You may remember young Lucas Harrell from the Rockies’ second game of the season. Harrell, who came into 2012 with 42 innings pitched under his belt, dominated the Rockies for 7 scoreless innings, allowing just 3 hits. The look on his face when he finally retired to the dugout was pure unadulterated joy. To me, it was a picture of everything that went wrong with the Rockies in 2011 and a terrible foreshadowing of everything that could go wrong in 2012.
Fast forward a couple of months, and most of those things have gone horribly wrong. But one thing is going right, and that’s this series against the Astros. They’re a team the Rockies should sweep every time, so the fact that they’re poised to now is very satisfying. When a guy like Harrell comes to the mound against a team like this, that team should hold him to 5 innings and score 9 runs off of him, which is just what the Rockies did.
Four of those runs came in the 1st inning when Michael Cuddyer hit his second grand slam of the season. Credit patient Marco Scutaro and Todd Helton for taking walks which allowed them to be on base when Cuddy came to the plate. That’s why you take the walk when it’s given to you. If you swing at crummy pitches, you might get enough of a piece of one to put it somewhere for a hit, but more than likely you’ll hit a weak groundout and be heading back to your seat. But these guys know how to take a free base, and that allowed Cuddy to go deep with the bases loaded. A fan reached over the fence and caught the ball, but the play was reviewed and clearly showed that first it hit the roof of the scoreboard. A short granny, but a granny nonetheless.
Pitcher Christian Friedrich only managed to hold onto that lead for a couple of innings though; a 4-run 3rd tied the game at 5. It’s nice to be able to give a pitcher like that a bit of a cushion, but he needs to protect it. That’s been, in my mind, the primary problem with this team this season. The offense does have off days, but mostly it produces enough runs to support the pitcher. And then our pitchers go on to give up that many and more to the opposing team. In Friedrich’s 6 innings, he allowed 12 baserunners, and he’s lucky more of them didn’t score. The number I do like is his 6 K’s. That much is an improvement over his last outing at Coors Field.
And fortunately for Friedrich, his offense more than came through for him. The rest of the outfield hit home runs as well: Dexter Fowler a 3-run bomb in the 6th, and Carlos Gonzalez the first 3-home-run game of his career. It’s great to see Cargo swinging the bat so well. At this point it’s obvious before he even takes a step toward the pitcher whether he’s feeling strong and seeing the ball or not. Last night he took three fantastic hacks and all were no-doubters. That plus his single means 13 total bases for the game, which is close to perfect. Cargo has also pushed his average up to .323, highly impressive when you consider that it was below .300 less than two weeks ago. I tend to think of Troy Tulowitzki as our perennial MVP candidate, but Cargo is always a stealth possibility. Tulo is still more consistent, but Cargo is the one who keeps breaking out at just the right moment.
Speaking of Tulo, chances are good he’s on his way to the disabled list after leaving the game in the 7th with a groin strain. I fully support putting him on the DL because in the past he’s been reluctant to go with minor aches and pains, and when he doesn’t take care of himself those aches and pains turn into something a whole lot worse. I hate to see him out for a couple weeks, obviously, but better that than 6 weeks further on down the road. I also feel a little better about it now that we have DJ LeMahieu with the big league club. He gives us another option at second base that allows Marco Scutaro to play short. Scutaro’s not as elite as Tulo, obviously, but he’s got plenty of experience at the position and is definitely a better option than Jonathan Herrera or Chris Nelson.
Good game. Very good game.
The Rockies will go for the 4-game sweep tonight as they meet the Astros for the final time as National League compadres, and Jeremy Guthrie takes the hill.