Rockies open home season in winter wonderland

DENVER -- In his first time at home since last October, Carlos Gonzalez knew. Multiple iPhones froze, and it was difficult to see the bedazzled new scoreboard, which is roughly the size of Rhode Island. Gonzalez walked down the steps from the clubhouse and trudged to the dugout. He peered his head out and blurted, "Hell no." 

An opening day full of promise based on last season turned bitter cold. Following a 61-minute delay for requisite thawing, the Rockies chattered their teeth through an 8-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves at the refrigerator known as Coors Field. 

"Anything below 30 degrees is stupid. I couldn't feel anything. But both teams had to play in it," Gonzalez said. "It was just one bad game. That's it. We will move forward."

Everything about the lead up to this day, including a 4-3 road trip, appeared aligned. But Friday, nothing felt quite like home. 

Starter German Marquez has rarely seen snow, let alone pitched in it. His inexperience with the bitter elements proved revealing and disappointing Friday. With temperatures suited for the Iditarod -- a picture above of Friday's snow is juxtaposed with last year's glistening sunshine -- Marquez struggled with his grip, posting the worst start of his career. Known for his control, Marquez let the Braves run away and hide. 

"Some of our young pitchers are going through the school of hard knocks," manager Bud Black said. "He has to learn from it. And he will."

Atlanta held a 4-0 advantage before the Rockies hit, and before the fans could warm to the idea of a first pitch at 27 degrees, second coldest in franchise history. Marquez walked three hitters in the first, trouble amplified by a Dansby Swanson two-run triple. Atlanta batted around, an ominous sign. Marquez surrendered seven runs, second most in his career, while issuing a career-high six walks. 

Of the base runners, one stung more than the others. Atlanta pitcher Brandon McCarthy, who has pitched in snow while prepping at Cheyenne Mountain High School, laced a double to right field, swelling the lead to 7-3, while chasing Marquez. 

"That hurt," Marquez said. "I have to do better."

Gonzalez provided a lift with a trace of nostalgia. He looked more like the CarGo of old than an old CarGo. He tripled in a run in the first inning, then homered to lead off the fourth. Shortstop Trevor Story followed with a golf shot worthy of the Masters, depositing a curveball into the left field seats to shave the deficit to 4-3. The candle for the comeback was lit, but turned cold with Marquez's clunky fifth inning as the bottom of the order punished him. 

Gonzalez' simmering start provides intrigue. He didn't think he would be here again. With teams like the Diamondbacks, Mets and Orioles showing interest, he figured to sign elsewhere. No offers came, leaving him open to returning to Colorado. 

"I enjoy it here," Gonzalez said. 

Friday brought a buzzkill, but not an omen. Too often, a Rockies' home-opening victory represented the highlight of a forgotten season. This year feels different. The Rockies believe they should return to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time. They think they will return to dominance at Coors Field. They finished 46-35 last season. Make it 50-32 this year, and it would provide cushion for a regression on the road where Colorado won 41 games. 

Saturday, Coors Field should feel like home. Friday, it was just another reason to retreat inside and get warm. 

Footnotes

After helping the team to a playoff berth last season, Gonzalez appeared poised to leave as a free agent, making room for Raimel Tapia and David Dahl. Then came the Big Freeze. A market never developed for CarGo -- six-to-eight teams were interested including the Diamondbacks, Orioles and Mets -- leaving him open-minded about a reunion. He signed a one-year, $5 million deal with $3 million in incentives for days on the active roster. "It's good to be back. This is a really good team," said Gonzalez, whose return pushed Tapia and Dahl to Triple-A to log regular at-bats. CarGo tripled in the first inning, plating the Rockies' first run at home this season. ... Prior to the game, Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon and DJ LeMahieu received their hardware for winning everything from Gold Gloves to Silver Sluggers. ... The home opener was a sellout. Obviously not all seats filled, but it was a solid crowd considering the dismal conditions. 


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Want Broncos news? Denver7 Broncos insider Troy E. Renck is your source. He talks to the players, covers the games and reports scoops on Denver7 and the Denver7 app. He is a CU grad who has covered pro sports in Colorado since 1996, including 14 years at The Denver Post. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and TheDenverChannel.com’s Broncos page. Troy welcomes most of your emails at Troy.Renck@kmgh.com.

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