|Christian Friedrich has been a pleasant surprise.|
It doesn't sound like much, but considering the way the team has performed in May, a two game streak may as well be a 15 game winning streak.
Friday night was a game that showcased why the club should be far better than they have performed throughout the month of May.
The majority of the credit for the win has to go to left-handed starting pitcher Christian Friedrich. The rookie, making his fourth career start, once again was impressive for the Rockies. He continued looking focused and poised. Despite a poor outing on Saturday against the Mariners, Friedrich bounced back and pitched well, giving the Rockies a chance.
The stats for Friedrich don't look incredibly impressive. He gave up three runs in five innings of work. The Reds tagged him for seven hits. However, Friedrich was impressive. He got knocked around in the 4th inning, giving up three runs and allowing the game to be tied. Instead of allowing a bad inning to turn into a horrendous inning, Friedrich continued to battle. He struck out Ryan Hanigan and then Reds starter Johnny Cueto to end the inning.
In the 5th inning, Friedrich got two outs, then gave up one of Joey Votto's four hits, walked Brandon Phillips, his only walk of the game and found himself in trouble again. Once again, the focus and poise was evident in Friedrich's face. The lefty settled down and got Chris Heisey to pop out in foul territory to Wilin Rosario.
Friedrich's night was done, but for a kid making his fourth big league start, he was impressive. He struck out six and walked just one.
The lesson learned from Friedrich's outing is that the starting pitchers don't need to be perfect, they simply need to minimize the big innings and pitch well enough to keep their team in the game.
Pitching wasn't the only positive for the Rockies. Some of the bats that have disappeared during the tough month of May are coming around. Todd Helton, owner of a .228 batting average, gave the Rockies an early advantage, launching a two-run home run off Cueto in the top of the 2nd inning. In the 5thm Helton came back to the plate and singled back up the middle to record his third RBI of the night. Helping to regain the Rockies lead.
Troy Tulowitzki, often the victim of his own determination, went 3-for-4. Perhaps the best sign from Tulowitzki came in the top of the 9th inning. With Carlos Gonzalez on third base, Tulo waited on a pitch and flipped it to center field, collecting a hit and giving the Rockies an additional run.
The at-bat was impressive for Tulowitzki because his struggles have consisted of doing everything opposite of what that at-bat consisted of. Instead of simply serving the ball to the outfield and keeping the inning going, the shortstop has been busy trying to do too much, squeezing the bat too tight, and ending up grounding out weakly or popping out to the infield.
Part of the frustration with the Rockies in May is that this team has more talent than the way they have played. The outrage from fans is loud because, unlike the teams the Rockies put in the field in the early 2000's. Those teams weren't very good from a talent standpoint. This team is probably not a World Series contender, but with a lineup featuring Tulowitzki, Gonzalez, Helton and Michael Cuddyer, this is a team that should be closer to first place than last place. They haven't played to their talent level. Whether they will ever play at that level for an extended period of time remains to be seen, but they have the talent.
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