Monday, July 27, 2009

Rockies Win Rubber Match Behind Aaron Cook, Gain Ground In Wild Card Race

It was a big series for the Colorado Rockies. Earlier in the week they had finished mounting an incredible comeback that lead them from the bottom of the National League West, to leading the National League Wild Card race. They took the lead away from the Giants and were facing off against the team over the weekend. It was a weekend for one of the teams to make a statement.

The Rockies made their statement.

This team is going to compete with the best that the rest of the league has to offer. They are not going to get down if they drop a game, they are going to come back the next day and battle back into a position to give themselves a chance to win.

After dropping the first game of the series on Friday night, stifled by Matt Cain, the Giants ace 1-a, the Rockies battled back to win the next two games, taking the series from San Francisco and extending their Wild Card lead to two games.

Sunday's game was a masterpiece by ace Aaron Cook. The righty went seven innings, giving up only two runs on nine hits. He did not walk a batter and struck out two. He worked out of and throwing just 77 pitches on the day. Cook increased his record to 10-3 with the win.

While the team made statements over the weekend, there were some individual statements made as well.

Jorge De La Rosa made a clear statement on Saturday night that he has gained the much needed confidence to get the job done. He showed that he has found the strike zone and that he will be a valuable member to the rotation down the stretch. He pitched brilliantly, pounding the zone and getting outs.

Troy Tulowitzki caught fire the last two games of the series, with his biggest hit coming on Saturday night. With the rain pouring down and two men on base, Tulo launched an opposite field three run home run to give the Rockies a lead that they would never relinquish on the night. He would later come up and double into the same gap.

Carlos Gonzalez made a small, yet definite statement on Sunday. The knock on the youngster is that he struggles with Major League off speed pitches. In the seventh inning with the Rockies up by a run, Gonzalez fouled off slider after slider before ending the 12 pitch at bat with a triple to the right field corner. He came in to score on Yorvit Torrealba's sacrifice fly, giving the Rockies an extra little cushion. It was a classic at bat where a hitter comes out of a funk and catches fire at the plate. If nothing else it was a huge confidence boost for Gonzalez.

Aaron Cook, who had mediocre starts his last two times out, came in firing the ball. He gave up nine hits, but was able to wiggle out of trouble only the way Aaron Cook knows how to. The difference on Sunday was that he had the confidence and swagger back that he had been missing in his last few times out. This time he was able to hold the lead that the offense got for him.

Up two games in the Wild Card standings, it is going to take individual players making their own personal statements. While the team has found its groove, many of the individual players have struggled to get into a zone. De La Rosa was a prime example of that. He was constantly thought of as the Rockies weak link in the rotation, but he has proven to be valuable, getting his own win total above .500.

Players like Carlos Gonzalez are going to need to have the confidence to get the job done when he has two strikes.

That confidence is exactly what the team needs heading into a 10 game road trip that sees them stop in New York to play the Mets for four games, three games in Cincinatti and then three games against the defending World Series champs. It will not be an easy road, but with players finding their groove it may become quite a bit easier.

The Rockies start their road trip on Monday at 5:10 pm. They will have Ubaldo Jimenez taking on Oliver Perez at Citi Field in New York. The game will be on Fox Sports Rocky Mountain and 850 KOA.

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