A Saving Grace: Davis Finds 9th Inning Redemption, Closes Win Against Dodgers
On a beautiful summer night at Coors Field, the sellout crowd of over 48,000 was on its feet. The Colorado Rockies held a 5-3 lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers with two outs in the top of the ninth inning. Rockies Closer Wade Davis whipped in a 94.8 MPH fastball that Dodgers center fielder Alex Verdugo hit straight into the glove of Rockies second baseman Garrett Hampson off the bounce. Hampson completed the easy out with a throw to first base. The Rockies faithful yelled out in a combination of delight and relief. After all, closing out games has been anything but a given for the team as of late.
The win marked the second in a row for the Rockies against the NL-West leading Dodgers. It also marked Wade Davis’s first shutout inning at Coors Field in his last five appearances.
“That was good for Wade,” said Rockies manager Bud Black. “It should be a confidence builder for him.”
The veteran closer has been in a slump and a costly one at that. Coming into the game he had given up 11 earned runs in 3 ⅓ innings of play during those four home appearances. The Rockies lost three out of those four games, all of which they went into the ninth with a lead or tied.
Davis hasn’t been the only problem in the bullpen but was the obvious scapegoat in those collapses.
Following Thursday’s loss, Rockies manager Bud Black and his coaching staff were contemplating a change at the backend of their bullpen.
Through it all, Davis remained even kneeled. The 11-year MLB veteran has played through the highs and lows of major league pitching and knows that you can’t get too high or too low.
On Thursday, Davis had a nightmarish ninth inning in which Davis walked a batter and gave up four earned runs. He was self admittedly missing the strike zone too much, and not hitting his spots. He calmly told reporters, “I'll be fine” but also said he needed to throw more aggressively.
On Saturday, he did just that. More importantly, the Rockies won.
“He attacked the strike zone, and was aggressive,” Black said.
Davis didn’t allude to making any mechanical adjustments. He focused more on the mental side.
“It's (about) trying to stay relaxed and not overdo things,” Davis said. “That has always been the issue for almost any pitcher. (It’s about) trying not to overthrow and to make quality pitches.”
Davis faced four batters, recording two strikeouts and a hit batter. It was his 12th save of the season. He needed just 12 pitches to secure the victory.
“I tried have better control of my body, better control of the strike zone and to attack,” Davis said.
Davis stayed ahead in the count and had Dodgers batter chasing his cutter, even when it wasn’t in the strike zone.
One game doesn’t guarantee Davis will return to form that has garnered him three career All-Star appearances and a World Series title, but it is unequivocally a step in the right direction.
The win had to have felt good for Davis, but true to form, his focus was helping the team and not on his individual performance. The two factors do however share a correlation.
“The main priority was to win the game,” Davis said. “I was just trying to execute pitches.”
The victory may have been redemptive for Davis, but his great pitching performance was one of many for the Rockies.
Coming into the game the Rockies led the MLB in runs scored. Their offense has been nothing short of fantastic over the last two months. On Saturday, the offense wasn’t bad, but it was the team's pitching that carried them to victory.
“We went through a rough stretch. We all kind of know that,” said Rockies pitcher Jon Gray. “We weren't really picking up the offense at all... It's our (pitchers) time to step up for the team and give it our best."
On Saturday, It started with Gray, who out-dueled three-time CY Young winner Clayton Kershaw in 6 ⅔ innings of play. Jairo Diaz, Brian Shaw and Davis did the rest, holding the Dodgers to just one hit and no runs against in the remaining 2 ⅓ innings.
“Jon Gray did such a good job today,” said Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon. “It's hard to tell you how important that is for us to keep that game close.”
Top to bottom the Rockies pitching outperformed one of the best pitching teams in the MLB.
After beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 13-9 on Friday, Black was hesitant to celebrate. He was focused on building off the victory in the remaining two games of the series, which is exactly what the Rockies were able to do on Saturday. The Rockies two wins came against two of the top pitchers in the MLB in Hyun-Jin Ryu and Kershaw, which made the victories all the more sweeter.
“They're (Dodgers) leading the National League in pitching,” Black said. “They’ve got great arms.”
Black added: “Our guys rise to the occasion. They like that challenge.”
October still seems a long way off, but Saturday furthered proved that the Rockies can compete with the best that the NL has to offer.
“It helps you realize that last night wasn't a fluke,” Blackmon said. “We have a good team, we have good players.”
“When we're doing things we're supposed to do we're really dangerous,” Gray said.
Consistency is the name of the game in baseball. The Rockies have proved that they have that consistency on offense. If the pitching can follow suit, as it did on Saturday, the future looks bright for Colorado.