Rockies starters Ryan Castellani, Chi Chi Gonzalez must step up for stretch run

With right-hander Jon Gray lost for the rest of the season because of shoulder woes, starters Ryan Castellani and Chi Chi Gonzalez have become essential figures in the Rockies’ playoff chase. How they perform could well determine if the Rockies can keep their faint playoff pulse alive.

Castellani (1-2, 4.46 ERA) is scheduled to start Friday night’s game against the Dodgers at Coors Field, while Gonzalez (0-1, 8.68) gets the call for Saturday night’s game. Gonzalez, however, will be limited to about 75 pitches.

Entering Thursday night’s game against the Dodgers, the Rockies (22-26) needed to win eight of their final 12 games to finish .500, a record which would likely qualify them as one of the National League’s eight playoff teams. Manager Bud Black said that was “doable,” but he knows starting pitching must set the table for a strong finish.

Castellani, a 24-year-old rookie, was pounded for three home runs by the Dodgers in just 4 1/3 innings on Sept. 6 in Los Angeles. In his last start, against the Angels at Coors Field, he walked a career-high six batters, but battled through 5 2/3 innings, allowing one hit and one unearned run.

“My confidence is great,” he said. “I know we’re in a big spot here, winding down the end of the season. But for me, I can’t let the pressure get too big. First of all, the best thing I can do is focus on the Dodgers, you know, one game at a time. Really try to keep things as simple as possible.”

Hilliard sent down. Rookie outfielder Sam Hilliard, who’s seen his playing time diminish, was optioned to the alternative site Thursday and the team recalled right-handed reliever Jesus Tinoco to help shore up the bullpen.

Hilliard, a left-handed hitter, was slashing .238/.304/.488 with six home runs and 10 RBIs in 84 at-bats. He had not played since Sept. 8 and had just four at-bats since hitting a home run at Los Angeles on Sept. 4. He continued to strike a lot — 36% of the time.

“Sam was sort of in the situation where there (was) some left-handed pitching against us,” Black said. “Sam, over the course of the first 50 games, showed some good things for us and he will continue to do that in the future as a potential Rockie big-leaguer, which we all think he’s going to be. We feel great about Sam’s future.”

Tinoco originally came to Colorado in 2015 as part of the Troy Tulowitzki trade with Toronto. On Aug. 14, the Rockies traded Tinoco to Miami for pitcher Chad Smith. Tinoco pitched in relief in three games for the Marlins, throwing five hitless, scoreless innings before Miami designated him for assignment Aug. 30. The Rockies then picked up Tinoco off waivers.

On Deck
Dodgers TBD
at Rockies RHP Ryan Castellani (1-2, 4.46 ERA)
6:40 p.m. Friday, Coors Field
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: KOA 850 AM/94.1 AM

With the loss of Jon Gray due to a shoulder injury, the Rockies need Castellani to give them a couple of quality starts down the stretch. He’s had some control issues over his last two starts, including against the Dodgers at Los Angeles. He pitched into the fifth inning but he walked four and gave up four runs on six hits, including three home runs. The Rockies, however, won the game, 7-6. The 24-year-old rookie will make his eighth start of the season (ninth appearance). Castellani is 0-2 with a 4.95 ERA in five games at Coors Field. In his last start at Coors, he pitched 5 2/3 innings but walked a career-high six batters. The Dodgers, who have not announced a starter for Friday’s game, will likely make it a bullpen game.

Trending: Entering Thursday’s game, Rockies starters had certainly done their part in recent games, posting a 2.10 ERA over the first five games of the homestand, with four quality starts.

At issue: Infielder Ryan McMahon continues striking out at an alarming rate. His 37.5 strikeout percentage is the third-highest in majors and the highest in the National League.

Pitching Probables
Saturday: Dodgers LHP Clayton Kershaw (5-2, 2.28) at RHP Chi Chi Gonzalez (0-1, 8.68), 6:10 p.m., ATTRM
Sunday: Dodgers RHP Tony Gonsolin (1-1, 1.51) at Rockies RHP Antonio Senzatela (4-2, 3.30), 1:10 p.m., ATTRM
Monday: Rockies RHP German Marquez (2-6, 4.33) at Giants LHP Drew Smyly (0-0, 3.94), 7:45 p.m., ATTRM

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