Friday, April 6, 2012

Colorado Rockies win opener in Houston, new faces make an impact

Jeremy Guthrie delivered 7 strong innings.
The Colorado Rockies started off their season on the right foot on Friday night in Houston.

A well-played game resulted in a 5-3 victory that wasn't secure until Rafael Betancourt struck out Matt Downs with two runners on and two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning.

The offseason saw Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd furiously make moves in an effort to change the clubhouse culture. He was tired of hitters who didn't take good at-bats, pitchers who didn't attack the strike zone and players who played with a lack of fundamentals.

The new faces that were brought in didn't waste time making an impact.

Jeremy Guthrie, acquired from Baltimore for Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom, gave the Rockies exactly what they were hoping for when they made the trade.

Guthrie's fastball isn't particularly lively. It is fairly straight. His offspeed stuff is pretty good, but not great. However, he throws strikes and stays low in the zone, which resulted in soft outs on Friday night. The main accomplishment from the right hander might have come after his failures. Instead of hanging his head after giving up back-to-back home runs in the bottom of the 4th inning, Guthrie took the ball and didn't panic. He continued to throw strikes. He didn't try to strike guys out, he simply went out and got outs.

The result was seven strong innings that leaves a fresh bullpen in the case that 49-year old Jamie Moyer can't go more than five innings.

Although newcomer Marco Scutaro went just 1-for-5, he made a contribution that was lacking in 2011. In the top of the 6th inning, with Astros starter Wandy Rodriguez rolling along, Scutaro came to the plate with two outs. After going down in the count 0-2, Scutaro fouled off several pitches and worked the count to 3-2. Although he lined out to third to end the inning, the at-bat was something the Rockies missed in 2011.

In the failed 2011 version of the Rockies, very few hitters would take an at-bat like Scutaro took. Instead of fouling off pitches and watching the ones out of the strike zone, the Rockies of 2011 seemed to find ways to wave at a slider in the dirt on 0-2, or roll over on a pitch on the outside half of the plate.

The big-ticket free agent signing, Michael Cuddyer also contributed, going 2-for-4 with a run batted in from the six hole, a place where he may very well thrive hitting behind Todd Helton.

Catcher Ramon Hernandez also contributed as a newcomer. He delivered two hits and looked to see the ball very well at the plate. A lineup that has pop in the seven hole is one that will be respected around the league.

Of course, one game does not make a season, but the Rockies looked polished. The Astros committed four errors and reminded fans that they are just a day removed from spring training, while the Rockies played flawless baseball in the field and looked to be in mid-season form.

It is far too early to get excited about the Rockies, but the way they played on Friday night was far different than the team everyone saw in 2011. Fundamental baseball, with a good lineup will win baseball games. It is early, but winning the first game is a great place to start.

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  1. The best part was Tulo's 9th inning insurance run. Last year they didn't do that. Hopefully they will have a killer instinct this year.

  2. David-
    There is no doubt that the Rockies needed a killer instinct last season. They had nothing like that last year. Thinking back on how pathetic it was is pretty miserable.

    Thanks for the comment.