NEW YORK — Just 25 days ago, the Rockies were in baseball heaven, leading the National League West and cruising at an altitude of 21 games over .500.
Now they’re in crisis mode, their postseason aspirations beginning to fade with each loss and every new dilemma.
The Rockies were not only throttled 9-3 by the New York Mets on Saturday night at Citi Field, starting pitcher Tyler Chatwood, the veteran of the rotation, left the game with an undisclosed injury in the first inning. The loss was Colorado’s 15th in its last 20 games, and its lead over the Chicago Cubs for the National League’s second wild-card spot is down to 5 ½ games.
Chatwood, who leads the majors in walks, got off to a very rocky start, walking the first two batters he faced on nine pitches before getting Yoenis Cespedes to fly out to center. Then Chatwood fell apart. Jay Bruce blasted a three-run homer, and then Chatwood walked T.J. Rivera.
At that point, manager Bud Black and assistant trainer Scott Gehret went to the mound to check out Chatwood. He threw several practice pitches before he was removed from the game.
Chatwood, 6-11 with a 4.74 ERA, has been healthy all season. However, he has undergone two Tommy John surgeries, one in high school and one in July 2014 that cost him the 2015 season.
Chatwood’s early departure, combined with Jon Gray‘s two-inning start in a 14-2 loss to the Mets on Friday night, means the Rockies’ faltering bullpen is being heavily taxed as the Rockies being the second half of their season.
Saturday night, left-hander Chris Rusin, who has been excellent this season, was called into early duty. He didn’t fare well, giving up four runs (one earned) on six hits over 2 ⅔ innings. Rusin nearly escaped the second inning without damage, but second baseman DJ LeMahieu was charged with a throwing error off a grounder by Bruce and that opened the gates to a three-run inning. Gerardo Parra, making his second start at first base this season, did not do a good job of handling LeMahieu’s throw.
New York starting pitcher Seth Lugo compounded Colorado’s misery by blasting a one-out homer off Rusin in the third. It was the first homer of Lugo’s career.
Rookie starter Kyle Freeland, who’s being taken out of the rotation for the short term to limit his innings this season, followed up Rusin and pitched very well, blanking the Mets for three innings, giving up no hits and one walk while striking out four. It was Freeland’s first major-league relief appearance.
Over the last two games, the Rockies have been outscored 23-5 and outhit 27-13. Outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, who hit sixth, continues to struggle mightily. He went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and his average is down to .215. Shortstop Trevor Story, back in the starting lineup, went 1-for-4 with two more strikeouts.
The Rockies — who have gone 2-12 on the road since June 12, and are 1-5-1 in their last seven series — will attempt to avoid getting swept by the Mets on Sunday afternoon.