The streak in Denver continues. The Colorado Rockies are now 8-0 at home this year and off to a franchise-best start of 13-4 overall. Quite the start for a team that finished last April at .500 before completing the second worst season in franchise history. Last night’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks was a chance for the Rockies to continue their dominance against every team they have faced that does not claim the California Bay Area as home.
Jorge De La Rosa started his fourth game of the season. He’s back. After starting only three games a year ago De La Rosa is now 2-1 with back to back scoreless, two-hit, six inning outings. While he only struck out four he had seven ground ball outs and, other than the first inning, was very economical with his pitches.
Tonight’s opposing pitcher was former 18-game winner Trevor Cahill, who also threw a good game. The Rockies won because they took advantage of mistakes. The first run came across when Arizona catcher Wil Nieves threw the ball away while Reid Brignac was caught in a run-down. Then in the third inning Colorado scored two runs on only one hit. It started with a lead-off triple from Eric Young Jr. Enter the seize-the-moment offense. Dexter Fowler was put on after being hit with a Cahill pitch; he then stole second base standing on a pitch in the dirt. With both Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki coming up with no outs in the inning, you would expect to see some line drives in the gap or over the fence. Instead the two cornerstones of the Rockies lineup played unselfish team baseball. CarGo hit a ground ball to second that advanced both runners and scored one. Next man up was Tulo, who was also unselfish, hitting a fly ball that easily scored the speedy Dex.
The only traditional Coors Field offense came in the sixth inning when Michael Cuddyer homered to left field, his fourth on the year.
All three runs came off the Rockies bullpen. An 8th inning pinch-hit two-run home run from defensive specialist Eric Chavez put Arizona on the board. The home run was hit off Edgmer Escalona, who was in his second inning of relief. And even though Rex Brothers came in to shut the Dbacks offense back down in the eighth, they turned it back up to make the ninth entertaining.
Rafael Betancourt entered the ninth inning with a chance to go 7-for-7 in save opportunities. Arizona went down fighting. A lead-off double, a one-out single, and a walk loaded the bases for the pinch hitting Miguel Montero. Normally the cleanup hitter, Montero had the day off from his catching duties after starting Arizona’s last nine in a row. Betancourt was able to force the powerful catcher to ground out to Cuddyer at first base, although one run did score. Betancourt managed to get the final out and seal the victory in dramatic fashion.
So what questions does this game present?
1. Why was De La Rosa pulled when he was?
Jorge pitched very well: six shutout innings and now 17 innings pitched without giving up a run. When manger Walt Weiss made the call De La Rosa had thrown 82 pitches and only allowed four base runners. By the way, three of those runners were retired at second base by way of the team’s great defense. Is Weiss still worried about De La Rosa’s health? Is he on a stricter pitch count than Stephen Strasburg?
2. Is this success legitimate?
Sure it’s a very small sample size, but that’s not always a defining factor. Let’s look at competition. The best team the Rockies have played so far has been the Giants; they got swept on the road in that series. However, the only other loss on the season came opening day in Milwaukee. Colorado took the last two games of that series, and earlier this week those same Brewers swept San Francisco. So we can say this: the Rockies are winning the games they are supposed to. They will always play better a mile high, and the Giants are the defending world champs. What matters long-term is taking advantage of opportunities and winning the games that they should win on paper.
3. Should we trust the bullpen?
Walt does and since he is quite the mixed martial artist, I think we should listen. Closer Rafael Betancourt is now 7-for-7 in save opportunities, but that’s not the end of the story. Betancourt has given up one run in three of those chances, leading to more tension at the ends of these games. But here is the big one for me: WHO IS GOING TO PITCH THE EIGHTH? Is it Brothers, Adam Ottavino, or Matt Belisle? Your closer doesn’t get every save, just like your setup man wouldn’t lock down every eighth. Consistency would do wonders for a team whose main concern has never been scoring runs.
For now all that matters is this: GO ROCKIES!