Rusch Takes One For The Team
Glendon Rusch found himself in a thankless position Wednesday night, one that resulted in an ugly pitching line that did plenty of damage to his statistics.
His misfortune may pay dividends for the Rockies, who have embarked on a difficult portion of their schedule. They played a night game Wednesday and lost 15-11. The Rockies conclude their series with the Astros with a day game Thursday, the third game in a stretch of 16 straight games the Rockies are scheduled to play before their next off day May 28.
Under these circumstances, the last thing the Rockies wanted or needed was to have a starter knocked out early, as was the case with Jason Marquis. That could have necessitated the use of a slew of relievers and run the risk of taxing, even decimating, the bullpen when the schedule alone will create stress.
“We have a really long stretch coming up with no off days, so we can use everybody as fresh as could be,” Rusch said. “I just tried to do my best that way.”
Marquis left with two out in the fourth, the bases loaded and the Rockies behind 6-3. Long reliever Rusch came on to face Geoff Blum, who drove Rusch’s first pitch off the left-field wall for a three-run triple. It was the first of 63 pitches for Rusch and the one he most regretted.
“That changed the game from a three-run game to a six-run game,” Rusch said. “And especially at this field, you know a three-run game doesn’t mean anything, so that was frustrating.”
Rusch went out for the fifth, took the mound in the sixth and did it again in the seventh, finally departing when Humberto Quintero doubled home the Astros’ second run of the inning and final run of the game with one out in the seventh.
Rusch bridged an eight-out stretch, enough territory so manager Clint Hurdle was able to finish the game with Jason Grilli for 1 2/3 innings and, one inning, without emptying his bullpen.
“I try and be as unselfish as you can when it comes to picking up innings at that point in the game,” Rusch said, “and giving us a chance to use less guys out of the pen if we can. If hopefully we’re in a one- to three-run game (Thursday) we got everybody fresh from the sixth to the ninth.:
Rusch took the mound with a 4.50 ERA, which ballooned to 6.75 after facing 20 batters and retiring eight. He allowed 12 hits _ five doubles and seven singles _ one shy of his career-high. Rusch had not yielded 12 hits since May 12, 2003, when he was pitching for Milwaukee surrendered 13 hits to the Cubs. But that was as a starter. Rusch had never allowed more than eight hits as a reliever in his career.
“Everything they were hitting seemed to be falling,” shortstopsaid. “It’s just one of those times where you don’t want to be a pitcher out there.”
Tulowitzki has been known to stroll in from his position, climb the mound and offer words of encouragement to a pitcher, giving him a breather in the process. Tulowitzki didn’t do that with Rusch, 34, who threw his first pitch in the big leagues in 1997.
“Rushie’s been around for a while,” Tulowitzki said. “He knows what he needs to do. He throws strikes. It’s not like he’s out there walking people. Usually I go in to say something to guys that are walking people. He handles himself so well.”
Blum’s bases-clearing hit made the score 9-3 in the fourth. The Astros boosted their lead to 12-3 in the fifth, 13-3 in the sixth and 15-5 in the seventh when Hurdle took Rusch out. He walked slowly to the Rockies dugout, his head bowed the entire way.
Had the game been close, Hurdle would not have let the left-handed Rusch stay in and face right-handed hitting Carlos Lee, the Astros clean-up hitter whose run-scoring single was the fifth straight hit Rusch allowed to start the fifth.
“I was trying to go as deep as I could,” Rusch said. “I just told them I could keep going. I thought I…could try and go out and pitch as many innings as I could and save as many guys as I could.”
In a close game, the Astros would not have let faltering Geoff Geary pitch the ninth. He yielded five runs, including‘s grand slam, forcing Astros manager Cecil Cooper to bring in LaTroy Hawkins, his closer, to get the final out of the game.
But the game wasn’t close. It was one-sided, in no small part because of Rusch, whose 63 pitches were six more than he had thrown in his three previous May outings, which totaled 3 2/3 innings. Barring an extra-inning marathon, Rusch will be a spectator Thursday for the rubber game of the series, after taking one for the team, not that such duty shows up in the box score.
“That’s OK,” Rusch said. “I understand it. I’ve done it before a few times. I understand it from both sides, too, since I started for so long.”