I think all Rockies players and fans were in need of two things this week: one, a day off, and two, a decisive victory. Last weekend’s series with the Padres included neither of those things, as the team hosted San Diego for a four-game set that capped off 17 straight days of baseball, and managed only a series split with 2 of the 4 going into extra innings. Poor bullpen. Poor nerves. Monday was the first time in a long time that I was happy not to have any Rockies baseball. I slept good that night.
That decisive victory, luckily, came last night in the first of three games against the Washington Nationals at Coors Field. I was feeling those nerve endings start to fray prematurely just looking at the pitching matchup: Jhoulys Chacin, who has shown flashes of being the ace we hope he one day will be but has been uneven at best all season, and Dan Haren, who in his career has struck out 101 Rockies in 15 games. Haren is not as good with the Nats as he was with the Diamondbacks, but I still didn’t like it.
At first, it seemed as though my initial gut feeling about the matchup was correct. Chacin kept getting himself 2-strike counts and then allowing the runner on base anyway. He’s still lacking a decent outpitch; he just seems to throw whatever feels right in the moment, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I never thought I’d say this, but Chacin could learn a thing or two from Manny Corpas, who has been devastating hitters with his slider-sinker combo since his callup a couple weeks ago. Yeah, yeah, small sample size, it’s not 2007, he’s still Manny Corpas, bladdy blah. He’s getting it done, and Chacin only does that sometimes. In the end, Chacin only allowed 2 runs over 5 innings pitched, but it was with no small amount of effort that the team kept it to that. All told, Chacin threw 95 pitches in those 5 innings, which is just too many.
Meanwhile, Haren looked as though he had the Rockies’ number yet again. His first four innings were dominant, with just two runners reaching base. And then the 5th inning came around. It began with a Wilin Rosario walk, perhaps a sign that Haren was tiring given how tight his control typically is. Tyler Colvin took serious advantage by coming to the plate and knocking a cutter just over the out-of-town scoreboard in right to tie the game. Then, after Jordan Pacheco and Dexter Fowler got aboard, Carlos Gonzalez did what he’d clearly been trying to do since the game began and scorched that same cutter over the wall in left. Two bad pitches and Haren was suddenly down by 3. Even Rosario popping out with 2 on to end the inning didn’t seem all that bad after that
The Nats only barely hinted at a comeback. Wilton Lopez gave up a leadoff walk to Jayson Werth in the 8th and paid for it when Werth scored later, but that was all they were able to do. Colvin has clearly seen a Rockies game or two this season, though, and didn’t feel that lead was safe. He added to it by hitting a 2-run jack to left (opposite field!) off Drew Storen in the 8th. This looks like the Colvin of 2012. I’m very happy it didn’t take him too long to turn up.
Lest we forget, good defense is really what’s going to keep these guys in it this season, and they had that last night. Troy Tulowitzki laid out to catch a line drive off the bat of Ryan Zimmerman and end the 7th. And Rob Scahill, closing out the game in the 9th, improbably speared a ball hit just over his right shoulder by Denard Span. I’m always happy leaving the ballpark after a big win, but getting to see a couple of highlight reel plays certainly is a terrific bonus.