Rockies blow “California tie-breaker” with 5-2 loss to Angels in extra innings

Put this one in a time capsule and label it: “2020, the season of missed opportunities and heartbreak.”

The Rockies lost 5-2 to the Los Angeles Angels Saturday night at Coors Field when Jared Walsh blasted a three-run homer off Tyler Kinley’s hanging breaking ball in the 11th inning. It was Walsh’s fourth consecutive game with a home run.

But this loss can’t be pinned on Kinley, who certainly pitched well enough in the 10th inning to set the Rockies up for a victory. And starter Kyle Freeland certainly pitched well enough for Colorado to win.

Nope, the chief reason the Rockies lost was that they blew a prime opportunity to win the game in the 10th under the new “California tie-breaker” system. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Raimel Tapia executed a perfect sacrifice bunt to move Elias Diaz to third, but Ty Buttrey struck out Trevor Story looking at a fastball, and after intentionally walking Charlie Blackmon, Buttrey got Nolan Arenado to ground out weakly to short.

“We had an opportunity in the 10th,” manager Bud Black said. “Buttrey threw a pitch to Trevor, a low fastball, and ‘Trev’ didn’t pull the trigger. But that’s baseball.”

The Rockies, who fell back to three games under .500 at 21-24, have repeatedly had to field postgame questions about missed opportunities this season. But Saturday night’s game was a new low. Colorado was limited to six hits — all of them singles. It marked just the second time in franchise history that the Rockies were held to six or fewer hits, all singles, in an extra-inning game at home. The other time was Sept. 14, 2008 vs. the Dodgers.

“It’s never easy when you lose a ballgame late in the game or in extra-innings, or on something that could easily fall your way,” Freeland said. “It (stinks), being competitors that we are, and playing at the highest level. But you just have to move on.”

The hero of the night should have been the Rockies’ much-maligned bullpen that pitched four scoreless innings until Kinley gave up the second-deck homer in the 11th.

Freeland once again gave the Rockies the kind of start they needed, limiting the Angels to two runs on four hits over six innings. Freeland has a rock-solid 3.54 ERA after 10 starts. It was Freeland’s eighth quality start, tied for the most in the National League with the Cubs’ Yu Darvish.

“Kyle pitched well,” Black said. “He had a four-pitch mix and kept the ball down. Not a lot of hard contact against him. I thought Kyle did his job.”

Angels right-hander Jaime Barria matched Freeland, allowing two runs on five hits across 5 1/3 innings. In two career starts at Coors Field, he’s allowed just two runs across 10 2/3 innings.

Colorado’s bullpen backed up Freeland with scrappy work from Yency Almonte, Carlos Estevez and Daniel Bard. Almonte hit Walsh and gave up a double to Mike Trout in the seventh but escaped by getting Anthony Rendon to ground out to Story at short.

Estevez, who’s been a pinata lately, was sharp, giving up one hit but striking out two in the eighth.

“Hopefully this gives him a little momentum and confidence moving forward,” Black said.

Bard’s ninth inning was an adventure. He got two quick before Jared Walsh singled up the middle and then Bard essentially pitched around the dangerous Mike Trout, walking him on four pitches. But Bard got Anthony Rendon to fly out to center to end the threat.