Monday, August 8, 2011

CarGo delivers go-ahead homer to lead Colorado Rockies to victory

This is the Colorado Rockies team that was advertised in February.

On a rainy night in Cincinnati, the Rockies battled back from an early 3-0 deficit to defeat the Reds 10-7. The win came from a flood of offense that included a Carlos Gonzalez home run, a long ball from Todd Helton, and two bombs from Seth Smith.

Gonzalez's home run was a mammoth blast to straight away center field one inning after the Brandon Phillips had tied the game up with a long home run of his own.

The Rockies have been missing a killer instinct since the 13th game of the season. At that point, they stood 11-2, holding on to the best record in the big leagues. Everything was going right for them. If they were down by a few runs, they would fight to get back into the game. If they were in the lead, they would find a way to hold the opponents down.

Ever since that early stretch, however, it has seemed like winning baseball games was something that was much too hard to accomplish. It has looked like the team cannot get over the mental hurdle of not having the lead, as well as the mental hurdle of trying to hold on to a lead.

The Rockies were supposed to dominate by simply showing up to the park. They were talented enough to drop a few games here and there that they were supposed to win and easily walk away with the National League West crown. Instead, they will struggle to finish the season above .500.

Games like Monday night's are reminders of how good this team could be. It makes all of the people who predicted the Rockies to be good not look so foolish, as if they could point to this game and talk about how this could be a regular event. It is good to see that the Rockies might not be as bad as they have played since the middle of April. However, it is frustrating to see them play games like Monday night's because it shows how good they could have been and what a waste this season has been.

The main reason that the Rockies had a chance to crawl back into the game on Monday was due in large part to Seth Smith. After taking a seat on the bench for two straight games in favor of Eric Young, Jr. in left field, Smith was given the opportunity to prove that he is the better player and that he should be out there every day.

If Smith had a bone to pick with Jim Tracy for his lineup decisions, he made his point before the fourth inning started, trotting around the bases for the second time in the game in the top of the third inning. The Rockies made it clear that they believe Smith has made strides so far in 2011, but he needs to hit for more power. Smith may have been making a point that if he wants to hit the ball over the fence, he can do just that.

Any criticism that Smith has taken in 2011 is overlooking the season that he has had. Why does it matter if Smith has just 11 home runs? Take into account that he is generally on the bench every time the team faces a lefty. Consider what that does to his rhythm when he does get back into the lineup. It makes sense that hitting the ball out of the park wouldn't be something that would happen frequently when he isn't a true member of the everyday lineup.

Also, in Smith's defense, he has 26 doubles and seven triples on the season. That isn't quite the same as hitting the ball out of the park on a regular basis, but it's not like he is a single's hitter. He is still putting up the slugging percentage numbers that would be hoped for from a corner outfield spot.

If Smith were given the job, and given the opportunity to play every single day, he could be even better. He has definitely run into some dry spells, but what member of the Rockies hasn't? His defense, minus a few mental lapses, has been far and away better than in years past, and his .806 OPS is better than most outfielders in the National League.

With the night that the Rockies put together, with two blasts from Smith and a big one to win it from Gonzalez, it makes a fan feel as if they could have accomplished so much more in 2011. However, it also starts to build hope that 2012 will be a much more focused year.

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