|Juan Nicasio was great on Saturday.|
On Saturday night, the Rockies offense couldn't support Juan Nicasio, blowing the best start of his young, courageous career. The offense allowed journeyman Aaron Harang to look like an ace, scoring just one run against him in eight innings. In the end, the Rockies lost 2-1.
As discouraging as this west coast trip has been for the Rockies, losing both three game series so far, Nicasio's outing has to be a huge encouragement. He went seven strong innings, giving up one run on five hits. The most impressive part of the outing was in the final line of the stat. The young right-hander struck out a Rockies season-high nine while walking none.
All night long Nicasio was pounding the strike zone. He worked the corners very well, hitting his spots. He pitched with no intimidation. He showed no fear in going after Matt Kemp and the rest of the Dodgers lineup that has been very tough for the Rockies to get out in previous seasons.
As bad as the Rockies starting pitchers were during the homestand, suddenly they have emerged as a bright spot on the road trip. Despite a rough outing by Jamie Moyer on Friday, the prospects that the Rockies called up in Alex White and Christian Friedrich impressed in their outings. Then Nicasio took care of his business on Saturday.
As it seems to happen in baseball, the pitchers got better when the batters cooled off.
There is a reason for that, however. It often seems that in Colorado, Troy Tulowitzki can do no wrong. Despite his struggles, he gets a pass from fans. Part of that is deserved, as he has been the best player in a Rockies uniform since Todd Helton. However, if Tulowitzki wants to be a superstar, there are areas in which he needs to improve upon.
In the 3rd inning the Rockies had their chance. Jonathan Herrera looped a double down the left field line, putting Marco Scutaro on third base. With Carlos Gonzalez at the plate, the Dodgers elected to pass and fact Tulowitzki with the bases loaded.
The way the Rockies have played on the road, especially in Los Angeles, Tulo should have known the situation. This might be the only chance that the club had to score runs. As the cleanup hitter, the shortstop had his chance to do some damage.
A good hitter knows that the pressure is on the pitcher in that situation. Of course, that means that the pitcher is going to be trying to throw strikes because he doesn't want to be in a hitter's count. However, that is easier said than done. A pitcher has to be perfect, not laying one over the plate, but still keeping the ball low in the zone.
Tulowitzki, instead of working the count, fired at the first pitch, fouling it off. The second pitch came in and the shortstop hit the ball hard, but well within centerfielder Matt Kemp's range, ending the threat while only seeing two pitches.
It seems like Tulowitzki is in such a hurry to make sure he gets the job done that he doesn't relax. He looks like he is so afraid that he is going to miss the one pitch that he has to drive that he is intent on swinging at everything and creating something out of nothing. He struck the ball hard in the third inning, but the pitch was slightly inside and wasn't a pitch that he could drive.
It is impossible to know exactly what is going through Tulowitzki's head. However, one thing is certain is that the shortstop isn't taking a good approach at the plate. He is constantly trying to do too much.
Speculation might suggest that Tulo is putting too much pressure on himself. He desires to be the hero so desperately that he isn't willing to wait for the right pitch to drive. He is forcing the situation. Instead of knowing that even if he gets two strikes, he can foul off bad pitches until the pitcher eventually is forced to give in.
Whatever the reason is, Tulowitzki does not pose the threat to the opposition that he should in tough situations. At this point, he almost seems like a break in the lineup. No pitcher wants to face Gonzalez, and they don't want to face Todd Helton, so the easy pick is the guy right in the middle of those two.
If Tulowitzki wants to be the best player that he can be, which, by all indications, he does, then he must begin to take quality at-bats. He doesn't have to take the first strike all the time, but he has to be patient enough to get his pitch. He must be patient enough to trust his teammates that if he doesn't get it done, someone else will.
Until that happens, the likelihood of the the Rockies figuring out their west coast issues seems small.
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