Monday, April 11, 2011

Colorado Rockies finding ways to win

The Colorado Rockies won on Monday night in New York 7-6. It was just their sixth victory on the road against the Mets in New York since 2003.

A win is a win in the standings, but as the Rockies continue to rack up the W's in early April, it is obvious that there is something different.

On Monday, the Rockies did not play particularly well. They made errors, and they didn't get hits when they needed to. In the 7th inning, the Rockies were a combined 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

So, if the Rockies didn't play well, what exactly is the difference between this season as opposed to 2010? The difference is simple. In the first nine games of 2011, the Rockies are winning games that they shouldn't be.

Throughout 2010, especially when the Rockies were on the road, they seemed to find new ways to lose. If they got a good performance from their offense, their starter would let them down. If their starter had a good outing, the offense didn't show up. When the offense hit, and the starting pitcher performed well, the defense let them down.

Monday night had the same feel as 2010. Especially when Seth Smith led off the 2nd inning with a deep drive to right field that ended up in a triple. A runner at third base with no one out is almost always a run. It generally takes a major offensive failure to not score a run in that situation. After Ty Wigginton struck out, Ian Stewart came to the plate and hit a hard ground ball to Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy, who was drawn in. Smith was running on contact, and Murphy wisely threw to the plate, cutting down Smith.

That was the point in 2010 where the Rockies would collapse. Their at-bats would become more pressed and the feel of idea of scratching out a run or two seemed more difficult than getting democracy in Libya.

The Rockies have made a point of turning the page on that type of baseball in 2011. They are quick to forget what happened the night before, and play with a new intensity and sense of confidence every day.

The difference in 2011 may be credited to a guy who showed that he was committed to winning in Colorado over the winter. Troy Tulowitzki, after making an error that cost the Rockies a run in the 4th inning, came back and more than made up for the error. With a runner at third base two outs and the game tied, Tulowitzki ranged to his right on a ground ball and made the now-patented Tulowitzki jump-throw to first base for the out. As good as that play is, Tulowitzki has made it look easy.

If the defense from Tulowitzki wasn't enough, in the 8th inning the shortstop came to the plate and blasted a two-run home run into the seats in left field at Citi Field, which seem like they are about 800 feet from home plate. The two runs ended up being the insurance runs that the club needed.

One more win out of the next three will guarantee the Rockies a winning road trip. That might not sound like a big deal, but consider that fact that the Rockies had a winning record on just two road trips in all of the 2010 season. That alone is a huge victory this early in the season.

Throughout Spring Training, the Rockies made a point of saying that this year would be different. They were intent on finding a way to win in April and finding a way to win on the road, two things that have vexed the Rockies over the years. All of that talk is great, but it is forgivable for fans to be skeptical, considering the past. Those skeptical fans are now seeing a difference.

In 2010, Monday night's game is a loss. In 2011, it goes in the win column. There is a difference with this year's Rockies team. They know that they are good, and they will not accept mediocrity. If they continue to play with that tenacity, the rest of the National League had better watch out.

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  1. Great article...i can also remember last year at TON of games were lost by one run, where we are now winning those 1 run games...we also, if i remember correctly, had a bunch of road games end in walk-off's for the home teams...that happened this time, but only 1 game and the only 2 we lost were extra inning's...

    I agree that the Rockies don't look like they are playing at 100% (thank goodness we aren't playing "real" teams yet :-) I'm excited to see what happens once they really get going...

    One correction - it was the 8th inning Tulo hit that blast...

  2. Why would anyone pitch hittable balls to Tulo when 1st base is empty?