HEADLINE

Rockies hunting early leads in series opener vs. Phillies

Field Level Media

April 15, 2024 at 6:09 am.

A total solar eclipse wasn’t the only rarity that occurred on April 8.

Last Monday remains the only time in 16 games this season that the Colorado Rockies have scored first.

Colorado’s next chance to strike first comes on Monday when the Rockies visit the Phillies to begin a three-game series in Philadelphia.

The first inning has been especially problematic for Colorado. The Rockies have allowed a major league-high 23 first-inning runs entering Monday. Seven of those runs came across in Colorado’s three-game weekend series against the Blue Jays in Toronto, where the Rockies lost twice to fall to 4-12.

Colorado trailed 1-0 after the first inning on Friday before rallying to win 12-4, but Saturday’s early deficit was far greater. Daulton Varsho’s first-inning grand slam put the Rockies in a five-run hole that proved too deep to escape in Colorado’s 5-3 loss.

The Rockies allowed another first-inning run on Sunday in their 5-0 defeat.

Right-hander Cal Quantrill (0-2, 7.20 ERA), who will start Monday’s game for Colorado, has twice faltered in the opening frame this season.

The 29-year-old has surrendered a pair of first-inning runs in two of his three starts, including his latest outing last Tuesday in the Rockies’ 3-2 home loss to Arizona. Quantrill pitched a season-high six innings against the Diamondbacks, but his three earned runs proved to be the difference.

“I’ve gotta be better in the first inning,” Quantrill said. “… It’s been a challenge for me in early years. Sometimes it’s just finding rhythm.

“… Our job as starting pitchers is to go deep in games, and not put us behind the 8-ball early.”

Quantrill has given up three first-inning homers this season, and he’ll have to be extra cautious Monday if Kyle Schwarber is in the Phillies’ lineup. Schwarber has batted leadoff in every game this season for Philadelphia and has three home runs against Quantrill over 11 career at-bats.

The Phillies’ 31-year-old designated hitter clubbed his 33rd career leadoff homer in Saturday’s 4-3 home win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. Schwarber had collected six hits over his last four games entering Sunday before he went 0-for-4 in Philadelphia’s 9-2 loss.

First baseman Bryce Harper also went hitless in four at bats on Sunday, dropping his average to .190. Harper, who batted .293 last season, has managed two hits across his last 27 at-bats. He’s gone nine straight games without an RBI for the Phillies and 11 straight without a home run since hitting three on April 2.

“He’s just trying to do too much and maybe overswinging a little bit,” Philadelphia manager Rob Thomson said. “He just has to fight through it.”

Harper isn’t the only one struggling. He’s part of the Phillies’ collective slow start at the plate this season. Philadelphia has scored more than five runs in a game once this year, and the Phillies’ .234 team average ranks just 21st in the major leagues entering Monday.

Brandon Marsh (.313), Trea Turner (.302) and J.T. Realmuto (.265) are Philadelphia’s only three qualified hitters batting above .250.

“We have to get going offensively, which I think we will. I don’t think that’s a question at all,” said Turner, per the Press of Atlantic City. “I feel like we’re in a good spot, and we’ll get rolling.”

Turner had three hits on Sunday, including his first home run of the season.

Aaron Nola (2-1, 4.50 ERA) will make his fourth start this season for the Phillies. The right-hander allowed two runs on three hits over six innings in Philadelphia’s 4-3 win last Wednesday against the Cardinals in St. Louis.

The 30-year-old is 4-2 with a 3.63 ERA in nine career starts against Colorado.

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