Monday, December 26, 2011

Rockies Retread - May 8, 1993

The Braves have long been a notorious foe of the Rockies. They always seem to pitch a little bit better than we can hit. Sometimes a lot better. They were the first team the Rockies faced in the play-offs, and they won the 1995 National League Division Series 3 games to 1. The Rockies didn't sniff the postseason again until 2007. And despite 2010's very exciting three-game sweep, during the final game of which the Rox overcame a 9-run deficit to win 12-10, Atlanta owns us. They lead the all-time series 96-59.

The first time we played them was in May 1993, a four-game series at Mile High which the Braves swept, outscoring the Rockies 46-22. And it wasn't simply because of their star rotation; the only recognizable name in the win column for that series is John Smoltz. The Braves' offense went nuts, tearing up the Rockies' pitching staff. David Justice had 10 RBIs in this series all by himself, and it raised his batting average from .198 to .234.

Perhaps the most embarrassing game in the series was this one on May 8th. The Rockies lost 8-7 despite the fact that only the losing pitcher, Scott Frederickson, gave up any earned runs. And there were 2 of those.

So what happened? Bruce Ruffin, the starting pitcher, didn't give up a single solitary run until the 8th inning. He was pitching a gem, a 4-hit shutout. He did walk 5, but hadn't allowed anybody to score when the 8th began. The Rockies were up 6-0. With 1 out, Otis Nixon singled and Mark Lemke walked. Willie Blair came in for Ruffin, who should have been in line for the win. And then the wheels came off. Jeff Blauser hit a grounder to shortstop Vinny Castilla, who should have turned an inning-ending double play. Instead, he dropped it, and everybody was safe. Ron Gant came to the plate. He hit a line drive to second baseman Eric Young. Not only did EY not make the play at first, he failed to make the play at the plate as well. Two errors were charged to him as Nixon and Lemke scored.

David Justice walked to advance Gant and Blauser and load the bases. There was still only one out. Blair was clearly not handling the traffic well. His response to the situation was to give up a pinch-hit grand slam to - who else? - Sid Bream. Just like that, the game was tied at 6 without a single earned run allowed by a Rockies pitcher.

Blair ended the inning without any further damage, but Frederickson would not be so lucky in the 9th. He gave up RBI singles to Blauser and Justice, which put the Braves up 8-6. Mike Stanton (not that Mike Stanton) came in to close the game. He nearly lost it when a 2-out single by Andres Galarraga scored EY from 2nd. But Dante Bichette grounded into a force to end it.

They say defense is the difference between a play-off team and one that goes home in October. As we all know, the 1993 Rockies did not go near the play-offs.

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