Chris Nelson made good use of his bat last night, driving in 3 runs. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

Things Finally Go Right as Rockies Take Series Opener

Rockies 12, Tigers 4, F/10

This Rockies team is so hard to write intelligently about. How can a person with a brain make a prediction about how they will fare when they regularly dump easy series at home and win tough ones on the road? There is no pattern. Unless that’s the pattern …

I would like to begin with Jeff Francis because I’m actually quite happy with his start last night. It wasn’t a comeback per se, but it was a vast improvement over last weekend’s outing against the Angels, and I’d say it bodes well for him to be a productive-ish member of the rotation. He’s never going to be a #1 guy again, but he’s better than Jeremy Guthrie, so I will take him. Last night he went 5 1/3 innings, not a deep outing at all, but several of those innings were scoreless. In fact, the only runs he himself surrendered were in the bottom of the 3rd when he gave up 4 of the 8 hits he allowed and 3 runs scored. At that point there was only 1 out, though, and he got out of the inning without more damage. In the following 2 innings, the Tigers were scoreless despite getting runners in scoring position both times. And in the 6th he was tagged for a run, but that was most definitely Adam Ottavino‘s fault. Francis left with a runner on 1st and 1 out and Ottavino walked the next batter and then threw a wild pitch, which set the Tigers up perfectly for an RBI groundout. In my opinion, Francis stays in, that run doesn’t score. But it’s always a gamble, and Ottavino has been very reliable in relief. I wish we could have gotten Francis the win, though, because he deserved it. He wasn’t dominant, but he was good, against a very good Tigers lineup. I’m rooting for him big time.

Despite Francis’s performance, from an offensive standpoint the Rockies really didn’t deserve to win this game, until their explosive 10th inning that is. They did get on the board first, with an RBI triple by Chris Nelson and an RBI double by Dexter Fowler in the 3rd, but there were still no outs, and then they loaded the bases with no outs and didn’t score. Jason Giambi gets the bulk of the blame for that as he hit into the second of THREE double plays. Two things that are always true about Giambi: 1. The shift works. 2. He is too slow a runner to have a prayer at beating the throw. At this point in his career, Giambi’s best hope is with extra-base hits that go into a corner or a gap in the outfield. Or leave the yard altogether. If he doesn’t do that, he’s probably making an out. Can we PLEASE PLEASE think seriously about letting Tyler Colvin be the DH today? Please.

Now, before we could get to that 10th inning, where good things actually did happen, Matt Belisle and Rex Brothers had to have some brilliant moments. Brothers took over for Ottavino in the 6th, with runners on the corners and 2 out. He walked Prince Fielder to load the bases. That would have been a perfect time for one of his usual meltdowns, but instead he stayed with Delmon Young, and on the 9th pitch of that at-bat got him to strike out. That may have been the turning point in the game, because I think if the Tigers had managed a real rally, everything would have unraveled and the Rockies would never have found their way back. Brothers went on to pitch a perfect 8th, and Belisle took care of the 9th and 10th. Once again, the bullpen keeps the team in the game so the offense can do their job.

Tigers closer Jose Valverde, who has been a lot less untouchable this season than he was last season, took over in the 10th. Michael Cuddyer led off with a single. Eric Young Jr., Giambi’s replacement, hit a sacrifice bunt BUT Valverde made a bad throw and EY was able to reach base safely. Kudos to him for running it out. And Cuddy was able to get to 3rd. Maybe that’s when the bunt does work, when the pitcher makes a lazy throw and everybody’s safe. Valverde walked Todd Helton to load the bases, still no out. Then Jordan Pacheco grounded into a force at the plate and it looked like the Rockies were setting themselves up for another missed opportunity. But then, along came Wilin Rosario, who hit a 2-run single and got the rally going. To be fair, Rosario’s hit was a chopper that bounced in just the right spot to go over the shortstop’s head and into the outfield. We very nearly had another inning-ending double play on our hands. But we’ll overlook that, because the bottom line is, he got on base, and other guys crossed the plate. And from there, 6 more runs scored, most notably on a 3-run homer by Carlos Gonzalez.

Naturally, Rafael Betancourt had no trouble with a scoreless 9th inning after that. It was good to see the guys have a big inning and string some runs together. I’m disturbed by the number of runners they stranded, as usual, but happy that they still managed to make something happen when they needed to. And against Valverde of all people! Other than Brian Wilson and Jonathan Papelbon, I don’t think there’s a more satisfying closer to defeat.

 

The series continues today with Christian Friedrich trying to rebound from a tough start last weekend, facing off against the recently injured Doug Fister.

 

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