Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Hot Rocks; Rockies Extend Winning Streak To Six

Who are these Rockies?

Three times in 2008 the Colorado Rockies had winning streaks of five games. Those were the longest streaks of the season.

After losing three straight games to Houston to open the current road trip, the Rockies looked like they were in trouble. The 11 game trip could easily have been the nail in the coffin for the 2009 season. The Rockies however, have different thoughts.

On Tuesday night Colorado had their first come-from-behind victory in the seventh inning or later. Down 2-0, Troy Tulowitzki doubled down the left field line to start off the seventh inning. Next, Carlos Gonzalez, finding his stroke at the Major League level, roped a double down the right field line, scoring Tulowitzki and planting him in scoring position with no outs.

With Chris Iannetta at the plate, the thought was to find a way to use an out to get Gonzalez to third. Iannetta did not square to bunt, and took a ball. On the next pitch Gonzalez broke for third base, easily stealing the bag and getting himself a fly ball away from tying the game.

Iannetta popped out harmlessly in the infield, after Seth Smith walked, Dexter Fowler roped an opposite field double to left-center that plated Gonzalez and put Smith on third base. Clint Barmes, the Rockies best hitter throughout the winning streak, immediately hit a pitch hard to center field, it could have dropped for a hit, but was good enough for a sacrifice fly.

That was enough for the Rockies bullpen as they threw three 1-2-3 innings to hold on for the 3-2 win.

While the offense battled to get back in the game, it was yet another example of a team victory.

Jason Hammel gave up a run in each of the first two innings, but then regained his composure, putting up four scoreless innings to give the offense a shot to get back in it. Hammel found his curveball, and mixed it in well with his fastball. His final line read six innings, five hits, two earned runs while walking only one (intentionally) and striking out five.

Then it was the bullpen's turn to shine.

Matt Daley, Manny Corpas and Huston Street combined to throw three hitless innings to protect the one-run lead. It was only the third one-run win of the season for the Rockies.

Street has been incredible for the last four weeks, nearly perfect on the mound blowing only the one save in Houston.

This is the latest example of how a team wins baseball games. Instead of depending solely on Todd Helton and Brad Hawpe to get the job done the team is finding ways to get the job done.

The key has been the starting pitching. In the last six games the starting pitcher has gone no less than six innings and given up no more than three earned runs. When a team knows that the starting pitcher is going to keep them in the game, it is much easier to build the confidence that a lineup needs in order to battle back.

Up until this streak, the Rockies pitching has been so questionable that even the largest of leads seemed in danger. When the offense would score runs, the pitching gave the runs right back. When a team know that they can score runs and have the lead protected, the offense goes to the plate without the pressure that they feel if it seems that they are going to have to score in every inning to pick up a win.

With the win the Rockies clinched a winning road trip. With one more win the Rockies will have won their second consecutive series for the first time in 2009.

The Rockies are well out of the race in the National League West, however, their play of late has revived memories of May 2007 when Colorado went on a seven game run that sparked the team and helped them stay in the race long enough to make their now famous run to the World Series.

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