Friday, June 12, 2009

Rockies Run Streak To Nine Games In A Row

The swagger is back.

There has not been this much excitement about baseball in Denver since the amazing Rocktober run in 2007. Since then, all there has been is the sputtering of a team trying to figure out how it caught lightning in a bottle for a month and a half.

On Friday night the Rockies battled back for the third time in four games to win 6-4, extending their season long winning streak to nine games.

Two weeks ago if the Rockies were down 3-0 in the third inning there was no sense in watching the rest of the game, it was over. The body language in the Colorado dugout told the story, they were done, hoping for better results the next night.

That Rockies team is lost somewhere in May, and no one misses them, except maybe the Cardinals, Brewers and most recently, the Mariners.

On Friday night, playing to extend their longest winning streak since that magical run in '07, desperately needed a strong performance from their starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez.

The streak has seen the Rockies hitting on all cylinders, but the most recent series saw the bullpen work several tough innings. Early on, it looked like the bullpen may be in for a long night. Jimenez gave up three runs in the first three innings, pitching with traffic throughout.

While the Colorado Rockies of the first six weeks of the season would have already been looking forward to Saturday night, this team decided that they wanted to get a win now.

That is exactly what happened as the home team began to chip away at the 3-0 Mariners lead by playing small ball. In the third inning the Rockies executed with two outs, scoring two runs to give Jimenez confidence that if he could get outs, his team would be in the game.

After Jimenez gave up another run in the fourth, Troy Tulowitzki answered back with another solo home run, keeping the team within one run.

The excitement came in sixth inning. With Tulowitzki on second base following a walk and Ian Stewart on first after being hit by a pitch, Jimenez came up to do one thing. Bunt. Only thing about it...Jimenez did not bunt. After squaring around and the infield charging, Jimenez pulled the bat back and fired at the first pitch, knocking the ball under the glove of first baseman Russell Branyan, scoring Tulowitzki and moving Stewart to third.

The excitement was only beginning, as Dexter Fowler came to the plate. With Stewart running on the pitch, Fowler laid down a suicide squeeze bunt that was just good enough for Stewart to squeeze his toe onto the plate, scoring the go-ahead run for the Rockies.

The Rockies added another insurance run in the seventh to take the 6-4 lead.

The game was yet another example of team baseball winning games for the Rockies. Over the course of the nine game streak, Colorado has been the epitome of a scrappy ball club, finding ways to get runs when they need them the most.

After giving up the fourth run of the game with no outs in the fourth inning, Jimenez settled down and pitched a masterful game. It was just what Jim Tracy was looking for. Even after finishing the seventh inning with 98 pitches, Jimenez not only went out for the eighth inning, he also went out for the ninth, throwing a total of 127 pitches, 82 for strikes. It was the third complete game for the Rockies in 2009 and the first for Jimenez since July of 2008.

With an off day on Monday, Jimenez will get an extra day to rest, and the bullpen got a much needed day off on Friday.

Jimenez finished the game giving up four runs on eight hits, giving up four walks and striking out three. The most impressive stat for Jimenez was the number 19, which represents the number of outs Jimenez recorded via the ground ball.

The performance showed Jimenez's maturity. It was a night when he did not have his best stuff and still battled through to get outs. Instead of being a thrower, he was a pitcher, getting two huge double play ground outs and not being intimidated by any of the Mariner's hitters.

After Friday night's victory, the Colorado Rockies, believe it or not, are only 4-1/2 games out of the Wild Card race, something no one would have guessed two weeks ago.

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