It is not fashionable these days to invest too much energy in trying to distinguish which hitters are good “in the clutch.” That is not to say that the skill does not exist or that certain players are not better equipped to come through in pressure-packed moments. It is just to say that the whole concept might be overvalued or given too much credit from time to time.
Well, you know who I trust in the clutch for the Colorado Rockies? Nolan Arenado. Even during a rookie season in 2013 that was otherwise a disappointment offensively, Arenado showed a knack for coming through in tough spots.
If Arenado was mired in a terrible slump (which he kind of was last night), if he had not gotten a hit in weeks, he would still be the guy I would want to see at the plate with two outs and the game on the line in the ninth inning. Do not let the apparent nervous ticks fool you; underneath those shoulder shrugs and helmet adjustments is a guy who is calm under pressure.
On Tuesday night Arenado faced San Francisco Giants’ closer Sergio Romo with the Rockies down 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs and two runners on base.The second-year third baseman came through, doubling off the wall and ending the game in dramatic walk-off fashion.
It wasn’t just the deciding swing that made this winning hit so impressive. Arenado fell behind against the wispy Romo and had to work a long at-bat, fighting off multiple pitches, to give himself the chance to punish that hanging slider. Romo threw plenty of lousy pitches in the ninth inning last night, but he also threw enough quality pitches to notch the save if not for the good work of Arenado after he was down in the count.
This was probably the game that the Rockies were supposed to lose in this series. With respect to starting pitcher Franklin Morales, a match-up between him and Madison Bumgarner most certainly favors the Giants. The Rockies still have their work cut out for them on Wednesday and Thursday; they will face Matt Cain and Tim Hudson. But with Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa set to start opposite those guys, the Rockies have a real opportunity to win key games against the division leaders and make a statement about their intentions in 2014.
Will that statement start with Arenado’s clutch moment on Tuesday night?