|Dexter Fowler delivered the game-winning sac fly on Monday night.|
Poised to win 4-1, giving Jeff Francis another win in what has been a phenomenal homecoming, the Rockies win was put on ice after the Pirates had put two men on base with one out. With Pedro Alvarez, a power-hitting lefty stepped to the plate, third base umpire Gary Cederstrom felt that the rain had become unplayable and he called for the tarp to come out.
After an hour and nine minute rain delay, Rex Brothers took the mound in place of Rafael Betancourt. One quick ground ball and the game would be over. Not so fast. Brothers first pitch to Alvarez was a belt-high fastball that the left hander deposited deep into the empty left field bleachers.
Suddenly, a game that seemed to be in the Rockies hands was now tied. As bad as 2012 has been for the Rockies, this was a game they were destined to lose. It was a situation where the bats would fall flat in the bottom of the 9th inning and the bullpen would give up another run or two and the Pirates would steal one.
Instead, rising rookie Wilin Rosario started off the bottom half of the 9th with a base hit off of former-Rockie Jason Grilli. Fellow rookie Josh Rutledge had the job of bunting Rosario to second base, but couldn't get the job done, striking out on a foul bunt. With one out, Jason Giambi took the at-bat that fans have become accustomed to. He lined a ball to center field, moving Rosario to third base with one out.
With the winning run at third base and one out, Dexter Fowler had one job, hit the ball in the air. A ground ball with the infield in would almost certainly result in an out at the plate with Jim Tracy always eager for an opportunity to run the contact play. Fowler did the job, he made contact and elevated a pitch from Grilli. Rosario was able to score from third on the fly to center, giving the Rockies the win that they thought they had secured a couple of hours before.
Lost in the 9th inning fireworks was the performance by Jeff Francis. There is no way to deny the impact that they former ace has had in his return to the Rockies. The lefty went five innings, giving up one run on six hits. He didn't walk a batter and he struck out one.
The outing, and previous performances by Francis underscore something that has been missing from this 2012 Colorado Rockies season. When a starting pitcher pitches well enough for his team to stay in the game, good things happen. Francis didn't walk away with a victory. His outing will be a forgotten fact in a roller coaster game in which the club gave up a three-run lead in the 9th, only to get the win back in the bottom half of the frame.
However, what Francis did was put his team in a position to win a baseball game. That is all a starting pitcher can do. On Monday night, the Rockies took advantage of that. Other nights it won't go so well, but the fact that the offense was given nine innings worth of opportunities to make an impact in the game goes very far for the confidence of the hitters.
On top of Francis' performance, the work of middle reliever Josh Roenicke should not be forgotten. The right-hander pitched three "piggy-back" innings, giving up just one hit. Roenicke has been a diamond in the rough, picked up on waivers in September of 2011, he has turned into one of three lock-down relievers that the Rockies can turn to.
The Rockies are well out of the race in 2012. Anyone who thinks they can make a run to the playoffs is delusional. However, this is a perfect time for the Rockies to gain some momentum heading into 2013. It is a great time for them to gain experience for their young players who are looking to get comfortable at the big league level.
For what that is worth, Wilin Rosario is gaining that invaluable experience. In the 5th inning, the inning in which the Rockies plated their first four runs, Rosario executed a perfect hit and run, taking an inside pitch to the right side of the infield, squeaking a hit into right field and moving the runner to third base.
His base hit in the bottom of the 9th inning was another step in the right direction. Young players have the tendency to try and do too much in that situation. Rosario didn't try to hit the ball out of the ballpark, he looked for a pitch that he could hit hard and he put it into the outfield.
Those are good signs for a catcher who is looking to be the Rockies first-ever catching prospect who becomes a fixture at the position for the club.
As bad as it has been for the Rockies, there are a few positives that are starting to emerge from this lost season. The youth of this team is giving fans some hope. The players that are taking the field seem to have some chemistry, and if that grows, this team could quickly return to playing games that matter late in the season.
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