September 27, 2022

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Joe sets positive tone amid Rockies' road woes

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SAN FRANCISCO — Another tough night against another hot starting pitcher – the Giants’ Carlos Rodón, who struck out 12 in six innings — added up to another loss for the Rockies.

But instead of another familiar verse in a tired road-trip refrain, leadoff man Connor Joe saw Monday night’s 8-5 loss as another step in a process that he believes will work.

Joe had his success — three hits and a walk — while adhering to the Rockies’ plan to be as ready as possible for Rodón’s upper-90s fastball and avoid chasing the slider. At least the Rockies helped drive him to 110 pitches, although strikeouts take at least three pitches.

“He threw 31 pitches in the first inning, and for a lot of the guys in there this was their first time seeing Carlos, with him being with the White Sox,” said Joe, who competed with Rodón for 24 pitches. “A lot of positives to take away from the game. And moving forward when we see we’re going to see him again, I think we’re going to have a good game plan.”

As with games this trip against the D-backs’ Merrill Kelly (1.22 ERA) and Zac Gallen (0.95), not nearly enough hitters could execute against Rodón (1.80), whose ERA rose slightly because of Yonathan Daza’s two-run single with the bases loaded in the fifth.

The song about the road woes may be old, but it’s also current — three losses in four this trip, seven in the last eight. But Joe insists that while turning around a tradition of struggles away from Coors Field is not an overnight proposition, there is going to be a dawn.

“We’re in a little spurt here where we’re not getting the results we want,” Joe said. “But it’s not talked about as much. In the clubhouse it’s not a problem. We’re not worried. It’s not a concern. No one’s pressing. It’s very different from last year.”

The Rockies famously fell on their face out the gate on the road last season and even after a better second half finished 26-54 outside of Denver. On Monday, Rodón at least saw a team better than that and walked away knowing Joe gave him fits.

“First time in a while facing the Rockies,” Rodón said. “I thought they put together some really good at-bats, especially the first inning where Connor Joe had a good at-bat. I think he had two hits off me. He put together some good at-bats in the one-hole and set up the rest of that lineup. Good fighting team.”

The Rockies’ struggles against Rodón had the same look as performances against all three starters in Arizona. The Rockies won the middle game over the D-backs, 4-1, but didn’t score against Zach Davies and tallied only in a come-from-behind ninth inning. But there were opportunities that Rodón snuffed out, with two double plays he forced from Brendan Rodgers in the second inning and Daza in the third preventing the Rockies from turning high pitch counts into true trouble.

With the NL West having emerged as baseball’s best division, given the records of the clubs in the early going — and arguably the best division for starting pitching — there may be plenty of games like Monday. More success, such as two of José Iglesias’ three hits, came off relievers. But hits off relievers count, too.

If hits aren’t happening, the best a team can do is have tangible goals and be resilient when games are difficult.

Joe is trying to live that mantra until the Rockies have big nights throughout the lineup, not a couple of guys while the rest of the batting order languishes.

“Different guys are having good nights on individual nights,” he said. “We know confidence is coming. It’s going to be put together, where everyone has the same good night. When you see guys producing on the road, it’s a good thing for sure.”

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