Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Jhoulys Chacin returns to Colorado Rockies and looks great

Jhoulys Chacin had a glorious return to the Rockies.
Suffering Colorado Rockies fans were reminded on Tuesday night why they had so much hope heading into the 2012 season.

Jhoulys Chacin returned from a nearly four month absence due to injury and looked like the Chacin that the Rockies thought was going to be their future ace before he became the first of many head-scratchers that the Rockies have encountered in this failed season. Tuesday saw Chacin help the Rockies to a 6-2 victory.

Chacin pitched brilliantly. He gave the Rockies six innings, giving up just one run on four hits. He didn't walk anyone and struck out two. The return to the mound had Rockies fans wondering what might have been had the Venezuelan been healthy all season long.

The right-hander had his good stuff on Tuesday, baffling Mets batters all night long with a slider that had as good of movement as the Rockies have seen since he made his debut in 2009.

Chacin was good, but for a while it looked like he might get a no-decision, at best. In fact, Mets starter Chris Young was perfect through five innings. The game was getting to the point where fans had to start wondering if they were witnessing something very special. Instead, DJ LeMahieu removed all doubt, hitting a single back up the middle to lead off the 6th inning, removing all doubt.

With the perfect game over, suddenly the Rockies had figured out Young. Jonathan Herrera followed with a sharp single to right field, then Chacin laid down a sacrifice bunt that Young airmailed to first base, allowing Chacin to be safe at first and bringing LeMahieu to score and moving Herrera to third. Following the error, Charlie Blackmon looped a single into left field, scoring Herrera and planting Chacin at third. Suddenly the Rockies went from blowing a great return outing, to having a commanding lead. By the time the inning was over, the Rockies held a 4-1 lead.

There are many reasons why the Rockies have under performed. However, the biggest reason for the club's lack of success has been their starting pitching. Therefore, the injury to Chacin hurt the club more than anything else in 2012.

If Chacin had been healthy, would the Rockies have had enough of a stopper to keep them respectable for a little while longer? Would Chacin have been able to stop the bleeding every fifth day and save the bullpen from all of the innings that they have been forced to eat? Almost certainly the Rockies season wouldn't have put them in a position to contend, but possibly a quality starter mixed in to the failure that has been the Rockies would have put them in a much better position.

Of course, hindsight is 20/20. Assuming the Rockies would have been a better team with Chacin is just that, an assumption. The season remains lost, despite some recent encouraging play.

With young players getting the majority of the playing time, and the team suddenly surging, the question remains for the Rockies, why does the recurring theme continue to play out that when there is nothing left to play for, the Rockies suddenly start to play like they have to win every game.

Is it a culture issue? Have Dan O'Dowd and Jim Tracy created an atmosphere where the pressure to win is so great that the team plays tight? Is there an amount of over thinking that makes the team get inside their own heads before they ever take the field?

Whatever the reason, once again the Rockies are playing well when the pressure is off. The good news for Rockies fans is that every night that the team picks up a win, the less chance there is that the franchise will shed its title as one of two teams that has never lost 100 games.

The Rockies look for the series victory on Wednesday night in New York.

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