Many of the experts have said that the Rockies are a serious contender based on their lineup. However, their pitching staff is pretty much Ubaldo Jimenez and a bunch of no-names beyond him.
Jhoulys Chacin, making his first start of 2011 after an impressive rookie season, did his best to make the experts eat their words on Tuesday night at Coors Field, leading the Rockies to a 3-0 victory.
The righty cut through the Dodger lineup with ease. He went seven strong innings, striking out four and walking two, one intentionally. He gave up just five base hits.
There was no wiggle room for Chacin, who was battling rising star Clayton Kershaw. The Dodger lefty, with his picture perfect mechanics, to go along with a low-90's fastball and devastating off-speed pitches that float in at around 75 MPH, was coming off a near-perfect outing against the World Champion Giants.
On top of the fact that Kershaw seemed to be in mid-season form on Opening Day is the fact that the Rockies have struggled against him. The lefty-heavy Rockies lineup looked lost against Kershaw, striking out 23 times in his four starts against them.
With that battle presented to Chacin, the 23-year old answered the call. He matched Kershaw pitch-for-pitch through three innings. That is when All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki broke out of his mini-slump with a home run to the deepest corner of the park. Kershaw elevated a 2-2 pitch and Tulo made him pay.
The reality is, the Rockies are relying heavily on Chacin taking another step. He proved that he is not just a Major League pitcher, but a good one in 2010. His fastball has a sink on it that, when on, is extremely difficult to lift for a base hit. On Tuesday, he mixed his pitches well and never cracked when he had runners on base.
Chacin is just 23-years old. He certainly will have more maturing to do at the big league level. He will have days when his stuff is not as good as it was on Tuesday. However, Rockies fans have to be feeling good with his performance.
One good start does not mean Chacin is going to dominate the league all year long, but it does give the Rockies confidence that their pitching staff is very strong.
With a couple more performances like Tuesday night, Chacin may make the experts eat their words.
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