Those of us who were paying attention to the Rockies-Diamondbacks game on Saturday were hoping for a walk-off win. It was tied in the bottom of the 9th and Charlie Blackmon reached base with 2 outs. But then he was caught stealing 2nd and the game ended in a tie. The Rox had a second chance to win in dramatic fashion today and, thanks to Ben Paulsen, they pulled it off. Read on to see who stood out, for better or worse.
Ben Paulsen was the hero, with his walk-off solo shot on the first pitch the Rockies saw in the 9th inning. After taking over for Chad Tracy in the 5th, Paulsen was on the receiving end of seven put-outs at first base, and he also caught a pop-up. He did strike out in his first at-bat, but it’s safe to say that Paulsen had a game worth celebrating, and that we’ve just added another name to our list of “possible Todd Helton heirs.” I don’t want to think about the Toddfather’s retirement anymore than you do, but if we have to, days like today make me feel a little better.
The best pitching performance of the day goes to Christian Friedrich, and that’s encouraging since we need a first-round pick to be awesome right now. Friedrich pitched the 3rd and 4th innings and allowed only one baserunner on a double by Lyle Overbay. The first batter he faced was Justin Upton, who swung and missed at three straight pitches. Friedrich needed only 11 pitches to get through his two innings. In a radio interview later in the game, he talked about wanting to focus on pounding the zone and getting hitters out on 4 pitches or less. He achieved those goals in this outing. Whether he can keep it up remains to be seen, but a solid game for Friedrich.
Guess what guys? Eric Young, the same Eric Young whose defense I am always criticizing, did not make a single mistake in the outfield today. And he was in CENTER field, so that’s a lot of ground to cover. Not only that, he slapped a single in the 1st inning, then stole 2nd on a strike ‘em out throw ‘em out attempt with Marco Scutaro at the plate. Catcher Henry Blanco threw the ball away and EY was able to go all the way to 3rd. This put him into position to score on Carlos Gonzalez‘s groundout. He wouldn’t have had an opportunity to score if he hadn’t advanced that far, and since this was a one-run game that run mattered a lot. It’s those little things that EY does so well on his good days, and we need more of those little things if we’re going to have a fighting chance this season.
Charlie Blackmon did a little heads-up baserunning of his own. In the 4th, he led off with a single, advanced to 2nd on a wild pitch, and stole 3rd. He scored on a sacrifice fly by Tracy. Once again, doing the little things, moving up one base at a time as opportunities arise, and giving yourself the best chance to score. Solid work by Blackmon.
How much did I want Jhoulys Chacin to be awesome in this game? Almost as much as I want Juan Nicasio to be awesome when he pitches later this week. Unfortunately, in this case I did not get my wish. Chacin pitched the 1st and 2nd innings and allowed 3 runs on 2 hits and a walk. He gave up a double to Gerardo Parra on the the first pitch he threw and then slipped while trying to field a groundball off the bat of Aaron Hill. One encouraging thing to note: the third batter Chacin faced was Justin Upton, and he struck out on three pitches. It was good to see Chacin fool a hitter like he does so well, and in a situation that can sometimes throw him off the rails. Of course, then he walked Paul Goldschmidt. And then gave up a pair of unearned runs. But they were unearned. Chacin very nearly got out of the inning without any damage at all. Then, in the 2nd, he gave up a solo shot to Parra. So a bit of a rough start to the spring for Chacin. I’m sure Dan O’Dowd will go on the record any minute now about how he would have pitched better if he hadn’t been sitting around all offseason eating bonbons.
Jim Tracy’s son Chad has his work cut out for him, because if he doesn’t perform well in camp, he’s going to be out of a job and knee deep in some serious daddy issues. He’s already a little behind the curve after today’s game, in which he made a throwing error that cost Chacin those two unearned runs. Tracy was a perfectly adequate fielder in the minors, so there’s no reason to believe this was anything other than a mistake. Still, these young pitchers really need to be confident in the defense behind them so they can pitch to contact and prevent the walks and wild pitches that were such a problem in 2011. This is especially true of Chacin. So not really a great day for Chad Tracy. That sac fly was better than nothing though.
So far I haven’t really seen much worth mentioning from Marco Scutaro. He’s only played a couple games for the Rockies though, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. But today he came to the plate three times and contributed next to nothing. He struck out once, grounded out on the first pitch once, and managed to reach on an error once. I’m still glad the Rockies traded for him, since I expect Scutaro to produce more than Clayton Mortensen would have, but I would like to see that production any day now here.
We finally got a look at the third guy who was part of last summer’s Ubaldo Jimenez trade: Joe Gardner, who entered the game in the 6th inning today with an opportunity to record a hold. Instead, he’s got his first blown save as a Rockie. The second pitch he threw was launched into the stands by Ryan Roberts, which tied the game at 4. Gardner then loaded the bases on a single and a pair of walks. Somehow he managed to get out of that inning without anymore damage. But he might have made a better showing his first time out.
All around, a solid effort for the Rockies today. There were some mistakes, but there was some great stuff too. And let’s not miss the fact that these guys are still undefeated. Yes, it’s spring training and these games don’t count. But let’s take every little bit we can get.