If you told me that Roy Oswalt would strike out 11 Nationals hitters in his debut for the Colorado Rockies I would have assumed he was surprisingly dominant. Such was not exactly the case, as Oswalt also surrendered four earned runs. It was a mixed bag from the veteran. It is probably important to not overreact either direction, even with the emotions of the team losing its fourth straight game, this time by a score of 5-1.
Oswalt’s velocity was a pleasant surprise, sitting around 92-94 MPH consistently. When he located those fastballs he made some hitters look bad, including some uncomfortable strike three swings. When he didn’t locate he got hit hard. Moving forward fastball command will be part of the refrain for Oswalt, though it won’t be nearly as central to his success as it is to Jhoulys Chacin or Juan Nicasio.
Other than his fastball Oswalt relied on his curveball and change-up. Both pitches were inconsistent. Ian Desmond smashed a hanging change-up and Oswalt got hit hard on some other off-speed pitches that weren’t as sharp. When it was right it was his change-up and not his curve that looked like a real weapon. That will be a key pitch for the veteran as he tries to prove that he can survive at Coors Field in the twilight of his career.
So the 11 K’s are hardly a sign that Oswalt is ready to be an ace, just as his struggles are not a sign that he will be a disaster. The good news is, there were more good signs than bad when one considers the prospects of Oswalt becoming a fixture in the rotation. He mostly commanded the strike zone and showed he can still miss bats. He was also hurt by the absences of two elite defenders; Jonathan Herrera was unable to keep a trickling RBI single in the infield and then Tyler Colvin utterly mangled a fly-ball “triple” off the bat of Adam LaRoche. If nothing else he will be a decided upgrade over Jeff Francis or the aforementioned Nicasio.
As for this game, Oswalt could have thrown a gem and it still wouldn’t have mattered. The offense remains dormant, managing only one run on five hits in this affair. The Rockies currently face a stretch in which the inconsistencies of their young hitters could actually do damage to their hopes this season. Three more games with a hungry Nationals team, including Stephen Strasburg on the mound tomorrow night, are the prelude to a series in Boston against the first place Red Sox next week.
So yes, the Rockies will continue to face decisions when it comes to their starting rotation, but none of them will matter much if the offense fails to get back on track on this road trip.