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Rockies nearly blow double-digit lead, late rally knocks out Reds

Chi Chi Gonzalez was cruising. The Rockies’ starter scattered four hits over seven shutout innings, and when he departed, his teammates had spotted him to a 10-lead over the visiting Reds. Gonzalez would have liked to make a run at the complete-game shutout, but departed to high-fives in the Rockies dugout after 88 pitches.

“The ball-strike ratio was great. He was around the plate. The best version of Chi Chi is what you saw tonight,” manager Bud Black said after the game… which didn’t end up going the way Black could’ve expected.

Black went to Lucas Gilbreath to open the eighth, a decision that turned out poorly when Gilbreath surrendered a two-run home run to Cincinnati pinch-hitter Tyler Stephenson en route to coughing up three earned runs in 1/3 of an inning.

Back to the drawing board.

Black tried reliever Robert Stephenson next, but Stephenson allowed four singles to the next five batters, surrendering four more earned runs in another 1/3 of an inning when Black, now desperate to simply get out of the eighth inning with a lead intact, tried Mychal Givens, who immediately gave up a three-run home run to Reds second baseman Jonathan India before finally getting out of a disastrous, eight-run eighth inning.

Fortunately, the Rockies’ hitters took matters back into their own hands, punching in three runs of their own on a double by Yonathan Daza and a homer by pinch-hitter Garrett Hampson, finally putting the old-school Coors Field contest away with a 13-8 margin after Rockies reliever Ben Bowden mercifully put up a scoreless ninth.

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NEXT UP: Rockies (14-24, 5th in NL West) vs. Reds (17-18, 3rd in NL West) | Friday, May 14 at 6:40 p.m. | COL: German Marquez (1-4, 5.49 ERA) vs. CIN: Luis Castillo (4-2, 2.00 ERA)

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NOTES

• Josh Fuentes’ bat stayed hot as he hit his second home run in two games, going 3-for-4 with 4 RBI on Thursday. He had been mired in a 1-for-10 slump prior to Wednesday and Thursday’s games, in which he’s gone 5-for-9 with a pair of homers and seven RBI, raising his batting average from .191 to .223 in the process.

• Kyle Freeland may be nearing his return to the Rockies. Scheduled to start for Triple-A Albuquerque on Saturday, Freeland is expected to make two starts before being evaluated once more. “He’s built up and we feel good about it, and the arm feels great,” Rockies manager Bud Black explained. “You know, the most important thing is his health, and along the way, he’s felt confident in where he is physically and mentally, which is also a big hurdle to overcome. It’s how you feel, mentally, about your arm — and he’s in a really good spot.”

• Brendan Rodgers is set to begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Albuquerque on Friday, where he’ll play second base. “I think he’s got to get game stamina; that game feeling that you can come into a big-league game and you’re totally ready to go as far as endurance, concentration level [and] conditioning,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “To see pitches and to see live pitching and to see competitive fastballs and competitive breaking balls. No timeline, but he’s in a really good spot and we’ll get that underway [on Friday].” Rodgers had a terrific spring prior to his hamstring injury, hitting .348 with a pair of homers and five RBI in Cactus League play. Needless to say, whether Rodgers can begin to fulfill the promise that he showed when the Rockies picked him third overall in the 2015 draft is one of the organization’s most pressing questions.

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THE FINAL WORD

“It was nice to score some points for the team tonight.” — Rockies first baseman Connor Joe, who had his first major-league RBI ( and two more) in Wednesday’s win

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STARTING LINEUP

LF Raimel Tapia
1B Connor Joe
RF Charlie Blackmon
2B Ryan McMahon
3B Josh Fuentes
C Dom Nunez
CF Yonathan Daza
SS Alan Trejo
SP Chi Chi Gonzalez

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INJURY WATCH

• Brendan Rodgers (strained right hamstring) was placed on the 10-day IL on Apr. 1. He will begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Albuquerque on May 14.
• Kyle Freeland (strained left shoulder) was placed on the 10-day IL on Apr. 1. He has been throwing bullpen sessions and is expected back in May. Freeland will start for Triple-A Albuquerque on May 15.
• C.J. Cron (strained lower back) was placed on the 10-day IL on May 10, retroactive to May 7.
• Carlos Estevez (strained right middle finger) was placed on the 10-day IL on May 3, retroactive to April 30.
• Chris Owings (left thumb surgery) was placed on the 60-day IL in mid-April and will likely be out until the All-Star break.
• Scott Oberg (blood clots) had surgery prior to the end of Spring Training. He was placed on the 60-day IL on Mar. 27 and his season is in doubt.

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Shawn Drotar is the host of “The Fan Late Night with Shawn Drotar;” weeknights from 10:00 p.m. to midnight — only on 104.3 The Fan