DENVER — July 20 is a date Connor Joe will never forget.
He was called up to the Rockies for the third time this season, but this day represents something much bigger for Joe: It’s the one-year anniversary of him being declared cancer-free after a five-month battle with testicular cancer. To celebrate the milestone, he hit a homer to dead center, the first of his career.
"It’s a special day," Joe said. "I couldn’t write it up any better than it happened. It’s a really special moment, special day. I just can’t thank my support staff enough. My wife, my parents, my in-laws. It's amazing."
He didn’t even take a second to enjoy the moment, sprinting around the bases and only slowing down when his teammates intercepted him in the dugout to celebrate. Joe said he didn't know it was a homer until he made it around second base. He plans to give his first home run ball to his wife, who was the one that reminded him last night that Tuesday was the anniversary.
The moment lived up to what he dreamed of as a kid, and more so because of the significance of the date.
"I can't explain all of the emotions," he said. "It's a day I'll remember forever."
His career day was overshadowed though, as the Rockies fell 6-4 to the Mariners in the first of a two-game series.
Fresh off his first All-Star appearance, starting pitcher Germán Márquez seemed like he was picking up right where he left off. His first inning was strong, requiring just 10 pitches. Then the Mariners started hitting him hard, his pitch count stretched high early and the Mariners took advantage of a few missed locations.
Aside from not getting the full week to rest and recuperate before the second half of the season, the All-Star week is so much more than just the game. There’s hours of media sessions, a Hollywood-style purple carpet event and a home run derby the night before the actual game. All of it can take a toll.
And Márquez likely would have gotten a few more days rest if Antonio Senzatela was not on the COVID list. But he still took to the mound, trudging through three innings before giving up his first hit in the fourth. Until then, the only eye-raising moment came in the second, when he threw four fastballs and missed his location on every one, sending Shed Long Jr. on a free trip to first.
Things began to unravel in the sixth, even though it started with a bit of luck as Mitch Haniger tried to stretch a routine hit to left field into a double, only to get tagged out. Then Kyle Seager hit a double, reaching the base safely unlike his predecessor. Ty France singled next, and Cal Raleigh hit an RBI double to score Seager and France. Dylan Moore drove in two more runs with a home run.
"They attacked," Márquez said. "They got it pretty good. It was just one inning, I feel like in the next outing I’m going to have a great outing and finish strong."
Tyler Kinley, a part of the Rockies' bullpen that entered the game with the second-highest ERA in the majors, gave up two more runs in the seventh as the Mariners extended their lead.
Joe added a double in the seventh, a sneaky line drive down the third-base line, in addition to a diving catch in left field. The Rockies got some momentum in the eighth, after Charlie Blackmon hit a triple and CJ Cron nailed a home run to get the Rockies within two.