Thursday, August 13, 2009

Jason Marquis Wins 13th Game; Rockies Are Very Well Rounded

The third time is the charm for Rockies starter Jason Marquis.

On a Thursday matinee at Coors Field, Marquis dominated the Pirates for seven innings, winning his 13th game of the season, which ties him for the league lead. Marquis had been stuck on 12 wins for nearly half a month, giving up a three run lead in Cincinnati and not being able to find the strike zone against the Cubs.

Marquis threw seven solid innings in the win, but the way the Rockies hit, he could have afforded a few mistakes. On the day Marquis gave up one run on only three hits, striking out six and walking three. It was evident that Marquis’ blister is no longer an issue.

Dexter Fowler may want to consider running into a wall more often.

On Monday night in a blowout win against the Cubs, Fowler made an amazing catch, while running full speed into the center field wall. The thud was so loud that it could be heard in the infield upper deck, more than 450 feet away.

There was some concern that Fowler, whose knee was hurt in the collision, would not be ready to play full speed. On the first pitch the Rockies saw, Fowler drilled a pitch from Paul Maholm into the left-center gap for a double. He ended up scoring on Todd Helton’s double play grounder right before Troy Tulowitzki once again proved how hot his bat is with an opposite field home run that was hit as hard as any ball all day.

Fowler was just getting started. For the first time in his young career Fowler had four hits, including three doubles. He scored three times.

It was a good day to break out of a slump as Clint Barmes found his stroke and had three hits of his own, including a two run home run in the seventh inning, his 17th of the season, that put the nail in the coffin for the Pirates. It was a relief for the Rockies to see Barmes break out of a slump that saw him have only five hits from July 21st through August 10th.

Barmes and Tulowitzki are arguably the best double play combination in the game. They both have quick feet, excellent gloves and cannons for arms. However, they are very under-rated in one category. Power. Tulowitzki and Barmes lead all double play combinations in the league with 40 combined home runs. That kind of power is far and away more than what the Rockies were expecting when the season began. In fact, Barmes had never hit more than 12 home runs in a season. With his home run on Thursday he has 17 for the season.

With the Dodgers and Giants both idle for the night, the Rockies gain a half game in both the Wild Card race and the National League West race.

While the national media does everything in it’s power to ignore the Rockies, assuming that they will fade down the stretch, the fact is, this team is good. This Colorado Rockies team is the most talented team that that the franchise has ever put on the field.

That is a bold statement considering that this is a franchise not even two years removed from a National League crown. Yet, it is true. There is no true weakness on the club. Their starting pitching has been nothing short of brilliant. Even with the loss of Jeff Francis in Spring Training the Rockies still have four 10 game winners already. Not only have the starters been able to get wins, they have all been dominant. The four starters with at least 10 wins all have ERA’s either below 4.00 or hovering right around that number. Ubaldo Jimenez, just getting his feet wet in the big leagues in ‘07, continues to make strides and is quickly becoming a dominant pitcher.

The offense is far more well rounded than the ‘07 squad. While the team is without ‘07 catalyst Matt Holliday, they now have three solid starters in the outfield, including Brad Hawpe, and Carlos Gonzalez, who is showing the five tool talent that has been bragged about by scouts for years. While the outfielders are good at the plate, between Fowler and Gonzalez, there is rarely a ball hit anywhere from the left field line to right-center field that touches the ground. These two can run, and both have good arms.

The bullpen is far more solid than it was in ‘07. With the acquisition of Rafael Betancourt from the Indians and the impressive relief work from rookie Matt Daley, who gets outs as if he has been pitching in the big leagues for 10 years, the Rockies have a solid bridge to closer Huston Street, who has blown only one save in 28 opportunities this season.

Another strength for the Rockies is their bench. Having the ability to call on Seth Smith, the Major League leader for average from a pinch hitter, is huge. They can count on Smith to give them a quality at-bat and find a way to get on base. Also, Ryan Spilborghs has power potential and a quick bat.

The Rockies can be ignored right now because it is the middle of August, but the fact is, if they continue to play at the level that they are playing for another three weeks they could find themselves within a game of the lead in the National League West race.

The Rockies head to Florida for a huge weekend series against the Marlins. Florida is looking for a big series that would put them within a game of the Rockies in the Wild Card standings.

Jason Hammel will pitch on Friday night for the Rockies, and Aaron Cook, held out of his last start due to a sprained big toe, will be on the hill on Saturday.

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