Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Colorado Rockies win a series for first time since beginning of June

Josh Rutledge looks like the real deal.
The Los Angeles Dodgers must be the most embarrassed bunch of baseball players around.

The Colorado Rockies nearly shutout the Dodger offense two nights in a row. The Rockies 3-1 win gave them their first series since, ironically, they beat the Dodgers at Coors Field on the first weekend of June.

The consecutive shutouts against Rockies pitching is roughly the equivalent of the Tunisian National basketball team beating Team USA by 40 points.

The Rockies pitching staff has been brutal. They are easily on pace to be the worst pitching staff in Rockies history, a history that is marred with pre-humidor, steroid era Coors Field pitchers who were thrilled if their ERA was below 5.00.

Josh Rutledge continues to have one of the best rookie debuts seen in recent years. The shortstop, who will eventually be the Rockies second baseman, hit three doubles and drove in all three runs for the Rockies. The Alabama native went 4-for-5 on the night, raising his batting average to a remarkable .356. For Rutledge, the honeymoon continues. Usually when a rookie makes a great debut, it lasts for about two weeks. In his case, it has lasted much longer. He is 22 games into his big league career and continues to look like the real deal.

With the rookies around the league taking the spotlight, and the Rockies being one of the worst stories in the game, Rutledge's debut will almost certainly get lost. Bryce Harper and Mike Trout are going to steal that spotlight. However, the performance hasn't been lost on those who have weathered the hurricane and continued to watch this baseball team.

The Rockies won for the second consecutive night. That alone seems like an amazing feat. In this 2012 season, asking the Rockies to win two games in a week has seemed like a stretch. Two nights in a row, against a team in contention to win the National League West, all while on the road, seems like a dream.

The victory didn't come without Jim Tracy trying to give the Dodgers every chance to win. In the 7th inning, after Josh Roenicke had already given his manager two shutout innings in relief of Alex White. With two runs already in, Rutledge at third base and Dexter Fowler at second and only one out, Tracy elected to allow Roenicke to hit for himself.

With the paired pitching system that the Rockies have in place, the team is short on bench players, so there in order to fully execute the theory, there are going to be times in which a relief pitcher is forced to hit, even in a crucial situation.

However, those times should be when that reliever has only pitched one or less innings and the club needs them to go further into the game on the mound. On Tuesday, Tracy had a chance to bury the Dodgers. Even if he went to rookie Matt McBride, a base hit scores two runs and gives the Rockies a 5-0 lead. That kind of lead at Dodger Stadium is like a 8-0 lead in any other ballpark.

To his credit, Roenicke came out and pitched another scoreless frame after the Rockies failed to plate the two runners in scoring position the previous inning. The boxscore, however, will tell a different story than those who watched the game. The bottom of the 7th featured a tired Roenicke, one who wasn't locating any of his pitches and nearly gave up a home run to Juan Rivera.

Instead of using a bench player in the 7th inning and taking a chance at putting the game into mop-up mode, Tracy elected to try and push one of his most overworked relievers in his bullpen for one more frame, and it nearly cost him.

The fact is, the Rockies need to admit that their theory isn't working. Trying new things is fine. Even trying out theories that make very little sense is fine to do with a team like this. However, those theories need to be quickly evaluated. If the theory isn't working, the team needs to abandon it and try something new.

There are very few people left who have paid attention and would think that this 4-man, paired pitching system is working for the Rockies. What most would agree on is that it has gassed the bullpen, which has done an incredible job of staying both uninjured, and unfazed by the sheer number of innings.

Amazingly, the Rockies head into Wednesday night's ballgame looking for a sweep. That word is something this team has become accustomed to, however, they are used to being on the other end of it.

As difficult as it has been to watch the Rockies, they are showing some of the signs that fans are looking for. The young players are starting to turn the corner and show that they might just be able to make a quick turnaround of this terrible season.

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