Thursday, July 16, 2009

Rockies Win First Game Of Second Half Behind Aaron Cook's Gutsy Performance

The Colorado Rockies went into the All Star break on the high of winning a game in which they were down by four runs entering the seventh inning and winning on a walk-off hit by Brad Hawpe.

After a great run starting at the beginning of June and lasting into July the fear was that the Rockies would have a chance to take a breath at the break and lose the momentum that they had gained over the past month and a half.

Aaron Cook and the offense proved that fans have nothing to worry about on Thursday night in San Diego. Cook definitely did not have his best stuff, including a flat sinker, but it was a gutsy performance that got him through six innings, giving up only one run. He dealt with traffic in every inning, giving up eight hits and walking four while striking out eight.

Cook did everything that the Rockies could hope for, not having good stuff but finding ways to get outs. In the past two years Cook has learned how to get a strikeout when necessary.

While Cook did not have his best stuff, it looked like the Rockies bats were rested and ready after the break. In Petco Park, one of the best pitchers parks in the league, the Rockies offense scored 10 runs. It was an extremely steady attack as they scored no more than three runs in any one inning, but only failed to score in three innings.

It was a night that the Rockies will need several more of in order to stay in contention. They may not need to score 10 runs per night, but the fact that almost every member of the lineup contributed to the scoring.

One of the big hits of the night came with two outs in the fourth inning and Dexter Fowler at the plate with two men on. Fowler was down in the count 1-2, but came through on a pitch that he has been known to swing through, the inside off speed pitch. This time Fowler roped it through the hole at second base, scoring both runners and starting the route.

Clint Barmes, who has been a huge reason for the Rockies getting back into contention, came through in the sixth inning, smashing a three run home run to left field. Barmes went 1-for-5 on the night, but the home run was on a breaking pitch, something that he has struggled with his entire career.

Seth Smith, the team leader in on-base percentage, came through once again in a huge way. Getting a start in left field as Carlos Gonzalez gave All-Star Brad Hawpe a much deserved day off, Smith went 2-for-4 with a no doubt home run into the seats in right field in the eighth inning. On the night Smith raised his average to .303. He is quickly making the franchise wonder if he should be starting more often.

Just because some of the lesser known names contributed does not mean that the household name did not pull through.

Veteran Todd Helton went 4-for-5 with two doubles, giving him 498 doubles in his career. Three days off for the first baseman may have been just what Helton’s back needed to stay strong for the rest of the season. A mid-July night like Thursday’s for Helton makes it laughable that the Rockies were only envisioning Helton playing in only 110 games.

With the Giants idle and a Dodgers loss, the Rockies gain a half game in the Wild Card race and a full game in the National League West race. They now stand 1-1/2 games behind the Giants and eight games out in the West.

Game two of the four game series is Friday night at Petco starting at 8:05. Ubaldo Jimenez looks to get back to his winning ways after losing his last four starts.

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