Friday, April 13, 2012

Colorado Rockies rally to win thanks to Todd Helton

Helton hit the game winning double.
It was vintage Todd Helton.

Those who had the nerve to be a Colorado Rockies fan in the early 2000's know. Those who could stomach the losing and the consistent poor play from the Rockies in the early part of the decade know. When the rest of the Rockies were rebuilding, Todd Helton was dominating.

While his team struggled, Helton simply hit. He put on a hitting clinic. The only problem was that because the team was so bad, very few people paid attention.

On Friday night at Coors Field, Helton showed some of the newcomers what the old Helton was like for all of those years.

In the bottom of the 8th inning, with Carlos Gonzalez at third base thanks to a single and error, Troy Tulowitzki couldn't get the job done. He battled through his at-bat, but ended up striking out on a tough slider. Helton strolled to the plate with two outs, knowing that only a base hit would score the go-ahead run.


On the second pitch, Helton hit a ball down the opposite field line, doubling in Gonzalez. It was the 557th double of Helton's long and successful career.

The RBI double gave the Rockies a one run lead and a win over the defending division champion Arizona Diamondbacks.

The win was much needed, giving the Rockies a chance to win the series in one of the next two days. It puts the Rockies at 3-4 in this young season, rather than heading into Saturday night at 2-5 and needed two straight wins to avoid losing the first three series of the season.

The Helton double concluded a come-from-behind win that seemed fitting as Juan Nicasio took the mound at Coors Field for the first time since he fell to what should have been a career ending injury. No one would blame Nicasio if he admitted to having some nerves in his first time back. His return was short as he went just 2-2/3 innings, giving up six runs on five hits. He walked five and gave up a home run.

The offense battled back, but the bullpen showed that they deserve respect. Esmil Rogers, perhaps finally finding his spot, pitched 2-1/3 scoreless innings. In the 5th inning Rogers gave up back-to-back hits, putting runners at second and third base with no one out. Just as the Rockies were creeping back into the game, it seemed as if Rogers was going to cough up any chance the team had. Instead, he didn't lose focus. He induced a comebacker for the first out, then struck out the next two Diamondbacks to end the inning unscathed.

Later, Matt Belisle, who pitched two scoreless innings himself, pitched around another Rockies error. This time the error came from right fielder Michael Cuddyer, who was the latest outfielder to see a ball pop out of his glove. With a runner on second base due to the error, Belisle didn't fold. He threw strikes and got out of the inning without a run scoring.

Wins like Friday's, regardless of whether they come in April or September, are huge. It is a confidence builder. It was a statement that this Rockies offense is good enough to pick up wins when the starting pitcher simply does not keep the team in the game.

The win also shows character. The game never became a situation where the team was playing for the next day. The pitchers weren't getting their work in, the hitter's weren't working on their batting averages, and their never seemed like there was an attitude from the players that they couldn't win the game.

If this team can continue to play with that mindset they could surprise some people.

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