A 5-3 win over the Dodgers on Saturday night typified exactly what the Rockies organization is striving for. They believe that the route to winning is through growing from within. They rarely go after a big-name free agent and do everything that they can to stock the farm system.
Saturday night showed exactly why that works.
The Rockies were carried to victory by their oldest homegrown player and their youngest homegrown player. One a position player, the other a pitcher.
Todd Helton, the first true homegrown hero for the Rockies, smacked a huge home run to lead off the 6th inning for the Rockies. The blast was not only an insurance run for the game, it was insurance that Helton actually is starting to feel good and that his bat is starting to come through when the club needs him the most.
The home run gave the Rockies a two-run cushion, just enough to give some breathing room for the 22-year old starter on the mound.
Jhoulys Chacin, the Rockies latest homegrown contributor, showed exactly what all the hype is about. He bounced back from a rough outing in Los Angeles to dominate the same Dodger lineup. He went seven innings, giving up just one run on four hits. He struck out seven and walked four.
While the command is still coming around, Chacin is showing exactly the cloth that he has been cut from. He has the ability, in essentially a must-win game for the Rockies, to put the pressure on the back burner and use both a fastball, slider and changeup effectively.
The next step in Chacin's progress will be command. Four walks is probably one or two too many, but the fact that he was able to wiggle out of trouble in all but the 2nd inning shows how far he has come.
The Rockies are starting to play good baseball. Of course, it is coming at Coors Field, where they seem to be able to find their stroke. Sitting at 4-1/2 games out of the wild card lead, the Rockies are by no means out of the race. At the same time, they are not necessarily in the race either.
In order to prove that they are a legitimate playoff contender, the Rockies are going to have to prove that they are able to not only play well, but win on the road, and win consistently.
While they struggled on the road at the beginning of the season, the true struggles started after the All-Star break, where they went on a 2-9 streak that will be looked back upon with regret if the Rockies fall just short of a playoff appearance.
Winning on the road isn't going to be easy. One thing that the Rockies absolutely have to to in order to have a chance is to continue collecting as many wins at Coors Field as possible. Even if the club goes .500 on the road the rest of the season, they are going to need to continue to dominate at home, not allowing teams that they need to beat to win there.
If they can continue their dominance at home, then find ways to win games on the road, the Rockies will be in the hunt at the end of September. If, however, they even slip once, they are going to be out of it. The first test will come on Monday when they start a three-game series against the team directly in front of them in the standings, the San Francisco Giants.
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