There has been no greater example of how much walks hurt -- and how much not issuing walks helps -- than the game tonight at Coors Field.
Marlins starting pitcher Henderson Alvarez did not have his best stuff on Friday. That, combined with the environment in which he was working his craft, could have spelled disaster. Alvarez allowed two home runs in 102⅔ innings in 2013 and, at one point this season, experienced a 70-plus-inning stretch in which he surrendered just one long ball.
He gave up two deep flies on Friday, but still got out of Coors Field with a victory largely due to one thing: he did not walk a single batter.
Alvarez allowed 10 hits in six innings, so he had his fair share of traffic on the base paths. But the 24-year-old right-hander continued to challenge hitters and mix locations and speeds effectively, even if his pitches didn't have their normal bite. That allowed him to induce seven groundouts, strike out five batters and exit with a 6-4 lead thanks to his offense.
Meanwhile, Rockies pitchers issued nine -- 9!!! -- walks, all of which came in the final five innings, en route to a dismal performance in which the staff gave up a baker's dozen in a 13-5 loss. Sure, "only" four of those runners came around to score, but Colorado pitchers were working from behind all evening as evidenced by the 199 combined pitches they threw. That's never exactly a recipe for success.
It feels like Nick Masset and Juan Nicasio should get some kind of award for not walking a batter in their innings of work, though both allowed two hits and Nicasio actually served up a grand slam to Marcell Ozuna. But hey, at least they challenged the hitters; Matt Belisle and Boone Logan, in particular, largely failed to do that, and the Rockies paid for it on the scoreboard.
Franklin Morales sort of challenged hitters, too, but the end result is one that we've seen far too often this year. Batters hit the ball hard early and often, and Morales wound up being saddled with the loss after giving up six runs on eight hits in four innings.
The Rockies did some nice things offensively, as they're wont to do. Nolan Arenado had his second perfect game at the plate in less than a week, going 4-for-4, including a pair of doubles, and also drawing a walk to raise his average to .306. DJ LeMahieu pitched in with three hits and Corey Dickerson and Justin Morneau both added two-run homers. Unfortunately for the Rockies, Dickerson's inexperience showed in the ninth inning; after Colorado drew two consecutive walks against hard-throwing righty Sam Dyson, the 25-year-old outfielder foolishly swung at a first-pitch offering and grounded into a game-ending double play.
Despite his mistake, Dickerson has a bright future. He's going to be a good one. And he'll learn from experience.
When it comes to shying away from the strike zone, I'm not sure I can say the same about the Rockies' pitching staff. We've seen the same thing over and over again for several years, and very few members of the unit have learned a thing.
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