DENVER (AP)—The razor-thin lead. The boos as the manager approaches the mound. That sinking feeling as the bullpen stirs to life.
In only two weeks, it has become all too familiar to the Colorado Rockies. Jose Acevedo hasn’t been a part of any of that, though, and on Tuesday, he helped write a different ending in an 8-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“You just go in there and pitch and try to get people out,” said Acevedo, acquired from Cincinnati earlier this month and called up from Colorado Springs on Monday. “That’s our job.”
And where the rest of the bullpen has struggled, Acevedo made that job look easy. Brought in to protect a two-run lead with two outs in the eighth, he got Chad Tracy to pop out with two men on. The Rockies responded with five runs in the bottom of the inning.
Chin-hui Tsao pitched a scoreless ninth and while it wasn’t a save situation, it surely felt like one. By getting the final four outs, Acevedo and Tsao kept things from getting worse for the Colorado bullpen, which had blown six saves in the first 12 games.
“It was a relief for all of us,” said left-handed reliever Brian Fuentes, who got a rare day off.
Matt Holliday closed out his 4-for-4 day with a bases-loaded triple in Colorado’s five-run eighth to make the ninth easy for Tsao.
Jeff Francis (1-0) pitched a terrific 7 2-3 innings, not allowing a runner past second after the first inning. He appeared on the way to a complete game in the eighth, when manager Clint Hurdle made a visit to the mound, simply to tell Francis the game was his.
It was not a popular appearance.
“I can tell my mom, that’s the loudest I’ve ever been booed in my career,” Hurdle said.
A few minutes later, Francis allowed a single that gave put runners on first and second with two outs.
Hurdle walked back to the mound and summoned Acevedo.
“I thought we were going to go ahead like 5-3,” Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin said. “I thought we had a good chance there in the eighth inning once we got him out of the game.”
Instead, Acevedo threw a fastball that caught Tracy on the hands and the Rockies were on the way to their third win of the year.
“It was a big out,” Hurdle said. “It was a very big out.”
Francis, a left-handed rookie, had the strongest outing of his short career, throwing 89 pitches through the first seven innings and raising the possibility that the bullpen, which came in with a 1-6 record and an ERA of 9.73, might not have to get involved.
The Rockies had blown saves in their last two games. On Monday, Ryan Speier imploded to waste a nice start by Shawn Chacon, who as a closer last season was part of a bullpen that blew 34 saves. So far, this year’s bullpen is on pace to blow 71.
“It hasn’t just been the bullpen struggling, it’s been the whole team,” Francis said. “To see them and shut the door like that is great.”
Francis struck out four and walked three. He was named minor league player of the year by “Baseball America” last year and came to the Rockies late last season.
He compiled a 7.00 ERA in his first two starts this year. Before the game, though, Hurdle said he thought the coaches had identified and smoothed out a problem with his delivery. Apparently, the fixes worked.
“I guess you could call them mechanics,” Hurdle said. “That’s one of his strengths. He’s older than his years. We’ve talked about his poise, and that was very evident today.”
Restovich grounded into a bases-loaded double play for the tying run in the second.
Clint Barmes had three hits for Colorado.
Todd Helton went 0-for-2 with three walks and stayed stuck on five RBIs for the season. Melvin gave OF Luis Gonzalez the day off against Gonzalez’ wishes. “I have to make sure I don’t wear him down and that means a day off,” Melvin said. The Rockies take a two-game trip to Philadelphia before returning home for a six-game homestand. Counting last year’s two starts, Francis is now 3-0 with a 1.92 ERA in three starts at Coors Field.