The recent weather in Colorado seems to be a perfect metaphor for the Rockies season so far. Instead of a spring that produces flowers and warmth, the Denver metro area has been under a black cloud of cold. The cold has brought rain, snow and misery to the city.
The Rockies were supposed to break through their continuous April slump. They were supposed to lead the National League West pack out of the gate. Instead, they once again have underperformed and have disappointed those who had high expectations for them.
The good news for both the weather and the Rockies...the forecast is looking up.
According to the weather reports, Sunday should be what most Coloradans generally expect around the middle of May, a warm, pleasant, sunny day.
For the Rockies, they will see the return of Jeff Francis to the mound.
Francis pitching again symbolizes a sigh of relief to those who follow the Rockies. If Francis can resemble anything close to the 2007 version of himself that won 17 games, the Rockies are going to be in good shape.
After throwing two rehab outings in Tulsa, Francis's arm has responded well and all signs indicate that he is ready to pitch again, after missing all of 2009 and most of 2008.
In addition to Francis, Huston Street has been successful in his rehab outings. He is getting close as well. With Francis back to stabilize the rotation, and Street at the back end of the bullpen, the Rockies should be able to have a little more confidence taking the field on a daily basis.
The day was complete with Ubaldo Jimenez becoming the first pitcher in the big leagues to pick up his seventh win. Couple that with the fact that both Carlos Gonzalez and Seth Smith hit home runs into the second level in right field and Rockies fans should be feeling like the team is turning a corner.
Jimenez, who did not have his best stuff, showed how good he is by giving up two runs. Jimenez giving up two runs now qualifies as a bad outing for the Dominican. In his eight innings he also gave up his first home run of the year, a moonshot off the bat of Adam Dunn.
Jason Hammel made his return to the rotation in the nightcap, pitching like a fifth starter should pitch. He was staked to s 3-0 lead, but let the Nationals tie the game up. He was able to limit the damage, however, and kept the Nats at three. The key to Hammel's positive outing was the strikeout to walk ratio. In seven innings he struck out seven and did not give up a walk.
The Rockies ensured at least a split of the four game series and hope to win the series with a victory on Sunday. All eyes will be on Francis, who will be pitching to prove that he is healthy and can contribute to the rotation.
A win would put the Rockies one game over .500 and would be a big momentum boost before heading on the road for a 3-city, 7-game road trip.
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