Rockies Edge Rays in Home Opener on Walk-off Grand Slam

Ryan McMahon of the Rockies hitting a walk-off grand slam against the Rays
(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Rockies 10, Rays 7

DENVER, Apr. 5 — A walk-off grand slam by Ryan McMahon gave the Colorado Rockies an emotional, come-from-behind 10–7 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays Friday afternoon after a seesaw of a game. The slam, which came in the Rockies’ home opener, salvaged the win after the Rockies lost a four-run lead in the top of the ninth. McMahon went 3-for-4 in the game, finishing a triple shy of the cycle.

Rockies starting pitcher Austin Gomber recovered from a first-inning jam to last four innings, allowing two runs on four hits while walking three and striking out seven. “I thought he competed,” left fielder Nolan Jones said of Gomber. “He got in a couple of tough situations, but he’s a guy you want on the mound. I think he competed his butt off and gave us a chance to win, which is all we can ask for.”

Rockies – Rays Game Summary

Both teams plated a run in the first. The Rays notched their run on an RBI single by Isaac Paredes, and the Rockies responded with consecutive one-out doubles by Brendan Rodgers and Nolan Jones. In the second, the Rays took a 2–1 lead on a single to right by Yandy Diaz.

The teams traded zeroes until the bottom of the sixth, when the Rockies put up three runs on reliever Colin Poche to take the lead. A sacrifice fly by Elias Diaz plated Jones with the tying run before Ezequiel Tovar belted a two-run homer to left.

Kris Bryant extended the lead for the Rockies in the bottom of the eighth. His towering two-run homer to left off Jacob Waguespack scored Jones from second, making the score 6–2 heading into the top of the ninth.

The Wacky Ninth

The top of the ninth brought Rockies closer Justin Lawrence to the mound in a non-save situation. A leadoff double to the gap in left-center by Yandy Diaz foreshadowed the rest of the inning. Diaz scored on a single to right-center by Harold Ramirez. Singles by Randy Arozarena and Paredes kept the merry-go-round moving, loading the bases for Amed Rosario. A slow bouncer past the mound turned into an RBI groundout, as the charging Tovar only had a play at first. Ben Rortvedt, up next, tied the game with a single to center, chasing Lawrence from the game to a chorus of boos.

Jalen Beeks took over as the new pitcher, and Jose Caballero greeted him with a sacrifice bunt. Up came Jose Siri with two outs and the go-ahead run on second. He hit a low rocket to third. McMahon, on his backhand, snagged it on the short hop, spun, and fired to first. It bounced before arriving, and Bryant couldn’t scoop it, allowing Rortvedt to score the go-ahead run.

Rays closer Pete Fairbanks took the hill in the bottom of the ninth while holding a 7–6 lead. He walked the bases loaded without recording an out. In came Jason Adam, who struck out Bryant on three pitches. Adam’s fourth pitch was his last, as that was the pitch McMahon launched into the right-field seats for the grand slam.

What Went Right for the Rockies

Offensive Punch

The Rockies muscled 12 hits in the game. Six went for extra bases: doubles by Rodgers, Jones, and McMahon as well as homers by Tovar, Bryant, and McMahon. Additionally, Jones, McMahon, Diaz, and Tovar notched multi-hit games. McMahon had three, and the others each had two.

Limiting Damage

Despite a 41-pitch first inning, Gomber limited the Rays to one run in the inning. He ended up lasting four innings while allowing two runs. It certainly could have been much worse.

“Gomber did a very good job of collecting himself and getting as much as he could get done today,” reliever Nick Mears said. “That was a gritty start. The first inning didn’t go as he planned, but I’ve got a lot of respect for guys like that. When things don’t go their way, they still get the job done, whatever it may be.”

“I started getting ahead a bit more,” Gomber said of the second through fourth innings. “Got the change-up involved the second time through. It opened up the arm side of the plate for me. I felt like I was good on the glove side today with the fastball and slider. A couple were just off, but (they) were where I want to be. Then getting the changeup on the other side helped me get some quicker outs.

“I felt good about what I was doing all day. Had a long first and walked a couple of guys, but I felt like there was no need to change the game plan. They were close misses that I felt like were good pitches, so we were gonna keep doing that. Then as the game went on, I stopped missing ‘just off’ and was ‘just on,’ so I was able to get more economical.”

Middle Relief & Set-up

Peter Lambert, Jake Bird, and Mears all tossed scoreless outings in relief.

“It’s all about picking up the guys before you and continuing to put up zeroes, just as the guys in front of you did,” Mears said.

Late-inning Production

The Rockies scored three runs in the sixth to take the lead and two runs in the eighth to pad it. Then, after the gut-punch top of the ninth, they scored four more.

What Went Wrong for the Rockies

Too Many Pitches to Get through the First

Yes, he only allowed one run in the first, but Gomber still took 41 pitches to get through it. That limited his start to four innings. Rockies starters must last longer in their appearances, or they will exhaust their relief corps by the end of May.

“We’ve just got to do a better job of keeping us in games,” Gomber pointed out. “Ideally, we want to give us five, six, seven innings. But if it’s only four, then let’s be in the game when we’re out. A couple of games have gotten away from us early on, so (the) big emphasis is trying to keep us in the game.”

The Top of the Ninth

Justin Lawrence entered the game with a four-run lead and could not close it out. A merry-go-round of hits led to the Rays comeback. After Lawrence left and Beeks came in, the Rays took the lead on an uncharacteristic error by McMahon.

Quotes

“I thought I made a lot of really good pitches in the first inning. A couple (were) off, I was just missing, but I wasn’t gonna give in. But they (the Rays) did a good job. Early on, I think it was like 14 foul balls or something in the first inning, which is just insane. But I felt good about it. Felt good about myself. I felt like I just didn’t need to give in, and I could find a way to work out of it then, obviously, try to get as deep as I could. I never want to throw 40 pitches in the first inning, but to limit them to one run there and then keep us in the game was all we were trying to do.” — Gomber on his first inning and subsequent recovery

“I’m super-pumped for him. He’s been a constant for us since I’ve been here. Guy plays every day. Does it the right way. Leads by example. Tough play in the ninth. He made an unbelievable stop on that ball, and then, unfortunately, we were just not able to pick it up on the other end. And for him to be able to come up and make up for that was awesome to see. I know from being here what kind of player Mack is. You’re gonna get the same consistency every day. So he’s definitely a guy we’d love to see up in that situation every time.” — Gomber on Ryan McMahon

Quick Hits

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This game ended on the third walk-off grand slam in Rockies history. The other two came from Charlie Blackmon and Ryan Spilborghs. Blackmon hit his on September 11, 2020, against the Los Angeles Angels, giving the Rockies an 8–4 win. Coincidentally, McMahon hit the game-tying homer earlier in that inning. Spilborghs hit his on August 24, 2009, against the San Francisco Giants in the bottom of the 14th inning.

McMahon has hit safely in seven of eight games to begin the season and is slashing .414/.471/.586 (12-for-29) with two doubles, a homer, and six RBI. The walk-off grand slam was the third walk-off homer of his career and second grand slam. His other two walk-off homers came August 11, 2018, against the Los Angeles Dodgers and August 26, 2019, against the Atlanta Braves. The other grand slam of his career came July 30, 2021, against the San Diego Padres on the road.

Looking Ahead

Beeks (1–0) earned the win, with Fairbanks (0–1) taking the loss, both in relief.

The Rockies (2–6) and Rays (3–5) will play the second game of their three-game series Saturday evening. Rockies righty Ryan Feltner (0–1, 5.40 ERA) will face Rays lefty Tyler Alexander (0–0, 9.00 ERA). First pitch will be at 6:10 pm Mountain Time.

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Evan M. Thompson, Editor-in-chief

Evan M. Thompson, Editor-in-chief

Evan is the owner and sole contributor of Thompson Talks, a website discussing the Big Four North American Pro Sports as well as soccer. He also is a credentialed member of the Colorado Rockies press corps. His first and biggest love is baseball.

Evan lives in Gilbert, Arizona and loves history, especially of sports. He is the treasurer for the Hemond Chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) and also is a USSF and AIA soccer referee. He released his first book, Volume I of A Complete History of the Major League Baseball Playoffs, in October of 2021.

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