Monday, June 20, 2011

Colorado Rockies use two-out rally to win opener in Cleveland

One month ago, this would have been a blowout.

Instead, the Colorado Rockies rallied from a 4-1 deficit to beat the Cleveland Indians 8-7 at Progressive Field.

With two outs in fifth inning, Chris Iannetta harmlessly walked to turn the lineup over. Then Carlos Gonzalez singled, and Chris Nelson followed with a two-strike single up the middle. Suddenly the bases were loaded and Todd Helton was at the plate. Helton calmly worked the count full, then watched as Indians starter Fausto Carmona threw low-and-away to walk Helton, and cut the Indian lead to 4-2.

After Helton walked, Troy Tulowitzki delivered in an odd way. He bounced the first pitch that he saw off of the back corner of the third base bag, causing the ball to carom into foul territory down the left field line. What ended up being a double scored two runs and tied the game at four with two men in scoring position.

With American League rules being used, designated hitter Jason Giambi stepped to the plate and delivered a no-doubt three-run bomb to right-center field to give the Rockies a 7-4 lead.

The Indians rallied, but a fly ball that landed two feet shy of the stands in the bottom of the ninth off of the bat of Grady Sizemore was as close as Cleveland came to tying the game up, giving the Rockies the victory.

This game is an example of who the Rockies can be if they allow themselves to be. Over the course of May, when the Rockies struggles were at their height, when the offense got two outs, fans may as well go make themselves a sandwich or take a bathroom break, because the offense shutdown. It seemed that with two outs, they weren't confident enough that they could string together more than one base hit, so they may as well wait for next inning.

Monday night showed why it is so important to take good at-bats, regardless of how many outs there are, or what inning it is.

The Rockies easily could have given in and hoped for better. It was clear that rookie Juan Nicasio did not have his best stuff. He was missing his spots by just enough to get into trouble. In the bottom of the first, Travis Hafner launched a three-run homer deep into the right field stands. Iannetta had called for the ball to be on the inner-half of the plate, Nicasio ran the pitch right back over the center of the plate, and Hafner didn't miss.

In May, with a struggling starter on the mound, that game is a loss. The offense's confidence is nowhere to be found and instead of getting after a struggling starter like Carmona, the Rockies would have made him look like he deserved to be in the All-Star game.

Those types of games are the type that good teams win. They battle in every single at-bat. They don't hang their heads when the opposition takes a big lead. They believe that they are going to find a way to scratch and claw their way back into the game.

When a team battles back, and has a reputation for doing so, it wears down an opponent. Even with a big lead, they are walking on egg shells because they feel like they have to play perfect baseball in order for the other team not to come back. They feel like they have to score more runs, and play perfect defense. When a team lays down, the opponent can kick back and relax, knowing that the game is in the bag.

The Rockies are good enough to be the team that fights their way back into games. Of course it's not going to happen every night, but taking quality at-bats should happen in every inning. Hitters should work the counts and foul pitches off. They should always be looking for a way to move runners over and play fundamental baseball. When the Rockies do that, they are as good offensively as any team in the league. However, on the flip side, when they fail to do that, they usually only put up a run or two and find themselves wondering why they didn't win.

If the Rockies, as streaky as they are, can continue to battle and take quality at-bats, they might just find themselves in contention when the season starts to wind down.

2 comments:

  1. Dave great article and your comments are dead on with something the Rockies can really hang their hat on and give us fans some hope that there is a lot of baseball to play this year and with the kind of effort they put out in downtown Cleveland yesterday is something to be proud of. It is nice to see Helton bring his lunch pail to work everyday and give a real Yeomans effort night in and night out I know most fans will point to Cargo and Tulo as being the leaders and stars of this team but make no mistake about it. Heltons veteran leadership showed with the walk that he got last night. A true stat that never shows in the box score is quality at bat which he continues to give us night in and night out by taking pitchers deep into a count and making them work hard to get an out. Well done Todd. you truly are the straw that stirs the drink here in Denver.

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  2. Agree, Todd's still the soul of this team.

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