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Why a battle of the bullpens looms large in Giants-Rockies matchups

SAN FRANCISCO–Colorado Rockies relievers own a combined 4.50 ERA this season, but it wasn’t much of a surprise when four bullpen arms blanked the Giants over six innings in Thursday’s series-opener.
After securing a playoff berth but losing the National League Wildcard Game in 2017, the Rockies dumped massive sums of money into their bullpen as the club added closer Wade Davis and set-up man Bryan Shaw while re-signing lefty Jake McGee.
“They have a good bullpen, they obviously went out and that was something that they wanted to improve on this offseason and they looked good,” shortstop Brandon Crawford said.
All three pitchers tossed at least one scoreless frame against the Giants on Thursday, including McGee who allowed just one baserunner over two innings.

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Despite a slow start to the season for McGee and Shaw, right-hander Adam Ottavino has picked up their club with 25 of the most dominant innings from any reliever in baseball this season as Ottavino possesses a 1.08 ERA through 23 appearances.
Against the Giants, Ottavino was once again in top form as he struck out three over two innings of work.
An impressive effort from the Giants bullpen wasn’t enough for the club to down the Rockies in their first matchup of the season, but it did suggest San Francisco has a stable of arms that can compete with Colorado in close games.
Though Cory Gearrin allowed a two-out, two-strike, two-run single to Carlos Gonzalez in the top of the 12th inning, the Giants had shut out the Rockies in nine straight innings leading up to the decisive blow in a 5-3 loss.
“Our guys went toe to toe with them,” Crawford said. “(Jeff) Samardzija gave us a real good start, the rest of the guys came in and put up a bunch of zeroes and gave us a chance to win.”
With 18 matchups remaining between the two sides this season, there’s a good chance the Giants’ chances of contending in the National League West will depend on their ability to win close games against their division foe.
At this point in the season, the Rockies have a deeper starting staff, but the Giants are hoping the eventual returns of Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto will stabilize their rotation. San Francisco has a more well-rounded lineup, but the Rockies boast two hitters in Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado who can change a game with one swing.
If the first battle between the Giants and Rockies is any indication, the two squads are poised to square off in a bunch of close games that could be decided by how each bullpen performs.
“I think they’re all going to be like that,” Jeff Samardzija said. “They’ve done a great job with their bullpen, added some great arms and retained a couple also.”
In the coming weeks, the Giants expect their $62 million closer, Mark Melancon, to return to their bullpen, but interim closer Hunter Strickland has pitched well enough to retain the job.
Left-hander Tony Watson was building an All-Star candidacy before two rough outings in Pittsburgh, but he’s still one of the premier southpaw relievers in all of baseball. With Sam Dyson having allowed just four hits over his last 9 and 2/3 innings, the Giants have enough pieces to rival the Rockies late in games.
In a division that’s anyone’s for the taking, the battle of the bullpens between the Giants and the Rockies should play a pivotal role in determining each team’s fate.
“Obviously we know about their lineup and what they can do and they’ll probably have some guys coming back too over time just like we will so we have some pretty mirrored teams here and some pretty even matched teams.”

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