Late Inning Nightmares: Rockies Can't Shake the Haunting of the Dodgers

Quinn Jamieson

A three-run homer from Kiké Hernandez in the top of the ninth inning gave the Los Angeles Dodgers the ultimate game-ending 12-8 edge on the Rockies. It may not have counted as a walk-off, but it sure felt like one. Rockies fans left Coors Field with an all too familiar feeling...almost beating the Dodgers.

The NL West rivals have squared off four times in the last seven games. Three of those contests were played at Dodger Stadium, while Thursday’s game was at Coors Field. In all four games, the two teams entered the ninth inning tied, before a Dodgers home run ended the game.

In Los Angeles, it came in the form of three consecutive walk-off home runs, an MLB-record different rookie delivering the blow each night.

On Thursday, in Colorado, the home run didn't officially end the game. The Rockies were given a chance to bring it back during the bottom of the ninth. However, the three-run blast off a fastball from beleaguered clowser Wade Davis during the top of the inning was a crushing blow that might as well have been another walk-off.

The Dodgers have outscored the Rockies 10-0 during the ninth inning in those four games.

The closely contested losses have been immensely frustrating for manager Bud Black and the Rockies organization as a whole. The losses, and how they came about have also illuminated some key issues with the team with Davis on center stage.

The veteran has had his fair share of struggles recently and gave up the home run to Hernandez on a fastball, high and down the middle.

The 33-year-old pitcher seemed to be making progress in the right direction after solid outings against the San Francisco Giants sandwiched between the two Dodgers series.

However, his two late-game collapses against the San Diego Padres two weeks ago remain fresh in the minds of the Rockies faithful.

Davis has pitched 24 innings this season, surrendering 16 earned runs and walking 16 batters. His ERA for the season is 6.00, which would be the worst mark of his career if it were to hold.

Eleven of his 16 earned runs have come in his last seven appearances. During that span, he has a 15.63 ERA and has walked six batters while striking out four.

“I’ll be fine, but anytime you give up four runs without getting three outs it isn't acceptable," Davis said. "I just need to keep getting better and I gotta get better results.”

Black is most concerned about his closer’s walk rate.

“If you look at his innings pitched and his walk total... (It's) too high for me,” Black said. “That's something we've talked about. He’s got to get the ball in the strike zone and that's the bottom line.

Davis believes that he needs to “keep attacking” to cut down on the walks.

Davis, an 11-year MLB veteran knows the peaks and valleys of major league pitching all too well. If history is any indication, he will pull himself out of this slump.

The Rockies need this to happen sooner rather than later, or a switch will undoubtedly be made. Colorado, who is squarely in the midseason playoff race cannot afford to keep losing close games.

On Thursday, parts of the game mimicked next week's MLB All-Star Home Run Derby. The difference was, the contestants were comprised of the Dodgers batters, and it happened during a real game. Los Angeles hit six home runs in total against three Rockies Pitchers (Peter Lambert, Jairo Diaz, and Wade Davis).

In part, the home runs can be attributed to altitude, and the hitters friendly Coors Field. Black believes that those factors are complementary to the overarching problem of Rockies pitchers throwing two high in the strike zone. This issue seems relatively simple to fix but is easier said than done.

“Home runs are our function of balls elevated, and home runs that are happening at a pretty alarming rate are (because of) pitches up (in the strike zone). (For us) it's more of a concentrated effort to get the ball down (on) all pitches, whether it's a fastball or breaking pitches... you've got to get the ball down,” Black said.

Rockies pitcher, Peter Lambert agreed.

“When I got hurt today, I was throwing the ball thigh-high instead of at the knees. Maybe that's the difference between a home run and a ground ball,” Lambert said.

The Rockies will always have to deal with the hitting abilities that come with Coors Field, but the Dodgers have shown just how important throwing low in the strike zone will be for Colorado moving forward.

Looking at the big picture, the Dodgers have a stranglehold on the NL West with a 13-game lead. Their closest challenger has been the Rockies. Colorado has played some really good baseball over the last two months in an effort to claw their way back. However, like Black said, “To catch the Dodgers, you have to beat the Dodgers.”

The Rockies have had that opportunity slip through their fingers time and time again. In fact, their Dodger woes stretch well into last season. Thursday's loss marked the 12th consecutive defeat the Rockies have suffered against the Dodgers.

“Things have been going their way, but the worm will turn. It's frustrating when you lose, it doesn't matter who it is,” Black said. “Our team, regardless of who it is, don’t like to lose, but a team we're trying to catch... it makes it tough.”

Black and company have the opportunity to turn their luck around with three more home meetings against the Dodgers this series.

The halfway point of the season is quickly approaching and a 13-game deficit may be insurmountable, but a string of victories against the Dodgers may be just what Colorado needs to go into the All-Star break with confidence and break their Dodgers curse.

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