Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Gonzalez, Fowler combine to stun Giants and lead Colorado Rockies to victory

The excuse of it being early must have gotten old to the Colorado Rockies, too.

On Tuesday at Coors Field, the Rockies completed a mini-sweep of the San Francisco Giants, taking both games of a two-game series. Again, the hero was Carlos Gonzalez, who drove in the go-ahead runs against Javier Lopez in the bottom of the eighth inning. The Rocks held on to win 5-3.

The wins came at a perfect time for the club. After dropping six consecutive series, they were closer to .500 then to the winning team that blasted out of the gates in April.

It was good to see a sense of urgency from the club. After two straight weeks of excuses from Jim Tracy about it being early, the Rockies saw their opportunity to smack the Giants in the face, and they took advantage.

In January, at Rockies FanFest at Coors Field, several members of the club made it very clear that they saw the Giants as their top rival. They expressed disgust at them winning the World Series, and made claims about having them in their sights. With those expectations set, the Rockies looked like they were all talk and no action through the first six games against the champs.

After starting out 1-5 verses San Francisco, including a sweep at AT&T Park in which the Rockies looked like they forgot to show up, the team was in need of a statement.

When the Rockies had their chance to roll over, they didn't. In both games, the Rockies battled two of the National League's best pitchers. Instead of succumbing to them, the team continued to fight, and eventually worked their way back into each game.

The Giants pitchers certainly helped, committing errors in both games during the crucial inning, however, the way the Rockies played showed that when the ball is in play, good things can happen.

Carlos Gonzalez will grab the headlines, but Dexter Fowler's nine-pitch at-bat in the eighth inning should not be forgotten. With no one out, and runners on first and third, he battled, eventually driving a double to the gap in right-center. Had the ball not skipped over the wall, Fowler would have had a two-run double. Instead, he plated the tying run and put the Rockies in a position to win the game.

Coming into the game was the season-long concern of former ace Ubaldo Jimenez. He wasn't perfect, but it was a huge step in the right direction. His only huge mistake came on a 3-0 pitch to Pat Burrell that was driven into the left-center gap, scoring two runs and giving the Giants a lead that looked like it would be enough with the way that Sanchez was pitching.

In all, Jimenez went seven innings, giving up three runs on eight hits. He struck out seven and walked just one, a marked improvement from his last time out when he walked seven Mets.

Velocity is still a concern for the righty, who was still hovering around the 94 MPH mark throughout the game, but his command was much better, signaling big improvement. Time will tell if his dip in velocity is due to his mechanics still being a work in progress, or something no Rockies fan wants to consider, a shoulder injury.

The win gives the Rockies the top spot in the National League West once again. It also gives them some breathing room and momentum as they head into a five-game road trip through Philadelphia and Milwaukee. The Phillies are the cream of the crop in the National League, and the Brewers are tough to beat at home, where they will have Zach Grienke starting on Friday.

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