5 months ago
CHICAGO -- Remember the callup/spot-starter label Rockies rookie right-hander Jeff Hoffman had a couple weeks ago? Well, Hoffman, the crown jewel of the Troy Tulowitzki trade with the Blue Jays in 2015, is showing he's worthy of a full-time position.
On a day with the wind blowing out at Wrigley, Hoffman struck out eight and held the Cubs to one run and four hits as the Rockies won their seventh straight, 9-1, on Saturday afternoon. Including two wins against the Indians in Denver this week, the last five victories have come against last season's World Series teams.
After pitching out of a second-and-third, one-out jam in the first, Hoffman (4-0) didn't allow the Cubs to hit many balls hard enough for the wind to play a part. Hoffman's dominance was chiefly responsible for securing the National League West-leading Rockies' first seven-game win streak since April 9-15, 2011.
"That goes back to trusting my stuff and understanding that my good is good enough," said Hoffman, who made his first three starts after callups. On Saturday, he was pitching on a bona fide big league rotation turn.
Opening Day starter Jon Gray, out with a left foot stress fracture, is making his first injury rehab start Wednesday at Class A Advanced Lancaster and lefty Tyler Anderson, nursing a left knee injury, is nearing bullpen sessions. But Hoffman -- one of four rookies in the rotation -- is pitching like a man who learned what he needed about mechanics and composure when the team sent him to Triple-A Albuquerque, and he is pitching like he never wants to go back.
"From our conversation late in spring, he's really made some nice changes in an all-around way, and I'm very proud of him," manager Bud Black said. "It's showed up in his performance."
The wind was a non-factor on homers -- the first, crushed by Mark Reynolds to left field and onto Waveland Avenue off former Rockies righty Eddie Butler (3-2) in the fourth inning, and the second by Charlie Blackmon to right and onto Sheffield Avenue in the seventh off Brian Duensing. The distance-driving contest left Reynolds with a team-high 17 homers, Blackmon with 15 and both tied in RBIs with 53.
Berrios didn't have his best command, walking three and hitting a batter, but surrendered two runs on six hits to improve to 5-1 with a 2.84 ERA. He served up a solo homer to Brandon Belt in the first and allowed a run in the fifth on an RBI groundout from Buster Posey.
"We're not running on high cylinders in terms of offense but then you get pitching like you did today," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "Jose is not always going to be perfect with his stuff, but it plays. He was in a lot of trouble today, but he was able to dance around it and minimize."
Giants right-hander Jeff Samardzija was also solid, but was hurt by a pair of homers. He went six frames, surrendering three runs on four hits and a walk to fall to 2-8 with a 4.31 ERA. He also struck out six and has fanned 65 batters compared to just two walks over his last eight starts.
"I'm not putting this on Jeff," San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said. "Occasionally you're going to give up three runs, maybe four, but you have to pick these pitchers up sometimes. We have a hard time, especially here at home. I know this is more of a pitchers' park but still that shouldn't happen."
Vargas was the first to go deep for the Twins with a solo shot to tie the game in the fourth. It was crushed, leaving the bat at 116 mph and traveling a projected 471 feet, per Statcast™. It was both the hardest-hit and longest homer by a Twins player in the Statcast™ era (since 2015), and the third-longest in the Majors this year. Dozier's two-run shot in the fifth wasn't hit nearly as hard, with an exit velocity of 99.6 mph and a projected distance of 356 feet, but proved to be the game-winner.