Quick Review and then a Long Review
Okay, lets his the high points for those who don’t have a lot of time to read:
Starting pitching good enough, as Juan Nicasio gave up a homer in the first to Adrian Beltre (his 26th against the Rockies in his career), and then after that no runs. Only 2 hits in total. The problem is 5 walks, which kept a lot of traffic on the bases, though he was saved by a line-out double play in the fourth and a lot of great plays by the group of Culberson at 2nd, Tulo and Arenado with a number of great plays. He was only at 88 pitches, but it was clear he was not in charge, so he was pulled in the 5th inning winning 3-1. The team picked-up and extra run in the 5th to extend the lead.
Nicasio was pulled for Chris Martin, who gave up a single that was erased by a great Arenado double-play, and then after a walk got a nice come-backer to end the inning. Then there was the 6th for the Rockies…get to that in a second, suffice it to say, the game was over at that point. Rex came in to pitch the 7th to try and get him some confidence. On the good side…Rex had his velocity up, which they need. He gave up a hit over his head to start the inning. Then got the tailor-made double-play (6-4-3). Then Choo lined one off Rex, for another single. Another single to the pinch-hitter got it 2nd and 1st but against the best hitter for the Rangers, Beltre, Kd with a 94-95-95-89-89 with a slider that required a toss to first. Hey, that is progress for Rex.
The 8th saw Belisle come in and have an okay inning, not as good as his last 3, but got two quick grounders to short and second. Then things went wonky. Line-drive to left, double over Charlie Blackmon in right to make it 2nd and 3rd. A walk to Andrus made it bases-loaded. Matt two weeks ago gives up 3 runs here. This time he got a nice grounder on a slider to get out without any runs. Great work again by the pen. The 9th was given to Adam Ontavino who needed the work – groundout to short on a slider, line-out (almost a hit) to 2nd on a slider, and a fly-out to center to end the game (not on a slider amazingly enough). So the pitching line: 1 Run on 8 hits (and 7 walks). That is 15 runners of which 14 were wasted after the 1st inning bomb by Beltre!
So, before you read that “Coors Field this” and “Coors Field that” – remember that good pitching against a good offensive team managed to allow a total of 3 runs over two games. In 18 home games the Rockies have allowed: 2,4,5(L), 1,15(L), 4, 1,1,10(L), 2,1,12(L) in 11 innings,4,3,10,5(L),2,1 – don’t tell me you can’t pitch at Coors! Yes, there are four big outputs against Rockies pitching (1-3 in those), but you can pitch at Coors, so don’t tell me that Tulo, Arenado, CarGo and such are only good because of Coors.
Folks, in 18 games at home, that is 8 games where the Rox allowed 2 runs or later….44%! Yes Virginia, the Rockies can pitch at home.
Okay, to the offense. On a night facing a lefty, Walt goes with Charlie Blackmon in the lead-off spot, and for the first-time all year, a lead-off homer by a Rockie, making it 1-1. After a Stubbs K, Tulo was hit-by-pitch, went to third on the first of five hits by CarGo, and was driven in by Arenado on a sac-fly. As they have done all home-stand, even when they gave up runs in the first, they Rox came back to give their starter a lead. In the third the top of the line-up came through again, with Stubbs singling off of the 2nd baseman, another single by Tulo, a soft-single by CarGo to left (the Rangers played their defenders way back all game, giving up bloop hit after bloop hit) and Stubbs reading it well scored to make it 3-1. Sadly, Nolan then grounded into a nice double-play 3rd to 1st, as we were treated to arguably the best two defenders at 3rd base right now.
Once again the top of line-up had huge inning, with Stubbs lined a double off Alex Rios in the right-fields’ glove, and then you have sharp single by Tulo, 3rd and 1st, for CarGo another single to bring in Stubbs. And then Arenado lined into a double-play on a nice grab by the short to 2nd. Not Nolan’s night.
The game blew up in the 6th, as the Rox sent 12 men to the plate, scoring 6 runs. Among those was a walk to Arenado, one of the only times I can remember booing for a walk that was not intentional. Loved it. We want to see Arenado hit!!!!
The 7th saw the Rockies add two more…Drew Stubbs, off a righty, knew it immediately, deep over the 415 sign into the forest, a lot like the Cloberson homer on Saturday night. Tulo was finally gotten out. Then bringing in a lefty to face CarGo…didn’t help, ground-rule double to make it 5-5 for CarGo, raising his batting average back to .279. He was down in the .220s earlier this home-stand. He may not be all the way hot, but it’s a good time for him to be getting there. So, last chance for Nolan Arenado. Against the lefty. Down 1-2, he took two closer balls, setting up a 3-2 count. Another walk? NO! Nolan lined a ball right over third base landing right on the chalk/paint, you could see the ball mark, the crowd in the corner told us it was fair as they went crazy! Double for Nolan, and a 26 game hitting streak, 1 short of the team record. It was a 1-3 night, with 2 RBIs, and yes he left 4 runners-on-base, and his average is only .314, but the whole team went crazy on that hit.
The 8th saw the Rockies shut down by Mitch Moreland, Rangers 1B/DH, who threw some hard 94/95 heat, sometimes right at Rockies, but he got the job done, leading to plenty of ribbing I am sure on the flight to Dallas.
So how big a night in those 8 innings of hitting? 12 Runs on 21 hits. At one point it was 16 to 3 hits-wise. The 12-1 game felt as though it wasn’t that close!
That is the end of the short review!
So the Rockies head on the road having play 18 at home and 17 on the road. The home record – 13-5 and on the road, 8-9. Their 21-14 record puts them 1 behind the Giants at 21-12 and 1.5 ahead of the Dodgers at 19-15. The Rockies are winning at .722. The record is the 32 Yankees had the best winning record at .805, so can they play .722 baseball all year? Probably not, but say .675 would be 54 games (Miami at home is even better at 16-5 right now). Anyways, winning at home is their job #1 according Walt. Then play the best road ball you can. Can they play close to .500 ball on the road? With the pitching they are doing? With their quality 2 strike hitting? Sure. This next trip is going to be very difficult: 2 games in Texas, then three in Cinncinatii and then….a day off as they head back West stopping over for 2 games against the dangerous Kansas City Royals (no word yet if we get their hard throwing young ace). So, this next trip, 7 games and 3 cities. Starts off with Jorge De La Rosa (3-3, 5.11, 5ER in last 18 innings), pitching his best baseball against Colby Lewis (2-1, 4.22) and Franklin Morales (3-1, 5.05 9ER in last 10 innings, 1 ER in each of the prior two starts) against Matt Harrison (0-0, 4.35 5ER in 10.1 innings to start the season).
Okay, now we have to cover the 6th inning:
The inning started easy enough for the Rangers, as Pacheco grounded out to the shortstop. Pinch-hitting for Martin, Brandon Barnes singled on a flair to right field (again Rangers playing very deep). Then with Blackmon up the pitcher threw to 1st and Fielder wiffed, allowing Barnes to go 2nd. Blackmon then had a Todd Helton-type AB, fouling off pitch after pitch, both those tight inside and those on the far part of the plate. Then on pitch 8 the pitch got too much of the plate and the ball was lined into left, scored a double and allowing Barnes to cross the plate. Still, the game I under control, just 5-1. Stubbs grounded out next, as they held Blackmon to 2nd, now two-outs. Problem is that with 1st base open…they pitched to Tulo who then lined the ball deep into left-field, scoring Blackmon. Next up is CarGo who drills the ball right through Josh Wilson at 2nd and into center field. The term “the ball ate him up” fits that play perfectly. Next up Arenado….and the walk (the Rangers changed pitchers before Stubbs going with Alexi Ogando, a really good pitcher not off to a great start). Would they get Nolan another chance to hit? Well, they would need three batters to reach to ensure it would happen (and the team seems to care more about the streak than Nolan). Justin Morneau up next, another nice hit past Fielder into right-field, scoring CarGo. Well, next up was Charlie Culberson, playing tonight at 2nd and having a good night defensively, was along with Nolan the only hitter without a hit…until he flared it into right-field to score Arenado. Up next, Pacheco who started the inning with an out but…not this time, singles on a line-drive to left, scoring Morneau for run #6. Then pinch-hitter, Brandon Barnes, hit a soft roller to third that Beltre who nailed Barnes by a step (it looked like Barnes hyper-extended his knee, we shall see if anything shows up in the injury report). The final out came when Charlie Blackmon flied out deep to the Ranger’s centerfield. Twelve men, 6 runs, and lots of fun. A great inning, and reminder of the big 8 run 5th on Saturday, but this was more singles and doubles than grand slams.
The Rockies had a great two game set against the Rangers, and closed out the 6 game homestand with lots of hits, a lot of them on 2 strike counts. If they can bring any of this on the road, they should be very dangerous. Tulo was hitting an OPS of .895 on the road….but that included a slow start against the Marlins and Giants. They are going to three pretty good hitting parks so there is no reason this team cannot keep hitting well, if not this well, well enough to score runs.
As for the pitching? That will be the key. We have seen a lot of 5 inning pitching performance. Nicasio tonight could not go the 6 innings for a quality start despite allowing just the 2 hits, one after the homer in the 1st. DLR went 6 on Friday. Morales fought through 5 on Saturday (and was in-line to win that game after the 8 run 5th but of course the Mets came back). On Sunday the Rockies sent Chacin for his opener, but he only gave them 5 as he was very wild and not quite ready for prime-time (hopefully outing #2 should be better), and then there was the 8+ inning game by Lyles. This has been the worst time through the rotation we have seen, with just the two quality starts from DLR and Lyles. But we have seen Morales throw good games just 12 days ago. Juan was dominate if wild tonight. Chacin shold be much better. But that having been said…the pitching needs a rebound as they head on the road and these hitters park. But as all the pitchers should realize, let them hit it – there is gold-glove defense being played across the infield and when its CarGo, Stubbs and Blackmon/Barnes, close to gold glove defense across the outfield.
And the pen? Since the blow-up on Saturday night they gave up 1 run on Sunday, 1 on Monday (charged to Lyles as he opened the inning with the hit to Beltre, but Masset will tell you that is on him), and then 0 tonight. They threw Martin, Brothers, Belisle and Ontavino on Monday, so they should be rested. No word yet on whether Cuddy will be activated soon or whom goes down.
So…a great record, 7 game above .500, and that is still with a 1-6 record in pen-loss games. This record is not a fluke, as they have played a tough schedule team-wise and the have had only the 2 off-days. So…can they keep it up? Sure, but it all goes back to the same keys since day 1 – good starting, good pen work, timely offense, great defense, and hard-working bench. I like this team…but I think that Ranger are going to be happy to out of Colorado!