Monday, August 30, 2010

Colorado Rockies come up clutch in San Francisco

For eight innings it looked like the same old story was writing itself. "Rockies fall flat on the road," "Rockies leave bats at Coors Field...again."

Carlos Gonzalez, however, changed that headline to something that hasn't been seen in the 2010 season. "Rockies come from behind in 9th inning."

Gonzalez, named the National League Player of the Week earlier in the day, shattered his bat on a Brian Wilson changeup. The ball looked as if it was going to float harmlessly into the glove of right fielder Cody Ross. However, the ball carried further than Ross expected. As the ball carried over his head, Dexter Fowler who had walked to begin the inning, turned on the afterburners and scored from first base. The throw hit Gonzalez on his way the third base and went into the stands, allowing Gonzalez to score, giving the Rockies a 2-1 lead.

Ross misplayed the ball, but it would be wrong to not mention how far the ball traveled off of a shattered bat. The hit showed just how strong Gonzalez is. Most hitters when they break their bat on that pitch, fly out harmlessly to the second baseman. Gonzalez's strength allowed the ball to not only fly past second base, but carry deep into the outfield, over Ross' head.

The win marks the first time all season that the Rockies have come from behind on the road when losing after eight innings. The Rockies picked a pretty good time to change their fortunes.

Gonzalez gets the credit for the win on Monday, and it is well deserved. However, two names that won't be mentioned on Sportscenter or on Baseball Tonight are Jorge De La Rosa and Dexter Fowler.

De La Rosa's accomplishments go without saying. The lefty went seven strong innings, giving up just one run on four hits. He struck out nine while walking four. The only run he gave up was in the 4th inning when he started the inning with a walk to Aubrey Huff, who came around to score on a Buster Posey single.

De La Rosa showed why when he is on, he is one of the better lefties in the game. When his fastball is on it moves all over the place, but remains in the strike zone. Even better than his fastball, however is his changeup. Evidence of that came in the bottom of the 1st inning with runners on second and third base. De La Rosa went to a full count with Posey, but then threw a changeup that looked like it had a parachute on it, getting Posey to swing and miss to end the inning.

Fowler's contributions are far less evident in the box score. However, with Jonathan Sanchez going for the complete game, Fowler was able to work a lead off walk to start the 9th inning. The walk was not an average walk. Fowler started the at bat in an 0-2 hole. With the momentum swinging in the favor of a pitcher who had been dominant all night long, the speedy center fielder was able to work the count all the way back to full, and then had the patience to lay off of a 3-2 change up that missed low.

If Fowler isn't on first base, Gonzalez's at-bat is far different than what it was. Instead of looking to hit the ball out of the ballpark and tie the game up, Gonzalez was able to think about hitting a pitch into the outfield to move Fowler to third. Also, with Fowler's speed on first base, Wilson was forced to throw more fastballs. With speed on first base, Wilson, who has a slow delivery to the plate, had the runner in mind and was forced to throw pitches that Gonzalez was able to hit.

The win does more for the Rockies than the entire 5-1 homestand did. Instead having the looming black cloud of not being able to win on the road hanging above their heads, the Rockies can move forward with confidence, knowing that they are able to win on the road the same way that they do at home. It doesn't matter if they are losing after the 1st inning or the 8th inning, they have the talent to do what it takes to win the game.

Despite struggling on the road all season long, if the Rockies somehow find a way to break through and win away from Coors Field down the stretch than they have a very real chance at finding themselves in the postseason for the third time in four years.

The next step is to prove that the game on Monday night wasn't just an aberration, but a trend.

Winning one of the next two games could go a long way for the Rockies, not only in the wild card standings, but also as far as the team's confidence goes. If they take the series, or even somehow can pull off a sweep, history would say that it would be a good time to pick the Rockies to be playing in October.

The next step comes on Tuesday night against the Giants. Esmil Rogers looks to rebound from his last outing in which he couldn't get out of the second inning. He takes on Madison Bumgarner who also had a horrible outing his last time out.

For more on the Rockies visit RockiesReview.com

This article is also featured on INDenverTimes.com

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