Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Colorado Rockies continue to roll in New York

Rosario has been a bright spot.
The Colorado Rockies, the team that went into August as just a few games better than the lowly Houston Astros has suddenly found their stride. The Rockies took their third straight game from the New York Mets 5-2 on Wednesday night.

Colorado, with the win, has won six of their last nine games on the road, a place where even the best Rockies teams have struggled. The Rockies have a rare opportunity to sweep the Mets in a four game series for the second time in as many years.

Matt Harvey thoroughly dominated the Rockies for the Mets. He struck out nine in his six innings of work, giving up only one run. With Harvey dominating, the Rockies were given a break when he replaced by Ramon Ramirez in the 7th inning.

Ramirez is a very good late inning reliever, but the Rockies seemed to have his number. Wilin Rosario, who would have far more attention had Bryce Harper not made his big league debut, and the Rockies not been so far out of the race, launched a moon shot down the left field line. The ball sailed so high and so close to the line that the questions were both whether it could be foul, and whether it would make it to the seats. It did both.

With the long ball, Rosario now has 20 home runs in his rookie campaign. His progression on the offensive side has been remarkable. His defense has been shaky, at best, but the reality is, for him to be hitting 20 home runs in his rookie season is impressive. Also to be considered should be the fact that Rosario never played at Triple-A. Even more impressive is that no one can get away with calling the Dominican a Coors Field hitter. Before his 1-for-3 performance on Wednesday, Rosario was hitting .261 on the road as opposed to .237 at home. He now has eight home runs on the road and 12 at home.

As bad of a season as it has been for the Rockies, Rosario has been a bright spot. The only knock against Rosario is the fact that his defense struggles. His offense has more than balanced out the poor play behind the plate.

The Rockies got another very good start from Jeff Francis. The lefty, after a brief bump in the road, has once again proven himself to be a good pickup for the club. As weird as the 75-pitch piggy-back system is, Francis seems to be the perfect fit for it. His five innings on Wednesday kept the Rockies in a position to be able to win. He gave up one run, a sacrifice fly in the 1st inning, then settled in for four more solid innings. Francis struck out four and walked two in his five innings that ended in a no-decision.

Games like Wednesday nights are games that the Rockies usually lose. They looked lost at the plate against Harvey. The right-hander looked great. He throws in the mid-90's with little effort, and his ball has run on it that makes him tough for both right-handers and left-handers to hit.

However, the team continued to battle and when they got Harvey out of the game, they took advantage of the Mets bullpen. Some of the reason the Rockies seem to be playing well is that they are playing with a little more aggressiveness on the bases. Usually Jim Tracy's aggressive base running ends with the contact play, the ill-conceived idea that a runner at third darts home regardless of where the ball is hit. Rockies fans have seen that play back fire time and time again, watching the likes of Todd Helton get thrown out by 30 feet when a tapper is hit back to the mound.

On Wednesday, though, Tracy pulled the trigger on a suicide squeeze when Tyler Colvin was at third base and DJ LeMahieu at the plate. Colvin took off for home and LeMahieu got the perfect bunt down. Ramirez tried to sweep the ball to the plate with his glove, but whiffed, allowing LeMahieu to get to first and the run to score.

That type of aggressiveness is what causes good things to happen. It forces the issue. Of course it has the chance to blow up in the teams face, however, it gets things in motion and forces the opposing team to make plays. It is different than the contact play because it controls the batter as well as the runner, it doesn't just hope that the batter will hit the ball to the right spot.

The Rockies continue to roll. Despite the season being lost, the more wins that the team can collect, the lower the likelihood that they will lose 100 games for the first time in franchise history.

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