Sunday, August 7, 2011

Iannetta shines as Colorado Rockies destroy Washington Nationals

Suddenly Chris Iannetta is quieting his doubters.

On Saturday night, Iannetta led the Colorado Rockies to a 15-7 victory over the Washington Nationals at Coors Field. Iannetta went 4-for-5, including launching his 12th home run of the season.

The catcher is possibly the most polarizing figure in the history of the Colorado Rockies. He was once a top prospect who had perennial All-Star written all over him. He struggled in his rookie season of 2007, losing his job to veteran Yorvit Torrealba.

In 2008, Iannetta started out slowly, but came on strong finishing the season as one of the top hitting catchers in the National League. However, much of that performance was forgotten in the disappointment of the '08 season in which the Rockies failed to put up a serious fight in their defense of the National League crown.

The following season, Iannetta regressed. Once again, Torrealba won the starting job and Iannetta was relegated to bench duty, much to the chagrin of many of his fans. In 2010, Iannetta was sent a wake-up call, being demoted to Triple-A 20 at-bats after signing a three year deal with the Rockies.

There is no doubt that his potential is phenomenal. The 28-year old can hit the ball 500 feet, and regularly does in batting practice. Much of the frustration with Iannetta stems from the level of talent that he possesses. Fans want to see him hit the ceiling that they know is inside of him, somewhere.

That ceiling might finally be in reach, as Iannetta has started to crush the ball since the All-Star break, hitting at a clip near .350. He seems more comfortable at the plate. When he struggles, Iannetta consistently is checking his swing. He half-swings at nearly every pitch. When he does commit to the pitch that he wants to hit, he fouls it back, or pops it up.

Suddenly, those foul balls to the screen are being turned around. On Monday night against the Phillies, Iannetta hit a 425-foot home run that never got more than 15 feet off of the ground. On Saturday, Iannetta's blast was very similar. The only doubt was whether or not the laser had a chance to get over the top of the wall.

His three singles were also absolute ropes. He isn't getting lucky hits that fall in, he is hitting line drives that get to the outfield quickly.

While the Colorado Rockies 2011 season has been a huge disappointment, there can still be small positives that come out of it. If Iannetta takes strides towards becoming the offensive threat that he has always possessed deep down, the Rockies suddenly have something to be very excited about going into the 2012 season.

Small victories like Iannetta's progress are the types of victories that will propel the Rockies for the final two months of the season. They must find a way to continue to improve, whether they are in a playoff race or not.

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