Monday, June 4, 2012

Colorado Rockies shutout Diamondbacks behind Friedrich's gem

Friedrich looks like the real deal. His focus is incredible.
Who says the Colorado Rockies have a starting pitching problem? No one is saying that after Christian Friedrich dominated the Arizona Diamondbacks, helping the club to a 4-0 win.

Maybe the Rockies starting pitching issues were simply because the talent on the mound was pitching 60 miles south of Denver for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox.

It is hard to imagine that Friedrich was nearly given up on after struggling for his second straight season at Double-A a year ago. His intensity and focus gives him the look of a seasoned veteran. He looks like he is determined to put the team on his back and pitch them to victory.

Overall, Friedrich pitched seven innings, giving up only four hits and no runs. He walked two Diamondback batters while striking out four.

The final line is impressive for Friedrich, but even more encouraging for the former first round draft pick was the fact that he didn't have his best stuff, and frankly, that is putting it lightly.

After being given a one-run lead before he stepped on the mound, it looked like Friedrich was going to give it right back. He walked Willie Bloomquist on four pitches, then gave up a two-out double to Paul Goldschmidt and walked Chris Young to load the bases. He was able to get Jason Kubel to fly to center field to end the threat, but it looked like the offense might have to have a big night.

Freidrich had absolutely no command of his fastball. His release point was off and the pitch was nowhere near the spot he was trying to hit. Instead of folding, however, Friedrich relied on his off-speed stuff and shutdown the Diamondbacks.

A performance like that was not something that is generally seen from a guy with less than 10 big league starts. Usually when a pitcher loses control of one of the pitches in his arsenal in a start early in his career, the panic button is hit and they are lucky to make it out of the 5th inning. Not Friedrich. He simply worked through the issue and kept his focus.

The start came on the heels of another phenomenal start by another rookie, Alex White. As good as White was on Sunday, shutting the Dodgers down for nearly seven innings, Friedrich was better.

The win has to be encouraging for a Rockies fan. As bad as things were two weeks ago, it suddenly seems as if this club turned the corner. Contending is still an afterthought for a team that buried themselves in May, but suddenly this club is fun to watch.

Not only has the pitching seemed to turn the corner, but the offense is coming through when they need to. On Monday night, every starter had at least one hit. Wilin Rosario again showed why the Rockies were so willing to trade Chris Iannetta in the offseason. He launched a 3-0 pitch deep into right-center field, nearly planting the ball into the pool just over the fence. The home run gave Rosario nine long balls on the season. He is well above pace for 20 home runs, something that would be a huge plus from behind the plate.

On top of Rosario's continuing development, another player is quietly showing his value. It is tough to argue that Jordan Pacheco can't hit at the big league level. His success over the passed month seems to have fueled his confidence. He looks like he believes that he belongs at the big league level. He upped his batting average to .308 with two more hits on Monday. On top of his performance at the plate, the infielder-turned catcher-turned infielder again is looking more and more comfortable at third base. He made a phenomenal back-handed play to start an inning-ending double play in the 5th inning.

The feeling behind this 2012 Colorado Rockies season has suddenly changed. As bad as things were, the corner looks like it has been turned and this club is on the path back to respectability. Outings like Friedrich and White have given the Rockies give a big reason for hope.

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