DENVER — Cold?
Pshhh. Not for a Colorado guy.
“It felt like high school baseball. I don’t mind pitching in the cold. I was used to it growing up," Class of 2001 Cheyenne Mountain High grad and Atlanta Braves righty Brandon McCarthy said in the visiting clubhouse after Atlanta enjoyed a cold Coors in the Rockies’ home opener, 8-3.
With a first-pitch temperature of 27 degrees, marking the second-coldest game in Rockies history after a 23-degree chiller in 2013, the tougher team won. Leave it to a man who once sustained a fractured skull to own the day. McCarthy grew up in Colorado Springs and didn't flinch when, after a one-hour weather delay, he was notified the show would go on. He joked the only downside was how it interrupted his viewing of the Masters.
Everybody knows Rockies home openers are where natives go to party. And for the second straight opener at Coors, a Colorado man stole the scene. Last year it was Thomas Jefferson High’s Kyle Freeland, mowing down Dodgers like they were Beau Jo’s pizza slices. This time it was McCarthy: five hits, three runs and four strikeouts over six frigid innings.
Credit those in the sold-out crowd announced at 48,216 who stuck around for all nine. Rockies shortstop Trevor Story, a Texan, appeared ready for an Arctic expedition. As I toured the opening day festivities outside the gates at 20th and Blake, the dogs being walked around LoDo wore sweaters. One chocolate Lab even had booties tied to his feet. Never change, Colorado.
It was McCarthy who thanked his upbringing in our unpredictable spring for his handiwork Friday. McCarthy, who in 2012 endured a pitcher’s nightmare when he was drilled in the head with a line drive off the bat of Erick Aybar, sustaining a brain contusion in the process, simply heated up on the mound.
And at the plate.
In the Braves’ only trip to Colorado this year, McCarthy smacked an RBI double in the fifth — only his seventh hit (and first extra-base hit) since he debuted in the big leagues in 2005. We'll need to ask Elias, but at 6-foot-8, McCarthy might be the tallest individual to stand on second at Coors Field.
"You've got to give them full credit for how they pitched us," Rockies manager Bud Black said.
Hey, the Rox schedule still shows 156 games — sixth months to analyze the home team's hunt for a second straight postseason appearance. But only two bright spots emerged in this one: in a homecoming of his own, free agent signee Carlos Gonzalez added a triple to a 445-foot homer that bounced off a right-field awning before his dropped bat could hit the dirt.
And Toothy won the Tooth Trot.
Other than that, the Rockies never looked comfy in the cold.
How did McCarthy recover from CarGo's rocket shot over the fence?
“I just tried to stop throwing terrible pitches," he said.
Rain, sunshine or sideways snow, Coors Field never had been kind to McCarthy, who was 0-2 with a 7.94 ERA in four previous starts in his home state. Not much is expected of these Braves, but they are expecting a bunch from McCarthy. In December, when Atlanta unloaded Matt Kemp and his monster contract to the Los Angeles Dodgers, McCarthy came back in return. The Braves hope the veteran right-hander can stabilize their rotation until the young prospects arrive from the farm system.
And McCarthy’s Twitter account (@BMcCarthy32) inevitably provides a source of comic relief.
“I know he’s fine but can we start a gofundme or something for Sergio?” he opined during Garcia’s Masters meltdown.
While several Rockies dressed for a snowmobile race, McCarthy rocked only a long-sleeve shirt under his No. 32 Braves jersey.
“It’s not something I’m scared of. It’s something I almost get excited for," McCarthy said. "I’m very out of my element in the heat and humidity. But in the cold it’s just something I know sucks for hitters."
Yes, opening day offered up weather you might find back East. Say, at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park, which kinda-sorta looks like Coors Field if you squint hard enough. For Brandon McCarthy it felt like home.