After a mixed-bag homestand in which the Rockies swept the Mets and took 2 out of 3 from the Diamondbacks, then proceeded to drop an entire doubleheader and barely take the final game of their series against the Braves, it’s safe to say this road trip is important. Two series as the visiting team against two division rivals, and the need to work up some serious momentum before facing formidable AL teams the Rays and Yankees at home. I think we have to take both these series to feel good about the homestand.
The good news is, we’re off to a nice start with a win last night in Phoenix. The game started out a little rough, despite a 2-run double from Michael Cuddyer that put the Rockies on the board first. Troy Tulowitzki committed a rare throwing error that allowed a run to score, and Chris Nelson did the same (though it’s not so rare for him). Juan Nicasio gave up 4 hits and threw a wild pitch in his 5 innings. He only struck out 2. So far he’s yet to deliver on the promise he showed a couple of years ago, but I feel like he will always be impressive, because when you break your neck you shouldn’t be able to play baseball anymore. To continue to be a starting pitcher is a miracle that will never end. I don’t see him ever working as our ace, but he’ll do just fine in the 3rd or 4th spot in the rotation.
Things that did highly encourage me: Tulo’s clutch bases-clearing double, which was even better given that Carlos Gonzalez is in another one of those slumps where pitches down and away look like they’d be great ones to swing it and pitches right down the middle freeze him. The double was hit on the first pitch of the at-bat, too, and in the past when Tulo has come out swinging like that he’s hit into pop-ups. He’s not as anxious at the plate. Matt Belisle put in a terrific relief performance, coming on in the 7th with two runners in scoring position and nobody out. He got two pop-ups and a strikeout, and one of those pop-ups featured a gorgeous play by second baseman Reid Brignac. Brignac caught it in short right and spun around to nail Wilin Rosario‘s glove at home to keep the runner at third where he belonged. And Rafael Betancourt is 8-for-8 in save opportunities after a 14-pitch, 1-2-3 9th inning.
This is a better team than it was last year. The right guys are healthy, and just about everybody is doing what he’s supposed to do. This might be the year we finally see what the Rockies are made of. That doesn’t necessarily mean a playoff appearance, though I do think the field is pretty wide open in the division. But if they fail this year, it will be hard to blame it on injuries/stupid front office moves/everybody’s bad head space.