Fresh off of three starting performances that gave the team a real chance to win without having to go all “Coors Field,” the Rockies were able to even up the series with the Pads, climb back above .500, and get their record to 3-4 at Coors. If only the bullpen had been able to hold the Matzek Tuesday night game things would even be sunnier. But we have hope again.
The Rockies need their youngest players to be stars. Corey Dickerson’s bat essentially has won two straight games, including an absolute moonshot above the jet stream and through the heart of the wind Thursday that made the bullpen. And with an injured left wrist Nolan “I own the Gold Glove and Nobody is Taking it EVER” Arenado made a number of great plays to preserve wins. He also has been handy with the bat at the right times (9th inning on Wednesday being just one).
And Now for a Lecture on Momentum…Please Feel Free to Skip to the Actual Game Preview.
So the Rox now have a 2 game win streak with the suddenly hot Giants coming to town. The three games this weekend may provide us with an excuse to watch golf or keep our attention into May. A sweep and the Rox go to the road with a 5 game win streak. A bad series and the team limps into the road questioning itself.
I know many people don’t believe in “momentum.” The SABR guys poo-poo it. But I literally am a student of human nature. When people have confidence. When they believe they can do certain things. When they know their actions make a difference, they focus more. Of course you can only do this so long – being it hitting an opponent who is simply better than you (Kershaw and the Dodgers last weekend), or just essentially tiring out (the Rox in 2007 and the Royals in 2014) because such intensity is draining, momentum really is an aspect of group dynamics. Likewise, when you are certain that others will fail you, you bring less focus to your own role. You expect bad things and you get bad things. Whether its an office, a bowling team or the Major League baseball, these human and group dynamics have been studied and identified.
So far this season the Rox had momentum and perhaps destroyed the confidence of the Brewers for the rest of the year, then ran into a Cubs team that after a talk amongst themselves believed they were better at bat then they showed (of course a Kyle Kendrick gopher ball feast and fat Hawkins pitches helps). And yes, human error can create great opportunities for destroying or creating momentum. Then the Rox ran into a very unconfident and lacking identity Giants (sans Panda and Pence). They rolled them. The Rox then ran into an equally rolling Dodgers team with far superior pitching. The result was obvious. The Pads came in believing in their bats and stole the first two games. And then Kyle Kendrick, knowing he had to save the bullpen pitched a fantastic game (til the 7th) and Jordan Lyles froze their bats. The old saying momentum is only as strong as your next day’s pitcher does come into play. The key guys (the pitcher, lead-off guy, clean-up guy) have got to have confidence they can be their best. They were the past two days…oh, and they got back Dickerson and Nolan. That helps.
We Interrupt this Human Dynamics Lecture to do an Actual Game Preview….
So in roll the Giants tonight, suddenly playing good ball for an exact repeat of the series in San Fran. And the first pitcher they face is the type of pitcher the Rox always struggle against – Chris Heston. His 91 mph sinker is accompanied by a lot of slow stuff. Can the Rox hitters stay back and not simply roll over to 2nd (yes, that is you CarGo I am talking to). The Rox managed 7 hits, 2 runs, 1 ER, with 5K/2BB. They did string together 2 hits to score in one frame and then two hits and a wild pitch to score the other. But it was not a good offensive performance. Heston has been fantastic this year, already 2-1 with a miniscule 0.87 ERA and a WHIP of .968 (the other peripherals make it clear he isn’t as dominating as he has been and luck and stadiums have aided him). Heston’s first taste of Coors should be interesting.
Facing him Eddie Butler, who managed a shut-out though his 5.1 innings despite SIX WALKS. His ERA sits at a stellar 2.25 (just above fellow walk machine, Tyler Matzek’s 2.40). But his Fielding Independent Pitching ERA (again trying to get a feel for the pitcher’s performance) is 4.89, two and a half runs higher, thanks to a WHIP of 1.625. Butler was much better last Sunday against a very good and deep Dodgers lineup, and could well have won that game. This still isn’t the Butler of 2013. That Butler could K guys regularly (8.6/9 innings), held his walks down (3.1/9), and dominated with a 1.80 ERA and a WHIP of .989. That Butler was confident. That Butler trusted himself. That Butler looked like a future #1 for the Rockies staff. This Butler feels more like Jamey Wright, tentative, fearful, and trying to get around hitters rather than attacking them. He is in the Majors to stay, so he is going to have to get back his mojo up here. We need to see it happen, because we don’t need another #5 guy on this staff and in the future.
As far as hitting, the Rox have been riding a lot of Dickerson, a lot of Arenado, some DJ and 5 hits from the catchers the last two days. When Dickerson and Arenado sat out games on Monday and Tuesday they lost. When they played on Wednesday and Thursday they won close games. Coincidence? Momentum creators?
What is not working right now is the team’s stars. Tulo is doing…”okay” He is hitting .300, but he seems to be failing more and more in key settings, with runners aboard or a chance to break the game open. This is not the Tulo who can and will carry this team. The good news for Rox fans…you know that will happen, and when it happens if the pitching is decent, well, the Rox could roll. Then there is CarGo, who after he hit that bomb in Milwaukee has been dreadful. He is hitting weak groundballs to 2nd or 1st seemingly every AB. Or a lazy fly ball. He is either out front on his swing or really late. Right now, even if the team wanted to, it couldn’t trade CarGo. I do think the .315 with 25 HR CarGo is in there (as we saw in the first series). He is simply out of rhythm. This team needs him to get back to his rhythm as soon as possible. After a day off, we expect to see him in the lineup again Friday.
To CarGo’s credit his defense has been stellar (Gold Glove worthy maybe). There is also a fairly good correlation between the performance of the Rox D and winning. With so many ground ball/no strikeout pitchers, they D has to be really good. So far, it has most of the time. Keep it up and maybe the people at ESPN and MLB will notice their every-night web gems.