DENVER -- In the tale of two ball clubs on opening day, it was the best of times for the Rockies, and it was the bratwurst of times for the Brewers.
The Rox won on opening day in Milwaukee, 7-5.
And Bud Black, who deftly handled his pitching staff, is undefeated as the new Rockies manager.
The Rockies are tied for first place in the National League West. Pause and take a photo.
Black, who is the first former pitcher to be the Rockies’ manager in the franchise’s quarter century of existence, was hired primarily in an attempt to solve the team’s annual conundrum – pitching.
Last season the bullpen was a Kerosene Corps. The relievers didn’t put out fires. They caused the inferno to spread with the highest earned-run average in the major leagues and 28 blown saves.
However, in the Rox’s opening game of the season, when Jon Gray started and imploded in the fifth inning, Black showed his mastery with arms. In five innings he utilized five relievers, who permitted one measly hit and no runs.
The bullpen has an ERA of 0.00.
It’s certainly early, but it was definitely impressive.
Scott Oberg, Carlos Estevez, Mike Dunn, Adam Ottovino and Greg Holland each worked an inning, with Estevez getting the victory, Ottovino the hold and Holland the save.
Gray, who is supposed to be the ace of this young rotation, held the Brew Crew scoreless through the first four innings of the season, while the Rockies piled on for four runs. But Gray immediately discovered trouble in the fifth when he was rudely treated – single, walk, single, double, double. Black took him out before the game got away from the Rox. Oberg struck out slugster Ryan Braun before permitting a run-scoring double to center and hitting the next batter. But he induced consecutive ground outs, and the Rockies were down by one, 5-4, instead of six.
Estevez came on the following inning and dismissed the three Milwaukee Brewers, and the Rockies countered to ahead in the sixth despite Geraldo Parra being thrown out at home on Mark Reynolds’ double. The first baseman, resigned to a minor-league contract in the off-season after being thrown to the curb and replaced by (injured) Ian Desmond, already had produced a two-run home in the second.
Dunn, a fresh veteran addition, worked against only three batters in the seventh, and Ottovino arrived for the seventh. He began by continuing his spring struggles by walking the first two Brewers, who then pulled off a double steal. Runners at second and third with nobody out, and the Rockies’ precarious lead was in deep despair.
But the light came on for Ottovino, who struck three straight swinging Brewers.
The Rockies manager to produce another run in the ninth, making it 7-5, and Greg Holland, the ex-Royal stellar closer, escaped the ninth with the assistance of Nolan Arenado, who made one of his usual wondrous grabs at third and setting up the game-ending double play.
The Rox approached this season genuinely believing that they could compete, challenge and contend in the National League – despite the presence of the Dodgers and the Giants in the division, the defending World Champion Cubs and the dangerous Cardinals in the Central, and the Mets and the Nationals expecting to assert themselves in the East.
The offense and the defense will be Rox-solid, but there’s that matter of a young rotation and the vagueness about the bullpen. The loss of Chad Bettis, possibly for the entire season, has caused a tentativeness about the five starters, and Holland is coming back from injury, and Ottovino returned from Tommy John Surgery just last season. Holland made his first appearance on the mound since Sept. 18, 2015. Ottovino and Holland at the back end give the Rockies’ their Oh! Combo.
Rox general manager Jeff Bridich has confidence in this bunch, especially after releasing Jason Motte and putting Chad Qualls on DL (likely before the Rockies get rid of him).
One game a season does not make, and not all of Black’s strategies will work going forward.
But the opening was grand for the Rockies, who were celebrating the best of times afterward. The Brewers were dealing with the worst of times for their inaugural game of 2017, and the crowd only could chew on a brat.