I think it was about this time last year when the Colorado Rockies turned their play up a notch to begin their journey through to the postseason and on to the World Series. If what I think (and hope) is true, Colorado plays its best baseball after the all-star break.
In the same line as last season, the Rockies have started off the second half of this season in fine blue-collar style, taking two of three from the (then) National League West leading Dodgers with great starting pitching from Ubaldo Jimenez on Tuesday and then great relief from the bullpen on Wednesday.
The Rox beat the Dodgers on Wednesday 5-3 to complete an impressive 6-1 homestand that started off the second half of the season. In five of those victories, Colorado’s bullpen combined to pitch 14 and one-third scoreless innings. On Wednesday, Colorado went to their bullpen after starter Glendon Rusch left the game after five innings with a 5-3 lead. Jason Grilli, Manuel Corpas, Taylor Buchholz, and Brian Fuentes, in a combined relief effort, shut down the Dodgers who remained scoreless the rest of the game.
Fuentes earned his 17th save of the season and tied the franchise record for most saves with 102.
Now when I say blue-collar style, these pitching performances are just that. All work, no talk and a great showing. But enough about the Rockies pitching, and on to the Rockies hot batting.
While franchise player Todd Helton continues to recover from lower back problems, the Rockies young lineup has stepped up to the plate both figuratively and literally in bringing the Rockies needed wins.
Matt Holliday entered this week’s games hitting six out of eight with two homeruns and five RBIs in the previous two games, according to The Denver Post. On Tuesday, he went two-for-four with his average topping out at .341. Most impressive has been third baseman Ian Stewart who was called up from the Rockies’ Triple-A Colorado Springs team on Saturday. Since then he has batted .529 with three doubles, one homerun and 10 RBIs.
Troy Tulowitzki made his way back into the Rockies lineup on Monday after cutting his hand on a shattered bat on July 4. Tulo finished the game in their loss against the Dodgers five-for-five.
Now it is anybody’s guess how long the Rockies can keep up both the hitting and pitching, but it was anybody’s guess last year and look where they made it. As of Thursday morning the Rockies find themselves six games down from the NL West leading Diamondbacks and just five games behind second-place L.A. In another observation, did anyone notice the difference between the NL West of this year compared to last year?
Last year, the NL West was the premier league in all of baseball by having one of the highest winning percentages among the leagues as well as having great competition among its teams. But this year, the NL West division finds itself rock bottom and ESPN.com has the so-called scoop on it.
In his story titled “West Ain’t Best” on ESPN.com, Steve Phillips contends injuries and bad baseball have plagued NL West teams – all of whom are all currently under .500.
“So many major things have gone wrong with these teams, and the result has been some disappointing performances,” Phillips wrote. “The parity at the top of the division is due to a lot of bad baseball.”
Phillips is of course talking about the Arizona Diamondbacks, who started the year as baseball’s hottest and most promising team but has come into recent hard times because the young players have not been able to adjust their game as the season progresses. Even though they are slumping, the D-Backs remain the best of the worst right now.
As for the others, the Dodgers are injury-ridden and the Giants just can’t stay consistent, even though they too showed some early season promise. And just what does Phillips think of the Rockies?
“I had concerns about the Colorado Rockies going into the year, just because you can’t count on winning 21 of 22 ever happening again,” Phillips wrote.
Well, I stopped reading the story right there. He was an obvious naysayer during last year’s miraculous run to the World Series, so what does this guy really know? Nothing. If this young Rockies team has proved anything, it is the fact that they can go on a long winning streak when they get hot. And yes, the team is still capable of doing just that.
As Arizona’s young players continue to slump, the Rockies young players are getting back into their blue-collar style of winning. From there, anything can happen. I will be surprised if the Rockies don’t win the NL West – even though it may be the worst.