Will try and keep this short…but it was such a great game there is lots to talk about. Set the DVR to catch the Rockies Double Play on ROOT because it is worth the time!
So each of the main phases of the game:
Jordan Lyles was talked about on ESPN’s the SweetSpot on Saturday before his start (I updated the post I wrote about it to include the ESPN link here http://jaredb17.sg-host.com/2014/05/06/is-this-a-lyles-illusion/)
What they basically say is that Lyles doesn’t strike-out enough batters to be as good as he has been this year, but that his prior two years in Houston may have worse than his actual talent. Well, I don’t know if Jordan was reading ESPN on Saturday because he pitched a very different game. He gave a homerun in the bottom of the second to Joey Votto on the first pitch he threw to him (that is two home-runs on the last two pitches for Votto in less than 24 hours). Lyles didn’t allow another hit until 5th inning. He allowed a soft hit into right-field in the 5th and two in the 6th (a double and single, to score the 2nd Reds run), and that was it. He did however allow 4 walks in 6 innings, double his high for the year. Some of it was late movement on pitches combined with poor framing by Pacheco as well as the old “effective wild” at work. He erased one of those walks with a double-play grounder but dealt with the traffic tonight by striking out 8 – mixing in 93 with his 4-seamer, 89-90 with his sinker and a nasty curve and slider. Contrary to ESPN, its not that Lyles can’t strike-out hitters – he can. He doesn’t need to. With so many strikeout and walks it took Jordan 103 pitches to get through the 6 innings, which is less efficiency than the Rockies pitching coaches desires. Still a great night for Jordan as he moves to 5-0 with a 2.66 ERA (5:2 GO/FO). This is not smoke-an-mirrors – this is good old-fashioned pitching that uses its defense and can get the strikeout when needed.
As good as Jordan looked, the pen looked even better. Nick Masset on his return to Ohio was dominating getting 3 outs on 8 pitches and looked totally in control. The 8th saw Matt Belisle come in and after muffing a soft-throw on a grounder to first (E-1 and you could tell Matt was mad at himself), he got a quick strike-out on 3 pitches (finishing with a nasty 87mph slider) and then a tailor-made double-play featuring a nice pirouette from Charlie Culberson. Brothers took the 9th and after giving up a sharp single and then a second batter reaching on catcher’s interference, was dominating getting three straight outs and not allowing a run. Rex was throwing 93mph fastballs hard and in for strikes as well as his slider, and looked like he took a solid step towards getting things together – still not a clean-outing, but nasty stuff. Total pitching line – 9 innings, 5 hits, 4BB, 9K, and just the 2ER. The Reds offense never got
This team has had tough week. They were held to 1 run on Sunday. They came back and had 8 and 12 runs at home against the Rangers, and then added 9 more in Texas, but the past two games they were shut-out for the first time all season 5-0 and scored only 3 losing 4-3 last night. They are tired, but still fighting. But I was getting worried we were heading back to the bad-old days of low-scoring Rockies road trips.
Well, I was worried but evidently the Rockies were not. They opened by going back-to-back with homers by Charlie Blackmon (1st on the road 8th overall) and Corey Dickerson (3rd overall, 2nd on the road). I am still checking but I believe this is the first-time they have ever led the game off with back-to-back homers. The offense kept the throttle going throughout the game. They put up 3 more in the 3rd with a double by Dickerson (I have been asking the question – why was Drew Stubbs starting against righties with Dickerson’s bat available? – the answer, they needed a lefty bat for late-inning situations), a bunt single by Tulo (taking what the defense is giving you), and a grounded-into-doubleplay by CarGo (he is going to get hot soon, his BABIP on the road is about .200), followed by a double by Nolan Arenado and then a deep bomb by Justin Morneau (8th overall, 4th on the road). After the 5-1 start Red’s starter Alfredo Simons who had an ERA of 1.99 and a 4-1 record coming in, was done.
The offense was not! Following a walk to DJ and a steal, Charlie Blackmon drove in DJ with a double and that double was followed by another Dickerson double to push the game to 7-1. The 6th inning really put the game away, as Blackmon singled and was brought home by Dickerson’s 2nd homer of the game (4th overall) that was then followed a second-back-to-back, as the Tulo let loose with a bomb, his 11th on the year, tying Stanton for the league lead (Tulo continues to lead in batting average at .405, trailing Stanton by 7 RBIs to be just short of the triple-crown on May 10th – oh, and 0 errors). What I love about this team is they do not just waste AB, even in the 9th of a `10-2 game at the time. After Arenado led-off the 9th with a strike-out Mike McKenry walked (came into Morneau’s position in the lineup earlier), followed by a Pacheco double, and McKenry was plated on a DJ groundout. That sums up the Rockies team – playing until all 27 outs are finished.
So the final – 11-2, and it was not that close. They go on Sunday early (11:10 Mountain Daylight Time) with Juan Nicasio vs. Homer Bailey. This will be the final of the 40 games in 42 days, a stretch that was viewed before the season began by ESPN as one of the 5 hardest starts for any team. The team has looked tired, but with a win tonight and the Giants loss, the Rockies are tied for the most wins in the major leagues on May 10 and if they win tomorrow and the Giants lose to the Dodgers, the Rockies can celebrate their day-off on Monday in 1st place. They also get a 2nd day off on Thursday after the two game set with the Royals.
Some Big Stats to Chew On:
For years we have seen the Rockies go on road trips of 5 or 6 or 7 games and score maybe 10 runs. The Rockies have now played 39 games, 21 on the road (they are 10-11 in those games). The Rox have scored 91 runs in those games, an average of 4.33 runs. The MLB average (this includes AL teams with the DL) is 4.2 runs – which means your Rockies, having already played 11 games in pitchers parks, are averaging more than the ML average on the road! On the road this year they have scored 6,5,5,4,4,5,6,8,5,4,9 and 11. Yes, they have had low scoring nights, but we all remember seeming whole months where they would not score 4 runs in any road games. That might be an exaggeration – but maybe not. What we can say is that so far this team under the Blake Doyle rules is hitting better on the road than anytime we can remember. And this is happening as writer after writer is talking about the dive in offense in baseball this year. Kudos to the Rockies offense on the road this year!
And how about the pitching. We are used to seeing the Rockies have good games on the road, but we are regularly seeing this team pitch well on the road. This current trip has seen the staff give up (earned runs) 2,4,4,2. The Rockies are still only the 21st rated pitching staff by ERA (4.11 – not including tonight’s stats), but in 39 games they now have 19 quality starts! Their road ERA is 4.27 (18th overall) and home ERA is 3.95!!!, the 19th ranked pitching staff.
Should we be excited? Last year this team got off to a good start, and was fighting for 1st place in May just like this year. After 39 games last year the Rockies were 21-18, 2 games out of first. So, are we all just enjoying Fools Gold? On the road this year we have seen three players hit 4 homers out so far – Tulo, CarGo and Morneau. An injury to Tulo, like last year, probably dooms this team. An injury to Morneau would likely do the same, as it shortens the lineup. CarGo so far has not been a huge asset to the team (they will need him before it is over), and over a short period they probably have the depth to cover him. So yes, this team must stay healthy. But this is a team that lost a month of Chacin (yes, he was hurt at the end of April last year and they lost most of May from him in both starts and effectiveness after he returned). They have lost their #2 and #3 starters save for 3 starts each. Their bullpen is deeper and healthier than last year, as the injury to Betencourt started a process of the bullpen collapsing last year. So yes, this team could still fall apart over the course of the rest of the season. But 39 games in – this is not fool’s gold. This team is pitching solid, with its best pitching still before it as Chacin and DLR are becoming more like themselves. They are hitting on the road as no Rockies team has ever hit. They are playing great defense night-after-night. They have a bullpen where while each of the staff has had a hiccup except Masset who is to new, is deep and has multiple relievers who can cover each of the roles. And this team is flat scary at home – where they have only played 18 games at this point. I am not saying to buy your playoff tixs tomorrow. But this is a good major league team that no one wants to have come to town and who no one wants to visit. And that makes it fun. And in those road black uniforms – they are simply Bad News for the Reds!
Mother’s Day Game:
Juan Nicasio (4-1,3.99 overall; road: 1-1, 6.10 ERA 1.645 WHIP 1.025 OPS .364 BABIP) vs
Homer Bailey (2-2,5.36 overall; home: 1-1, 6.23 ERA 1.558 WHIP .952 OPS .353 BABIP)