You know those games that start out so well? The ones where everybody does everything right and you’re just sure things are going to go your team’s way? And then they fall apart completely and you have no clue what happened? Well. At least it’s just spring training.
I’m always looking for an excuse to praise Charlie Blackmon, but I like to think most of the time he earns it. Today he certainly did. He went 2-for-3 in the lead-off spot, and in his first at-bat he hit a 3-2 pitch into the stands in right field. Off Tim Lincecum! Lincecum is filthy, but he has a tendency to throw everything right down the pipe when he’s having an off day, and it’s key for a hitter to pick up on that and make it work in his favor. Blackmon did that and put the Rockies on the board first. He already knew what he was looking for when he came to the plate in the 2nd, and he hit a single, stole 2nd, and later scored again. Oh Charlie!
I’m going to talk about the heart of the order all at once, because they all looked about the same today, which is to say they all looked great. They too saw that Lincecum didn’t quite have it, and they took advantage. In the 1st, Troy Tulowitzki and Todd Helton singled, and then Michael Cuddyer drove them both in with a triple. And in the 2nd, Carlos Gonzalez came to the plate with 2 on and 2 out. In the previous inning, he grounded into a double play, but he shook that off and knocked a single that scored both runners. Five of the Rockies’ six runs were driven in by these guys. That’s what we like to see.
And how about Wil Nieves? This guy has so far been an incredible defensive catcher. He gunned down two guys in Saturday’s game and he did it again today. He caught Ryan Theriot trying to steal 2nd base, and he got Pablo Sandoval into a pickle between 2nd and 3rd that ended in an out. It’s a small sample size, but it seems pretty clear to me that Nieves is on top of the action on the field, and that’s what you want from a catcher. He’s been a good hitter so far this spring, too, and today he went 1-for-2 and scored a run.
I’m honestly a little unsure whether to put Jeremy Guthrie in the dazzling or disappointing category. I should probably create one for mediocre performances and put him there. But I’m going to lead toward dazzling because I like how he recovered from a tough start today. He came to the mound in the bottom of the 1st with a 3-run lead and gave up a pair of hits that scored a run. But he got out of the inning, in part thanks to Nieves’ work. After a scoreless 2nd, Guthrie gave up another couple of hits and a run, but he never seemed to lose control of the situation. Obviously we’ll hope for less traffic next time out, but I’m happy-ish with this one.
Maybe I was wrong about Jamie Moyer. He was a beast today. If nothing else, I think we can expect Kevin Millwood-type work from him, which is to say he’s experienced and difficult to rattle and he brings his best stuff every day. Today he pitched two innings and allowed just one baserunner. For the most part, he made very quick work of every hitter he faced. Quite a Rockies debut for him.
I just don’t know if I can do Esmil Rogers anymore. I’ve said that I definitely do not believe he should be a starter this season, but do I even really want him in the bullpen? He does have his issues in relief as much as he does starting. The strategy behind making him a reliever would be minimizing his damage: the less he pitches in a game, the less likely he is to give up a bazillion runs. But, as he proved today, even one inning can be damaging enough. The Rockies were leading 6-2 when Rogers came in, and he quickly made it a one-run game. He walked FOUR hitters, and he allowed three run-scoring singles. Blech.
Of course, it was Stephen Dodson who put the final nail in the coffin. He too gave up 3 runs in one inning, which resulted in a blown save and a loss. He didn’t walk anybody, but he did allow four hits, three of which were doubles. Dodson, who’s yet to make it past Double-A, tends to put a lot of runners on, so I don’t exactly know what the logic was in letting him close this game. We can take comfort in the fact that, during the regular season, Rafael Betancourt would have been in to save the day at that point.