Saturday, October 3, 2009

Colorado Rockies Not Content With Wild Card, Aim For Division

Forgive Rockies fans if they are not sure how to act this weekend.

The Colorado Rockies advanced unto unfamiliar territory on Friday night and won 4-3.

Never in the 17 year history of the Colorado Rockies, has their been a regular season game that followed the team clinching a playoff spot. The two previous times the Rockies advanced to the playoffs came on the last day of the season, or in 2007’s case, the day after the season ended.

This franchise has never had to worry about giving starters a rest before the beginning of the postseason. It has never been concerned with setting up a postseason rotation to its liking. It has never looked like the team to beat in the National League.

While most fans and even players were concerned most about the Braves and clinching the Wild Card, the Rockies focus has turned to doing something else this franchise has never done, winning the National League West. After a sharp six inning performance that included the standard one bad inning, Ubaldo Jimenez shut down the Dodgers potent, but limping lineup to pick up his 15th win of the season and claim the best ERA by a Rockies starter over the course of a season.

While sweeping a series on the road is never something that a baseball team can expect, the odds became much higher after the Rockies took it to Dodgers starter Randy Wolf. The righty who projects to be the Dodgers starter in their first playoff game on Wednesday got roughed up early by the Rockies. Eight men strolled to the plate in the first inning, the most important being red-hot Yorvit Torrealba, who laced a ball into the right-center gap to plate two runs.

On Saturday the Rockies face another lefty in Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw is coming off of a freak injury in which he ran into the scoreboard during batting practice. He is 8-8 on the season with a 2.89 ERA. He has the stuff to be an ace, but has not figured out how to be an effective pitcher by throwing strikes consistently. He is normally out of the game after five or six innings due to a high pitch count.

On Sunday the Rockies face Vincente Padilla, a pickup from the Rangers who was released due to his bad attitude. The Rockies should be in a position to win the game Sunday with Jason Marquis on the hill for the Rockies.

What that means is that if the Rockies can find a way to scratch out a game on Saturday, they will be in perfect position to finish off the sweep and come home with their first ever division crown. It would also be the first time that a team as far back as 15-1/2 games ever recovered to win the division.

What is fun for Rockies fans is the freedom of knowing that regardless of what the Rockies do this weekend, they will be suiting up for the playoffs on Wednesday afternoon, whether that is at Coors Field or somewhere else. Fans no longer have to live and die with every pitch, or every swing of the bat. They can rest assured that no matter what happens this weekend, they will get to watch their team duke it out with the league’s best for at least another week after the regular season is over.

If the Rockies do pull off the sweep they will most likely finish with the best record in the National League, meaning they would have home field advantage through the Championship Series. That is a huge advantage due to the fact that the Rockies are such a good home team. That would be a huge plus playing any of the other three teams in the National League, especially Philadelphia or Los Angeles because the Rockies struggled in both of those cities earlier in the year.

If the Rockies do end up winning the West it will be in large part to the excellent work of catcher Yorvit Torrealba. The Venezuelan began the year as a backup to Chris Iannetta. As Iannetta continued to slump, Torrealba started seeing more time. That is when Torrealba got hot, finding ways to get the bat on the ball and make good things happen. He single handily won a game in San Diego and at home against the Cardinals due to his excellent approach to every single at-bat. He is a calming influence on the pitching staff and calls a great game behind the plate. He is another example of one of the many contributors to the Colorado Rockies in 2009.

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