A season gone wrong turned in its latest ugly chapter Tuesday night at Coors Field, when the Rockies scratched their most reliable starter because of ankle soreness and instead had to call up an unproven arm from Triple-A for a spot start against Arizona.
The results were as predicable as a bad movie script for last-place, underachieving Colorado.
Swapping Jon Gray for Jeff Hoffman — caused by Gray slipping and spraining his ankle as he came into the dugout last Friday in San Diego — led to a decisive 9-3 win for Arizona. Hoffman gave up three first-inning homers and seven runs through two hard-to-watch innings, and the Diamondbacks clinched the series while sending the spiraling Rockies to their seventh defeat in their last eight games.
“I had too many pitches in the middle of the zone,” Hoffman said. “It was a lack of feel. Everything is on me and my ability to execute a pitch. Tonight I couldn’t.”
Hoffman’s pitches appeared to be batting practice for Arizona from the game’s opening at-bat, when Jarrod Dyson teed off on a fastball for a homer on the second pitch. That made it 1-0, but the Diamondbacks were just getting warmed up against their divisional rivals.
A Ketel Marte walk followed, then Christian Walker hit a fly that carried out to the right-field seats for a somewhat cheap home run considering Statcast’s expected batting average on the pitch was .130. That made it 3-0 before Nick Ahmed belted another two-run homer, this time with two outs as Arizona went up 5-0.
“Everything was up,” manager Bud Black said. “His fastball command was spotty tonight, to say the least. And the changeup wasn’t a factor as he couldn’t seem to establish anything. It was a rough night for Jeff.”
Colorado got a run back in the bottom of the frame with Daniel Murphy’s RBI single to score Charlie Blackmon, but Arizona negated that with another home run off Hoffman in the second inning. This time it was David Peralta with a two-run homer to right field. His 113.2-mph sizzler — the hardest-hit ball of the evening — came on Hoffman’s dead-red fastball and inflated the visitors’ lead to 7-1 as boos rained down upon the right-hander.
Meanwhile, the Rockies’ offense banged out hits against Arizona rookie Zac Gallen, but the Diamondbacks’ right-hander consistently worked around traffic.
Gallen pitched four innings and allowed nine hits but only two earned runs. Colorado (53-67) stranded eight runners against him, and Nolan Arenado’s sacrifice fly with the bases loaded in the fourth accounted for the other score when the Diamondbacks turned a 7-2 lead over to their bullpen. The Rockies outhit Arizona 13-11.
“We got some guys in scoring position and we got some guys on the bases,” Black said. “We were a hit or two away from drawing closer a couple times. We just haven’t gotten the big hit at all lately.”
Jesus Tinoco was solid in relief of Hoffman, throwing three scoreless innings in addition to recording his first major-league hit before eventually scoring on Arenado’s sacrifice. He gave up one hit and didn’t let three walks hurt him. Carlos Estevez followed him with a pair of scoreless innings.
But the Diamondbacks broke through against the Colorado bullpen in the eighth, plating two runs off Chad Bettis as Ahmed and Wilmer Flores both had RBI singles to make it 9-2. Jake McGee posted a scoreless ninth.
“Seven innings of two-run ball from our bullpen — that’s pretty good,” Black said.
Colorado’s biggest offensive bright spot came in the eighth inning, when catcher Dom Nunez homered for his first major-league hit in his debut. The 24-year-old was brought up from Albuquerque earlier in the day to replace veteran Chris Iannetta, who was designated for assignment. Nunez is the seventh player in Rockies history to homer in his debut, and the first to do it since Trevor Story on April 4, 2016.
“I don’t think it’s really hit me yet, to be honest,” Nunez said. “(Bench coach Mike) Redmond came into the clubhouse and shook my hand and said, ‘Nobody can ever take this away from you.’ Everyone remembers their first hit, and to make it a home run makes it even more special.”