Saturday, September 5, 2009

Smith, Giambi Provide Late-Night Heroics To Lift Rockies To Victory

This team is like a good Hollywood script. It almost as if the team forgets that they can win the game earlier than the seventh, eighth or ninth innings. But why should they do that, that wouldn’t be as much fun.

The Rockies, trailing 4-2 in the seventh inning, got a huge hit from Seth Smith. Smith doubled for the second time on the night. This time came with runners on first and second base. The double scored two runs and tied the game at four.

The importance of Seth Smith to this Rockies club cannot be understated.

On a night when the Rockies were facing one of the league’s best pitchers in Dan Haren, Smith went 4-for-5 with two doubles and three RBI’s. Smith has been productive in any roll the Rockies have asked him to perform. He has been incredible as a pinch hitter, hitting well over .400 in the pinch. As a starter Smith has also proven to be no slouch.

At the end of June it was reported that Rockies hitting coach Don Baylor convinced Smith to use a longer bat. Ever since switching to the longer lumber Smith has been on a tear. After hitting .204 in June, Smith went on to hit .347 in June and .310 in July.

Smith is proving himself to be a true pure hitter. He is able to foul pitches off and extend at-bats long enough to get the pitch that he wants to hit. Instead of being impatient and swinging at something outside the zone, Smith, not unlike his teammate Todd Helton, is able to simply flick the ball foul and wait for the next pitch. He keeps his weight back and drives pitches, which helps him react to breaking balls while looking for a fastball.

Smith’s production has been key for the Rockies who have lately been suffering from a lack of offensive firepower. On a night like Friday, he kept the team in the game all by himself.
Smith had a great night, but the hero for the third time in as many plate appearances was slugger Jason Giambi who came to the plate after Yorvit Torrealba singled to extend his personal 13 game hitting streak, and Clint Barmes had miraculously put a bunt on the ground to move Torrealba to second base.

Giambi strolled to the plate for what most thought would be an intentional walk, setting up a double play and still having a lefty at the plate in Carlos Gonzalez. Instead, Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch elected to pitch to Giambi, who delivered once again for the Rockies, driving a ball into center field to score Torrealba and give the Rockies a 5-4 lead.

Franklin Morales, closing games for the injured Huston Street, stepped to the mound in the ninth inning to close the door on the Diamondbacks. Being new to the situation, and the fact that Morales has dealt with nerve issues in the past, caused some discomfort for Rockies fans. However, Morales quickly got two outs before walking Ryan Roberts. With Justin Upton stepping to the plate, 3-for-8 with a home run against Morales in his career, the nerves were as intense as it gets.

Morales worked ahead in the count, then worked a fly ball out of Upton, ending the game and securing his second career save.

Once again, getting lost in the late inning drama will be the performance of fifth starter Jason Hammel. The righty who turned 27 years old on Wednesday pitched six strong innings, giving up three earned runs, but two came on a single bad pitch to Miguel Montero in the third inning. He was also the victim of two bad throws by Clint Barmes, only one of which earned Barmes an error.

Hammel has become a dependable starter for the Rockies. He has had tough draws in who is pitching against him lately, facing Matt Cain twice, Josh Johnson in Florida, Johan Santana in New York and Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers at Coors Field. The job of a fifth starter is to give his team a chance to win, and that is exactly what Hammel has done for the Rockies.

Colorado looks to win the series on Saturday as they send newly acquired Jose Contreras to the mound to face Doug Davis of the Diamondbacks. It should be a good game for the Rockies offense to really break out and score runs. Davis is a fly ball pitcher whose stuff is not really effective at Coors Field.

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