I could spend the majority of this recap harping on Jim Tracy’s awful Sunday lineups and how they always lose the game for us. But I already did that when I posted the lineup card earlier. It’s a dead horse, fully beaten. And in any case, until the man himself sees the problem, it doesn’t matter how many of us do.
So let’s instead focus on something positive: this Rockies team is different from the 2011 one. It doesn’t look as good as the early 2011 one, thanks to the starting rotation still being kind of iffy, but it’s playing better. In 2011, the Rockies were so cocksure it was almost annoying, and the only reason it wasn’t was that I was pretty cocksure too. They really seemed like the team to beat in the NL West. Where they and I diverged was the point at which they clearly showed that they were not that team, and yet they continued to believe that they were and whine about all the things that were outside their control. I kept hoping they’d finally be embarrassed enough by that that they’d start putting it out on the field and just playing better, but that never happened.
Until now. Now, knock on wood, they seem to have realized that all they can do is take it one game at a time, one inning at a time, one at-bat at a time. They can’t point to their potential because, let’s face it, no one believes they really have any. And the grace period for even the potential they do have is running short. It’s time for them to make things happen. Which, astonishingly, is exactly what they have been doing.
Since that embarrassment of a home opener, the Rockies have gone 3-2. They have scored 36 runs in those 5 games (the obvious outlier being the 17-run game from last Wednesday). In each of those games, they scored in the 8th inning or later. And that’s the main difference, not the number of runs scored so much as when they’re being scored. This is a team that is learning not to give up. This makes me very happy.
What does not make me happy is that the starting rotation still has a long way to go. Today marked the 2012 debut of Drew Pomeranz, who started the season in Triple A and was called up today to make his first start. It wasn’t great: 4 1/3 innings, 9 hits, 5 earned runs, 100 pitches. Pomeranz wasn’t locating very well, and that began in the 1st inning, when Chris Young uncorked a 2-run home run on a 3-2 pitch. He never seemed to regain his footing after that, allowing at least one run to score in three separate innings.
What’s wrong with him? Nothing. This guy was brilliant last September and in the spring. He had a couple of slip-ups in each case, because he’s still a young guy learning how to be a big league pitcher. Odds are, his next start is great. Look no further than Juan Nicasio to see an example of somebody who alternates phenomenal starts with tough ones. They’re both on a learning curve. Now, do we need one or both of them to be fabulous this year in order to contend? Well, yes. But long-term, the goal is for them both to develop into true front-of-the-rotation guys. And that may take more than one season, so patience is the word.
Kudos to the bullpen for keeping the team in the game, as they so often do. Josh Roenicke redeemed himself after yesterday’s struggle, going 2 2/3 innings and allowing just 2 baserunners while striking out 5. Matt Reynolds and Rafael Betancourt pitched a perfect 8th and 9th respectively.
And the offense wasn’t great, but as I said above, they kept going, and that means more to me than the actual amount of runs scored. They looked pretty lost against starter Trevor Cahill, who allowed just 4 hits over 7 1/3 innings pitched, but once he was relieved, the Rockies found their bats again. And some days, that’s what you have to do. If you realize that you are not going to get anything to hit from this pitcher, work the count so that he has to throw a lot of pitches (108 in Cahill’s case), and then take your chances with the bullpen. Kirk Gibson went through four pitchers in the 8th inning, because the Rockies got to each and every one. Joe Paterson allowed 3 hits and an RBI groundout. Brad Ziegler gave up an RBI single. Craig Breslow walked the only batter he faced. And Bryan Shaw, impressively, got an inning-ending groundout off the bat of Ramon Hernandez. But Hernandez forced him to throw strikes, and the bases were loaded, so the pressure was on.
Of course, I wish they could have done more, I wish Hernandez had managed to get the ball out of the infield so some more runs could have scored. But the point is, instead of coming into this 8th inning with no energy, the Rockies chipped away at the D-backs lead and made good use of every second they had at the plate. Most impressive: Dexter Fowler (walked instead of struck out), Eric Young (bunted for a base hit), and Troy Tulowitzki (came to the plate with 2 outs and actually hit a single instead of popping out to end the inning).
So I’m encouraged, people. Yes, we still have plenty of missing pieces, and there are still issues (the D-backs 4 stolen bases off Pomeranz and Rosario come to mind). But this was good. How good might it have been if Tracy had played his best lineup? Let’s not go there.
The Rockies host the San Diego Padres for their third straight in-division series at Coors starting tomorrow.