The Rockies’ formula to winning is rotation, bullpen, and defense. Offense is enough to win most games if the other three parts do their jobs. They did exactly that today in a 5-2 victory over the White Sox. Tyler Matzek went three shutout innings in a marked contrast to his debut last Sunday. He hammered the strike zone except for a 4-pitch walk and got himself in a 3-1 hole before inducing a ground out over a eight pitch span. The one hit Matzek gave up was an infield that could have been either a hit or an error. D.J. ranged to his right to vacuum the grounder, but bobbled a bit and that caused him to fall backwards with a weak throw to first. Matzek only needed 38 pitches to breeze through his three innings.
Jon Gray followed Matzek and Jose Abreu hit a triple that got past a diving Drew Stubbs. Abreu was slow as a turtle running the bases. Ninety-eight percent of the MLBers would have had inside the park HR standing up. It was my personal opinion that it should be a single and two-base error. Either that or Stubbs should keep the ball in front of him. Because of Abreu’s turtle-like speed, Jon Gray wasn’t fazed. First out – ground ball to Tulo that Abreu wouldn’t dare to run home. Second out – Abreu didn’t know that D.J. LeMahieu had a gold glove so he took off for home. D.J. nailed him at the plate with a perfect throw on a chopper. Spring training shutout goal by Gray preserved. It is just incredible to see Gold Gloves at 3B, SS, and 2B along with a faux Gold Glove at 1B (Morneau). Also the fact that Nick Hundley is catching makes a difference in how game calling is done.
Chris Rusin went the next two innings and he wasn’t much to write home about after he gave up a couple of runs that enabled the Chisox to tie the game 2-2. But the Rockies answered the Chisox with three runs of their own. Baby Bull, who entered the game playing first base, started the rally with a solid single. For the second time this week, Ryan Casteel (DH today) put together a quality AB that brought a runner home from third base and less than two outs with a sac fly to deep right field. LeMahieu and Matt McBride (played RF) had an RBI each for an eventual 5-2 final score.
Christian Friedrich made his first Cactus League appearance today tossing a quick eight-pitch inning allowing one hit. Two of the outs were on loud outs (fly balls to deep center that Rosell Hererra reeled in). Brooks Brown closed out the game with a LaTroy Hawkin-like save. He only needed nine pitches in a perfect inning.
My take in Baby Bull at first base: He is definitely more comfortable there. The first play after he entered the game, Tulo’s replacement at SS (Wong) threw quite wide but Rosario stretched out maximally for the putout and acted like he’s done it several times. He did let the runner swipe 2B on a pickoff to 1B, but I think it was more Rusin’s fault than Rosario’s as the runner took off almost before Rusin started his pitching motion. Rusin took too much time throwing over to 1B. I need to see a lot more of Rosario at 1B, but he does seem a much more natural fit there than the catching position.
Sure everyone wants to know about Tulo. Today he made two plate appearances, K and then pop out, again up the elevator. Then he took the elevator up to the clubhouse. So far this spring, Tulo and CarGo (didn’t play today) still haven’t found their rhythms. The same can be said for Chuck Nazty as he just got into the Cactus League action this week. He did lead off the game with an infield single, but it looked like an error to me. The second baseman bobbled the ball a bit and the throw was late due to Blackmon busting up the line.
Today (Saturday) the Rockies travel to Goodyear to take on the Cincinnati Reds. It is my final game before I head back home to Denver. My general observations on pitching: the back three of the rotation looks far better than the de facto top two (De La Rosa and Chacin). Matzek, Lyles, and Kendrick are ready to pitch when they are stretched out. Eddie Butler and Gray are making their statements that if DLR and/or Chacin aren’t ready they are. Bullpen looks much better. I think Brooks Brown did nothing to take himself out of the bullpen. I really hope that if Brothers hasn’t righted his ship yet, they send him to Albuquerque. Hawkins, Zero, Logan, Axford, Kahnle, and probably Brown are the top bullpen arms. Friedrich may very well be a placeholder for Brothers. If they go with an eight-man pen staff, David Hale may be the eighth guy due to his ability to pitch multiple innings. ICYMI, Jonathon Mayo came out with his top 30 prospect list for the Rockies. Wow, Jairo Diaz rated a perfect 80 on his fastball. Nice job Jeff Bridich.