I know. You’re not supposed to overreact early in the season. There is no such thing as a “must win” in April. Some people might even have you believe these early regular season games don’t matter. But after two terrible losses to the presumably terrible Houston Astros, the Colorado Rockies need today’s game in a big way.
Jhoulys Chacin, the guy who needs to be the true ace on this staff for the Rockies to succeed, will face off against the overpaid and enigmatic Barry Zito. It is the lone pitching match-up in this three game set that favors the team in purple and black. Tim Lincecum goes Wednesday, and the frightening idea of Jamie Moyer in Coors Field becomes a reality Thursday. Lose today, and an early 1-5 record becomes a real possibility.
Today represents a chance for the Rockies to show the maturity, accountability, and other words that end in “ity” that were supposed to be so important this season. They can show that in two ways as they open this series with the dreaded Giants.
Get mad. Not in a way that causes a loss of focus, but in a way appropriate for a group that dropped a series they shouldn’t have dropped, tainting an outstanding start by Juan Nicasio and ruining what would have been a feel good story in the process. Come out with an edge against three NL west opponents on this homestand. Fans are sure mad about it, and the players should be too. While we hope that this team has far less fragile psyches than those last year, an early statement in the division might still be an important boost.
Hit the ball the other way. Or, more accurately, hit it where it is pitched. Please. Pretty please. We spent far too much time in recent seasons watching guys like Seth Smith and Ian Stewart put the exact same swing on the ball, regardless of pitch location or situation. If the pitcher threw it into their swings, it went a long way. If they didn’t, we saw a ton of roll-over ground balls. Yesterday Wilin Rosario came up with nobody out and the tying run on second in the 9th inning. Brett Myers threw a curveball on the outside corner that might as well have had flashing lights above it that read: HIT ME THE OTHER WAY. Rosario tried to pull the pitch and fouled it off. He then struck out looking.
The last thing we need is a new batch of hitters doing the same thing as the since-departed hitters: trying to pull everything and hit gigantic home runs to “prove” that they deserve more playing time. It would not be fair to say Rosario, Tyler Colvin, or anybody else is doing that. Yet. It is only one game, and it would be unfair to call the human errors of a select few plate appearances more than what they are. But it simply cannot become a trend in this lineup. This team desperately needs situation hitting and sound approaches at the plate. The Rockies need their veteran hitters to model that, and what better time to do it than in a game against Zito and his once dominant loopy curve ball.
I understand that fast starts and slow starts have both proven to be misleading in recent Rockies seasons. But in a season when expectations are fickle and people are skeptical of manager and management alike, a disastrously bad start might be too much to overcome. To avoid it, they simply must beat Barry Zito and company today in front of what should be a hyped up and full Coors Field (wearing their purple, to boot).
By the way, the Giants will also be playing with early urgency after being swept by the Arizona Diamondbacks. So don’t tell me games we should not invest in the importance of games in April.