Monday, June 25, 2012

Colorado Rockies win rare pitchers dual at Coors Field

Despite losing, Strasburg didn't have trouble with Coors Field.
Jeff Francis has proven to be the veteran stopper that the Colorado Rockies and Dan O'Dowd thought they were getting in Jeremy Guthrie.

In three of the four starts that the former ace has started since his return, Francis has looked like the same guy who won 17 games for the Rockies in 2007.

Francis, tied down by a silly pitch count and four man rotation, was lifted after the 5th inning. However, he pitched well enough to give the Rockies offense a chance to win against arguably the best pitcher in the National League, Stephen Strasburg.

The Canadian lefty went five innings, giving up two runs on five hits. He struck out five and didn't walk a batter. He threw just 66 pitches in the game, 48 of which were in the strike zone. It was the definition of a veteran outing.

Going up against Strasburg, Francis knew that he would have to be on top of his game. Giving up even a few runs might have spelled doom for the Rockies on Monday night. Francis went to the mound and did just that. He pounded the strike zone and found ways to get outs. His fastball may only be in the mid-80's after all of his shoulder issues, but he still knows how to get movement and fool batters.

This four game set with the Nationals shapes up to be a good one. Not because the games should be competitive, not because the Rockies are fighting their way back into the race, they certainly are not. This should be an interesting series because of Dan O'Dowd's recent comments in regards to Coors Field playing differently than it has in the humidor era.

O'Dowd seems to believe that the ballpark is suddenly playing differently, shown by the number of runs put up in the park over the first three months of the season. He makes no mention of the Rockies having a considerably better offense and a considerably worse pitching staff.

With that in mind, the Rockies faced Strasburg on Monday and Gio Gonzalez on Tuesday night. Strasburg has already become a mini-legend due to his accomplishments in college and his ability to hit well over 100 on the radar gun. Gonzalez, however, may be the best kept secret. The lefty is 9-3 with a 2.55 ERA in 14 starts. He has struck out 101 batters while walking just 34 in 84-2/3 innings. Amazingly, Gonzalez has given up just one home run.

If Coors Field was ever primed to turn back into a bandbox, this would be the week. The ball always flies better when the temperatures are hot, and as anyone in the Rocky Mountain region is aware, it is beyond hot. O'Dowd seems to believe that the park is playing differently. Well, if the Rockies go out and smoke Gonzalez, it might give the Rockies GM a game to point to.

Monday night's game, however, proved just the opposite. It pointed more towards the logic that the inflated scores have nothing to do with Coors Field magically changing, but rather that the talent on the mound simply hasn't been there. With Francis and Strasburg both dominant, the runs stayed off the board. Despite 100 degree heat, no home runs were hit on the night.

The Rockies look to beat the heat and the Nationals once again on Tuesday with their crazy four man rotation, 75-pitch limit system. Christian Friedrich will have the honors for the first three innings for the Rockies, then recently recalled Zach Putnam or Guillermo Moscoso will get the call to take over whenever Friedrich hits 75 pitches.

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