then moved to the bullpen where he has made six appearances totaling 8 1/3 innings. Bettis has worked in low-leverage situations and will be pitching for the first time since Sept. 13 when he worked one inning and threw five pitches.
Rockies manager Bud Black said he expects Bettis to throw between 30 and 50 pitches. He threw 30 pitches in 1 2/3 innings on Sept. 9.
Bettis is 2-0, 1.93 in six games (four starts) against the Phillies, whom he last faced in 2016.
The Phillies have been in a major tailspin since mid-August. They’ve lost 16 of 22 games this month and are back to .500 for the first time since April 10.
Vince Velasquez (9-11, 4.59) will start for the Phillies. He’s 2-0, 3.95 in five starts against the Rockies and 1-0, 3.27 in two starts at Coors Field.
The right-handed Velasquez has been far more effective against right-handed hitters, limiting them to a .204 average and .598 OPS in 309 plate appearances. Lefties are hitting .282 with a .870 OPS against Velasquez in 300 plate appearances.
In his last start Thursday at Atlanta, Velasquez wasn’t involved in the decision in Philadelphia’s 8-3 loss. He gave up five hits and three runs in three innings. Velasquez has not gone more than four innings in each of his past three starts and is 0-1, 12.00 in those outings, allowing 16 hits and 12 runs in nine innings.
Velasquez threw 73 pitches in four innings Sept. 9 at the New York Mets, 44 pitches in two innings against Miami on Sept. 15 and 57 in three innings in his last start. The Phillies are very analytically inclined, but manager Gabe Kapler said Velasquez’s recent short outings are performance-related and not based on any metrics.
“What I’ve shared with all of our starters and this is also somewhat true for our relievers is if you are the best option, all things considered, to get the next hitter or three hitters out, you will go back out,” Kapler said. “And so, for Vince, when he’s the best version of Vince, he’s hard to take out of a game. I literally have to think about reasons why to take him out. I’m not putting any artificial limitations on Vince.”
DENVER – The Phillies have not announced their starting pitching rotation for the final weekend of the season, so there’s no official word on whether ace Aaron Nola will pitch again in 2018. He had been scheduled to make his final start on Friday. It’s possible he could move back a day, picking up some extra rest, and pitch Saturday. It’s possible he could be shut down. It’s possible he stays on turn and pitches Friday.
More will be known in the next day or so.
One guy who will not pitch this weekend is Zach Eflin. He was removed from an ineffective start in the third inning Monday night. After the game – an ugly 10-1 loss to the Colorado Rockies – manager Gave Kapler announced that Eflin was removed from the game because he was experiencing soreness in his left side.
Eflin, who gave up five hits and five runs, said he’d been managing the issue for a couple of starts, but it flared in this game. He will travel back to Philadelphia on Tuesday to be examined by team doctors and it’s safe to say his season is over.
Eflin, 24, finishes at 11-8 with a 4.36 ERA in 24 starts. The highlight of his season was the month of June. He was arguably the team’s MVP that month, going 5-0 with a 1.76 ERA in five starts.
The Phillies did not add starting pitching at the trade deadline and the team collapsed shortly afterward. The club is likely to add starting pitching this winter. Nola and Jake Arrieta‘s spots in the rotation will be safe. Eflin will come into camp and compete for a spot in the back half of the rotation. He has the tools to be a successful big-league starter, but needs consistency.
Literally and figuratively.
In addition to Eflin, outfielder Aaron Altherr went down Monday night when he crashed face-first into the left-field wall trying to make a catch. He suffered a sprained right toe and a bruised right knee. He was also being evaluated for a concussion.
With six games left, he is probably done for the season.
Where they stand
The Phillies have lost five in a row. They are 15-30 since being in first place in the NL East on Aug. 5. They were 15 games over .500 then. They are now at .500 with six games to play and a sixth straight losing season is looming.
A bright spot
Roman Quinn continued to audition in center field. He made a long run and a diving catch in Coors Field’s spacious outfield in the first inning and jetted around the bases for a triple in the eighth. Quinn has game-changing speed. If he can stay healthy – a challenge, always – he could be this club’s opening day centerfielder next season.
And speaking of auditions …
Carlos Santana played third base again. Is there something to this? (see story)
More on the Phillies
In the pressure of the final week of a pennant race, the Rockies played well enough Monday night to take a long, slow, breath.
Colorado opened its final homestand by cruising to a 10-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, its fourth straight win, as Jon Gray turned in seven frames of one-run ball and the offense burst out for tacos by the fourth inning of the blowout.
Gray overcame bases-loaded, first-inning dramatics to finish with seven strikeouts in his first quality start since Sept. 1. And the Rockies’ bats battered Philadelphia right-hander Zach Eflin for five runs in two-plus innings before furthering the damage against an array of visiting relievers.
For Gray, his success was a matter of a renewed focused on the tempo of his delivery as well as not nibbling around the strike zone in a game where his fastball velocity returned to its normal form (95.0 average) after lagging for several games prior.
“I was more of myself tonight because I was aggressive and attacking the zone, and that’s where I need to be,” Gray said. “(The first inning) was the best part of the game for me, just getting out of there early, because that’s what I struggle with a lot. To be in that tight situation and get out felt good, and I think that probably had a lot to do with (my pitching) the rest of the game.”
The Rockies initially got on the board with Nolan Arenado‘s one-out, RBI single to score Charlie Blackmon in the third. That started the inning’s damage innocuously enough before Colorado proceeded to plate four additional runs while chasing Eflin from the game.
That scoring came via Gerardo Parra‘s RBI single, and then three additional gifted runs by way of a pair of bases-loaded walks as well as a wild pitch that brought another run in to make it 5-0 as Colorado batted around.
“We strung some at-bats together,” manager Bud Black said. “In the third inning, we had some really good at-bats, and took some pitches that were borderline balls that we didn’t chase.”
Then, Colorado broke the game open further against rookie right-hander Yacksel Rios in the fourth.
After DJ LeMahieu, probably playing his final days, or weeks, in a Rockies uniform, drew a businesslike walk to open the frame, David Dahl blasted his 11th home run of the season to open the advantage to 7-0.
“We just have to keep this momentum rolling into tomorrow now,” Dahl said.
Story’s second double of the game, and another Parra RBI knock, pushed it to 8-0 before two errors on one Ian Desmond groundball in the sixth inning made it 9-0 and took all the pressure off the Rockies’ pitching staff.
The double was also the latest historic footnote in Story’s season, as it gave him 80 extra-base hits for the season. In his first game back since being sidelined for a week by right elbow inflammation, he became the fourth shortstop to hit the mark, joining Jimmy Rollins, Hanley Ramirez and Ernie Banks (three times).
“He had two really good swings — those (doubles) to center were bullets — and he turned a couple double plays and felt nothing with the elbow,” Black said. “He was fundamentally sound with the throwing mechanics, too, which was great… He came out of a nine-inning game fine, which is a confidence booster.”
After Gray exited, his lone blemish being Rhys Hoskins’ 444-foot solo home run in the sixth inning, some of the less-called-upon names in the Colorado bullpen held the lead to preserve to unit’s top arms, especially considering both Adam Ottavino and Wade Davis were unavailable because of necessary rest days.
Gray’s length also was important considering Colorado will likely have to lean heavily on its bullpen on Tuesday, with starter Chad Bettis only slated to go about 50 pitches.
“That was big for Jon to give us seven innings, especially with Wade and Otto down today,” Black said. “Now (Seunghwan) Oh’s still fresh, (Scott) Oberg’s fresh, (Chris) Rusin’s fresh, (Jake) McGee’s fresh.”
Harrison Musgrave worked around a one-out triple in the eighth inning, and DJ Johnson, the closer for Triple-A Albuquerque this season, finished out in the ninth.
The victory puts surging Colorado (86-70) a season-high tying 16 games above .500 and 48-28 since June 28th, the best mark in the NL over that time span.
“We believe we have a great group, so we’re not thinking too much out there,” Parra said of the tension-free victory. “We’re playing baseball like we know how to play. We’re strong. We’re together.”
Entering the night, Colorado was down a game and a half to the Dodgers in the NL West race and the same amount to the Cardinals in the positioning for the second wild card.
Los Angeles played at Arizona, which was resting its two best hitters in Paul Goldschmidt and David Peralta. The Brewers played at St. Louis.
This story will be updated.
Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post
Pitcher Chad Bettis (35) pitches against the LA Dodgers at Coors Field on Sept. 9, 2018 in Denver.
Phillies RHP Vince Velasquez (9-11, 4.59 ERA) at Rockies RHP Chad Bettis (5-2, 5.18), 6:40 p.m., ATTRM; 850 AM
Velasquez pitched well in his previous start against Colorado this season, a six-inning, two-run outing won by Philadelphia on June 14 at Citizens Bank Park. Trevor Story and Carlos Gonzalez have each homered off the right-hander, who has mostly risen to the task on the road in 2018 to the tune of a 3.86 ERA with just four of his 15 longballs surrendered. In two career starts at Coors Field, Velasquez has a 3.27 ERA with nine strikeouts and eight walks. Meanwhile, Bettis was announced as the starter by manager Bud Black on Monday and is making his first start since Aug. 12 at home against the Dodgers. The right-hander showed poise in that outing, throwing six-plus innings while allowing one run, and has posted a 2.16 ERA in 8⅓ innings out of the bullpen over the past month. — Kyle Newman, The Denver Post
Wednesday: Phillies RHP Nick Pivetta (7-13, 4.58 ERA) at Rockies RHP German Marquez (13-10, 3.91), 6:40 p.m., ATTRM
Thursday: Phillies RHP Jake Arrieta (10-10, 3.94) at Rockies RHP Antonio Senzatela (6-6, 4.52), 1:10 p.m., ATTRM
Friday: Nationals RHP Joe Ross (0-1, 4.09) at Rockies LHP Kyle Freeland (16-7, 2.84), 6:10 p.m., ATTRM
Sep 25 (OPTA) – Box score from Colorado Rockies vs Philadelphia Phillies on Monday Colorado 10, Philadelphia 1 Philadelphia ab r h rbi bb so avg Hernandez 2b 3 0 1 0 0 1 .255 Knapp c 1 0 0 0 0 1 .213 Santana 3b 3 0 1 0 0 0 .229 Walding 3b 1 0 0 0 0 1 .063 Herrera lf 3 0 1 0 0 1 .256 Cozens lf 1 0 0 0 0 0 .087 Hoskins 1b 4 1 1 1 0 1 .245 Ramos c 2 0 0 0 1 0 .310 Eickhoff p 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 Bour ph 1 0 0 0 0 0 .228 Altherr lf 2 0 0 0 0 2 .181 Bautista rf 1 0 0 0 0 1 .198 Kingery ss 3 0 0 0 0 1 .226 Eflin p 1 0 0 0 0 1 .091 Davis p 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 Rios p 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 Crawford ph 0 0 0 0 1 0 .217 Suárez p 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 Florimon 2b 1 0 0 0 0 0 .227 Quinn cf 2 0 1 0 1 0 .282 Totals 29 1 5 1 3 10 – Colorado ab r h rbi bb so avg Blackmon cf 5 1 1 0 0 2 .287 Johnson p 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 LeMahieu 2b 4 2 1 0 1 0 .279 Valaika 3b 0 0 0 0 0 0 .150 Dahl cf 5 1 1 2 0 2 .267 Arenado 3b 4 1 2 1 0 0 .294 McMahon 1b 1 1 1 0 0 0 .235 Story ss 5 1 2 0 0 2 .289 Parra lf 4 2 3 2 1 0 .286 Desmond 1b 3 1 1 0 1 0 .235 Hampson 2b 1 0 1 1 0 0 .289 Wolters c 1 0 0 1 4 0 .178 Gray p 3 0 0 1 1 1 .077 Musgrave p 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 Cuevas rf 0 0 0 0 0 0 .236 Totals 36 10 13 8 8 7 – Philadelphia 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 — 1 5 1 Colorado 0 0 5 3 0 1 0 1 X — 10 13 0 Philadelphia ip h r er bb so np era Eflin, L (11-8) 2.2 5 5 5 3 3 54 4.36 Davis 0.1 0 0 0 2 1 17 3.55 Rios 1 3 3 3 2 1 31 6.09 Suárez 3 3 1 0 1 1 34 6.00 Eickhoff 1 2 1 1 0 1 16 9.00 Colorado ip h r er bb so np era Gray, W (12-8) 7 4 1 1 3 7 105 4.91 Musgrave 1 1 0 0 0 2 18 4.68 Johnson 1 0 0 0 0 1 6 0.00
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J.P. Crawford, Maikel Franco, Nick Williams, and Jorge Alfaro are all nursing minor injuries and are expected to return this week. …Vince Velasquez will start for the Phillies on Tuesday. The Rockies are expected to use a cast of relievers to piece together the game. … Gabe Kapler said that the starting rotation is still on schedule but that things could change during the final week.
“To be honest, for me, it’s a lot about feel,” Kingery said. “I lost that feel, and obviously the talent up here is a lot better. You can’t take a pitch down the middle and expect another one like you can in the minor leagues. [It’s] just figuring out big-league pitching, and it’s been a struggle. I thought I had to change things and got a little deep into my swing and tried to do too much, and I think just simplifying it is the answer.”