Coors Field jitters?
Not for Chad Kuhl. He was, pardon the pun, completely cool.
Making his first start at Coors while wearing a Rockies jersey, the right-hander dominated Philadelphia on Monday night in a 4-1 victory.
Kuhl pitched six scoreless innings, allowing just two hits, striking out four and walking one. Kuhl was extremely efficient, needing only 68 pitches (42 strikes) to dispatch the Phillies.
“This one is up there,” Kuhl said when asked how Monday’s performance stacked up to the best outings of his career. “The first time pitching here with the purple on is really special. It’s definitely in the top.”
Kuhl wanted to go back out to pitch the seventh but his right hip flexor started to tighten up and both Kuhl and manager Bud Black thought it was best to sit him down. Black said he did not think the hip flexor would be a lingering problem.
“I think I would have had one more, but I’m here to win,” he said. “As long as we win, I don’t care.”
Kuhl struck out reigning National League MVP Bryce Harper twice, and Black liked how the right-hander attacked a dangerous Phillies lineup.
“We talked about that in my office. I think he has that mindset, I really do. He’s on the attack,” said Black, adding that his emphasis with Kuhl has been to get him to pitch in and around the strike zone with more consistency.
Kuhl has allowed one earned run through 10 1/3 innings across his first two starts with the Rockies for a 0.87 ERA.
The Rockies improved to 7-3, the sixth time in franchise history they have started 7-3 or better in the first 10 games of the season. In 2020, they opened 8-2 before sliding to a 26-40 record in the pandemic-shortened season.
The Phillies slipped to 4-7 and are 9-20 at Coors Field since 2013.
As has been their pattern this season, the Rockies struggled to get hits with runners in scoring position, especially in the early going. In fact, facing Phillies right-hander Aaron Nola, they were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position through five innings.
The Rockies finally broke the ice with a two-run sixth, beginning with a leadoff homer from Charlie Blackmon, who skied a 453-footer to right-center off of Nola. It was the fifth-longest home run of Blackmon’s career and his longest since 2019.
Blackmon’s homer was overdue. His last homer was Sept. 4 of last season vs. the Braves, a string of 111 at-bats without a homer.
“Charlie has had some good swings the last three or four games,” Black said. “So we’ll see. It’s always good to see a guy get a homer. It gives guys confidence. I think we all have trust in Chuck.”
The Rockies made it 2-0 when C.J. Cron singled and came around to score thanks to two wild pitches from reliever Jose Alvarado.
Colorado added two runs in the seventh, combining a single by Sam Hilliard, a walk by Blackmon, and a two-run double by Randal Grichuck. Grichuck made the final out of the inning attempting to turn his double into a triple.
Colorado’s bullpen was excellent again, and through the first 10 games of the season, it owns a 1.88 ERA, the best in the majors.
“Our bullpen has been really good,” Blackmon said. “I don’t want to say that I’m surprised. I mean, there are a lot of really good pitchers out there. But any time you are performing out there with the tops in the league, you’ve got to step back and recognize how well they are doing.”
Tyler Kinley tossed a perfect seventh and Jhoulys Chacin rode to the rescue of Carlos Estevez in the eighth. Alec Bohm and Jean Segura singled off Estevez, and pinch-hitter Didi Gregorius drove home Bohm with a single.
Black, having seen enough out of Estevez, brought in Chacin. J.T. Realmuto rocketed a pitch back to the mound but Chacin snared it and doubled up Gregorious at second for the inning-ending double play.
Right-hander Alex Colome notched his first save for the Rockies, facing four batters in the ninth.