Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Ubaldo Gets 17th, Rockies Road Trip a Make or Break

As much as it can be on August 4th, Wednesday afternoon's game against the Giants was a must-win for the Rockies.

The good news for the Rockies was that they had their ace Ubaldo Jimenez on the mound. Jimenez pitched seven innings of one-run baseball in route to his 17th win as the Rockies rolled over the Giants 6-1 at Coors Field.

The win ties Jimenez with Jeff Francis, Kevin Ritz and Pedro Astacio for most wins in a season. It is fairly safe to say that Jimenez, who has roughly 13 starts remaining before the end of the 2010 campaign, will make 17 wins a distant second on the Rockies all-time list.

Jimenez dominated the Giants, giving up just two hits through the first five innings before tiring in the 6th and giving up a double to Aubrey Huff followed by a double by rapidly-rising superstar Buster Posey to score the lone Giants run.

At that point the Rockies held a 4-1 lead that looked vulnerable. That is when Carlos Gonzalez swatted his second home run of the game, a laser into the visitor's bullpen that never got 20 feet off of the ground and Troy Tulowitzki followed with a blast to straight away center field to make the crowd breathe easier.

For Jimenez, it was just another day at work. He won his 11th game following a Rockies loss, a streak that is a nice little statistic, but it sure would be nice for the Rockies if he was following more wins than losses.

The win completed a 5-3 home stand, which was not all that bad considering they dropped the first two games to the Pirates before redeeming themselves with a sweep of the Cubs. If the Rockies could have found a way to win on Tuesday against the Giants, the home stand would have finished with the club just 4-1/2 games out of the wild card. That, however, would have required a much better start from Aaron Cook.

The Rockies hit the road in what will be a defining road trip for the club. The last time they took to the east coast they found themselves struggling to score runs, pitch well, play good defense, or look like a professional baseball team altogether. If they have any intention of remaining in the National League West race, they must win on the road. That does not mean splitting series, that means winning them.

The road trip features a four-game series in Pittsburgh followed by a three-game set in New York against the Mets. A four-game series on the road is difficult to expect to win. However, the Rockies have put themselves in a position where they must win games in which they are the better team. That means that they must win three-of-four in Pittsburgh and find a way to pick up two wins against the Mets. That would bring them back home with a 5-2 record on the trip and give them confidence to make a run at home. At worst, they must win at least four of the seven games.

If the Rockies return to Coors Field with a 3-4 road trip, they may as well start making their plans for spring training because they are not in a position to be able to drop further in the standings. The Padres are in the midst of 17-of-20 games on the road, meaning that if the Rockies do not gain ground on them now, they may not have another opportunity.

All indications point to Aaron Cook going on the disabled list with a broken fingernail, a hurt ego or whatever else the Rockies can make up so that they do not have to send someone to the minors in order to get Jhoulys Chacin back. With Chacin in the rotation, the Rockies now stand a chance to win every game in which they play. With Cook on the mound fans were trying to summons rain storms to drench the field.

In one week the Rockies and their fans will have a clearer picture of what the remainder of the season looks like. A good road trip puts them right in the middle of the race. A bad road trip and thoughts move towards 2011.

For more on the Rockies visit RockiesReview.com

This article is also featured on INDenverTimes.com

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