Saturday night we saw game two of a three game series against the visiting Tampa Bay Rays. The pleasant surprise of Jon Garland (2-2) matched up against last year’s AL Cy Young winner David Price (1-2). The biggest concern heading into tonight’s match-up had to be the changes in the lineup. It hasn’t taken long for the Rockies to get banged up. Both Todd Helton and Jhoulys Chacin are on the 15-day DL, while three everyday lineup guys are all officially listed as day-to-day, including: the Rockies leader in home runs Dexter Fowler, the team’s leader in RBI’s Troy Tulowitzki, and the team’s leader in batting average Wilin Rosario. Fortunately the only one of those three who sat last night was Fowler.
Get ‘em early. That’s what watching the Rockies killers has taught me over the years. Qualifying Rockies killers would be: Curt Schilling, Randy Johnson, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Kevin Green, Hideo Nomo, and that’s just a few on the pitching side of things. After twenty seasons the list is pretty extensive, but get to them early has always been the way. If not to beat them, then at least to get them out of the game sooner.
So following last night’s early start the Rockies didn’t only score first, but they scored in the first inning. After a lead off single by Eric Young Jr. and a bunt single by Josh Rutledge, Tulo would single and drive in Young. Just like last night the Rays lineup would turn it on in the third inning. With runners at the corners and two outs former Dodger James Loney doubled in the first Tampa Bay run of the game, followed by a Kelly Johnson single to drive in another two. That gave Johnson four total RBI’s in the series.
Fortunately the Rays would not hold the lead for long. Again EY2 would set the table with a lead off single. After a Carlos Gonzalez walk Tulo would double both runners home, tying the game at three in the third inning. We did not need to wait long to see who would break the tie. Leading off the bottom of the fifth was Gonzalez. CarGo had quite the slump recently, being 0-for-his-last-10 at one point in the Arizona series. Three pitches into his third at bat of the game he knocked one out of the park, only his second home run since April 16th and sixth on the year, giving the Rockies a 4-3 lead.
Garland had some long innings despite only giving up three runs. The bullpen took over in the sixth with Garland’s pitch count at 93. As for the visitors dugout: four runs is no reason to take one of the best pitchers out of the game. Price stayed in the game until he found some trouble in the seventh inning. The first two batters in the inning were retired, when the core of the Rockies lineup did what they get paid to. Back-to-back singles from Cargo and Tulo, as well as an Evan Longoria error, would lead to a Michael Cuddyer RBI. The Rockies fifth run of the game was scored with hustle and a little bit of luck, showing the versatility required against great pitching.
Cuddy was followed by the two youngsters. Rosario showed great discipline and waited on his pitch with runners on base; he never saw it and forced a clutch walk. When you have a heavyweight you keep swinging, and that’s exactly what rookie Nolan Arenado did. In just his sixth career Major League game played Arenado hit his second career home run and his first at Coors Field. The long fly also happened to be his first career grand slam. Rockies win 9-3.
Notes to take away:
1. Eric Young Jr. did a much better job leading off than he did coming off the bench to fill the same spot on Friday night. Friday he was 0-3 with three strikeouts replacing an injured Dexter Fowler. Saturday night he got the start and was 3-5 with two runs scored and no strikeouts.
2. Troy Tulowitzki finished the night second in the NL with twenty-seven RBI’s. That’s one for every game he has appeared in for those of you not keeping score. The shortstop is also hitting .406 with runners in scoring position.
3. The bullpen pitched four scoreless innings. Even with the extra inning loss Friday night, the bullpen has had eight scoreless innings in nine tries.
4. The Rockies have something special in Nolan Arenado. Sure it’s a small sample size, but remember there is an adjustment period that he should still be in. Tulo only hit .240 in his twenty-five games in 2006. Nolan “Jack” Arenado is leaps and bounds ahead of that.