My wife, who has turned into a good baseball fan and pretty knowledgeable, knew the story of Tyler Matzek, and since last night was his first start of his career, she had to watch.
We all know the story, a great start to the career at Ashville, 2.92 ERA your first year and then pitching well enough the second time to go to Modesto….where things blew up.
And so after the promising start, the complete loss of control – going home to his old high-school pitching coach and rejecting the changes to his delivery that were made in the minors – and then the slow climb back-up the minor league levels….well, my wife really wanted to watch. So we did as a family.
When Tyler was drafted everyone raved that he was the 2nd best pitcher in the draft after Strausburg. After his first season he was a top 25 prospect on most boards , and entering 2011, still a top 32 prospect (based on the one’s I could find still on-line). He was living up to his promise that had so many draft experts rating him #2 on the board of the whole draft. Do you remember how the Rox signed him with minutes to spare in 2009 (and this was as the Rox were climbing towards their playoff appearance, so many fans were following it). No one thought the Rox could get him to sign and have him give-up on college (I recall his dad lost his job which is part of the reason why he did sign), which is why he fell to #9. My wife loves stories like that. So we watched the game, my first game in about 10 days.
I think roxnsox on the comments board said “That is what’s known as a breath of fresh air, folks… In a stinky place almost out of oxygen… :). I can say a heardy Yes and Amen to that. Exactly how I bet everyone on this site, at Coors, and maybe all of Denver felt.
His fastball was electric at 95 and 96 for most of the early part of the game. His curve which shows promise but isn’t quite a finished product yet, but still tantalized hitter. And that slider which was just flat devastating, especially to right-handed batters (btw, I was surprised in the 8th that McKenry in several spots – Chris Johnson to opening the inning on an 0-2 count went curve instead of that slider, and then on La Stella, went three straight sliders (first 2 were strikes, one called, one swung) but gave too many looks at it, and then back to straight 4-seamers to Simmons (when he was down to 93 at that point). A better called 8th and Matzek could have thrown at least 8 or maybe a complete game shut-out. But still, 7 innings of shut-out ball….when did we last see that?
But the biggest thing last night in Tyler’s performance? He had 7 Ks and 0 walks! Granted it’s the Braves, the most aggressive team in the NL, but against any team in the bigs when walks killed your development, that is a huge confidence builder.
But it wasn’t just Matzek’s pitching. The offense was smart. They scored 8 runs…without a homer (the constant 3-run home-run swings with no one on the bases the last month has been beyond frustrating). They struck-out just 6 times all night, and this against Teheran, who not only had 40Ks in May, but who tossed a shut-out at them last month for 6 innings and had 7Ks himself. Everyone but McKenry, Blackmon and DJ had hits. They got a sac-fly (how hard has that been the last month). They got 3 2-out runs (again…been a long-time). They pounded out 13 hits and kept scoring (5 of the 8 inning they scored). Yes it was Coors, but how many games of late have we seen horrible hitting from the Rox at Coors?
And it wasn’t just Tyler and the offense. The bullpen, Frankie and Hawk, came in and allowed only a hit each (Frankie helped on his by deflecting it), no walks, each got a K, no extra-base hits! That is how Weiss draws it up on the board (please Walt, don’t overuse Morales like has happened to so many of the arms)
And they played the good defense we saw before Nolan’s injury (did you know Tulo has 3 errors since Nolan got hurt after 0 before that?). It was simply the way baseball is supposed to be played. It was fun and enjoyable to watch.
I am not saying this is what Tyler is going to be like for the rest of his career (though I have seen this type of pithing in COS and he has better defense, a better ball-park – when Coors is a better place to pitch, you know your park stinks – and better bats to back him up), but for one night, he was the kid they drafted.
At age 23, he arrived later than most people expected back when he was drafted, but he is still pretty young. His arm is still fantastic. He hides the ball well, making that fastball even faster it seems. If he can repeat his delivery, a huge if I grant you, his ceiling really is unlimited. This isn’t Mark Brownson – he has all the talent that made him so coveted in 2009. But last night he avoided walks and getting too much of the plate when he misses location, and those are the keys to Tyler having a better career than Mark.
What we saw last night is baseball the way it is meant to be played every night, even when you lose. It was the Rockies that I love. Again, it was simply enjoyable. It felt like April again, only with even better pitching.
I am still not ready to come back to watching baseball again like I used to. But as a good therapist would say, that was a step in the right direction. The Rockies have to win today to have a 3-7 home stand (we get to see if Chacin is all the way back….and yes, I still listen to the games when I have nothing else going on, haven’t totally abandoned the Rox). Amazingly, they are still just 4 games out of the Wild Card (though with a June and early July playing only above .500 teams, I do not have my hopes up. That being said, more steps-in-the-right direction like that, and I might actually have to un-block ROOT sports permanently from my DirectTV schedule!
But as my wife said last night, it was just fantastic to see a kid who has gone through so much have a night like that, to see his mom and brothers so excited, to see Coors excited. That folks is why we watch baseball – the best game in the world. I know football (sorry, soccer in the U.S.) is called, “The beautiful game” and I love watching football, but really, baseball, especially when played like that, with all the backstory of this team’s collapse, the injuries, and a kid sent home at one point, and then to play the great game actually pitched and played – baseball is the truly beautiful game.