Perhaps there is hope on the horizon for the Colorado Rockies?
While I certainly don’t want to get too excited that, as of Monday, the Rockies have won seven out of their last eight games, there does seem to be hope that Colorado’s offensive weapons are beginning to pull their weight on a team whose pitching needs all the help it can get. On Monday, the Rox traveled down to Phoenix after an impressive home stand where they swept the Astros and took two of three from the Dodgers before opening up a three game series against the Diamondbacks. For me, Monday’s 4-0 win over the Diamondbacks was significant in that they had an ugly start and didn’t panic. I feel like the Rox have lost too many games this year simply due to some very tough first innings where the pitcher gets shelled and the game is basically over.
With rookie Christian Friedrich on the mound on Monday, it looked like it was going to go that way after he loaded the bases with a couple of walks and a double. But instead of throwing the nervous meatball for a grand slam, he continued to fight from the mound and was able to get out of the inning unscathed.
From there, Friedrich set in with a nice fastball/curveball combo and went for seven shutout innings, striking out four batters. So with Friedrich putting in some quality time on the mound, it was only a matter of time before the Rockies’ recently found bats would come in and win the game for the young pitcher.
Rockies’ papa smurf Todd Helton belted a leadoff double in the second inning and was later driven in to score thanks a single by Jordan Pacheco. And then Wilin Rosario decided to keep his impressive rookie season alive when he hit his ninth home run on the season. It was a performance that shows signs of a gritty and tough baseball team. A young kid was on the mound; he struggled but survived thanks to defense and a run-generating offense.
Monday’s win was the second win where a young pitcher, on a somewhat shaky Rockies rotation, pitched a good game to lift the Rockies for a win. Alex White, 23, only gave up two hits in just over six innings in a 3-2 win over the Dodgers.
“The competitiveness of our starting pitching has improved immensely,” Manager Jim Tracy told The Boston Herald. “Over the course of the last two days, that’s 13 and two-thirds innings from two young kids and two great efforts, from both White and Friedrich. The more times we’re able to do that, the more confidence they develop, the more they start to believe in themselves, the more they learn.”
Hopefully the two kids can gain the confidence they need to continue to succeed because the starting rotation needs all the help it can get. Jorge De La Rosa’s comeback after receiving elbow surgery is delayed after a rehab setback and Juan Nicasio is now on the disabled list because of a strained left knee.
With almost a third of the season past us, the Rockies find themselves six games under .500 and are 9.5 games out of first place. While third place isn’t exactly where they want to be, not too long ago, Colorado was 14.5 games out of first place and at the bottom of the National League West.
What the Rockies need to do now is continue to score runs and find a way to win on the road. As of Tuesday, they were only 9-15 on the road.
I guess the message here is that it may be too early to count the Rockies out this season but with the struggles they’ve experienced in their pitching, it may be too early to get real excited. While this latest trend to becoming a solid baseball team is encouraging, I think there may be other, past trends that may give us Rockies fans hope as well.
I remember last year getting overly excited about Colorado at the start of the season when they were not only one of the hottest teams in baseball, they were the hottest team in baseball. So what happened when I started wearing my black CR hat around town, telling people this is the team to watch out for this year? That Tulo, Cargo and Helton are a force to be reckoned with? They went on a nasty slump and didn’t impress the rest of the year.
So, maybe, coming out of the cellar is exactly where we should want the Rockies to be. They’ve got nowhere to go but up and by the looks of it, the Dodgers have nowhere to go but down and that downhill slide has already begun.
Of course, it all comes down to pitching. As Tracy put it in The Denver Post recently, the pitching doesn’t have to be great, it has to be just good enough.
“We don't expect our guys to throw shutouts, just keep us in the game and give this offense a chance," Tracy said.
I, for one, think this philosophy can work with the team the Rockies have right now. And if it doesn't work, I’ve already heard opinions from dedicated fans around the region that this may be the year where Colorado needs to find a new manager. Is it time for that already? I sure hope not.
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