|Matt Belisle was key to the Rockies victory on Friday night.|
Most agreed coming into the season that the Rockies, if they were able to win many games, were going to win them by slugging their way to victory and overcoming mediocre pitching in doing so. On Friday night in Arizona, the Rockies showed that they are more than just a slugging baseball team.
Make no mistake, the offense played a large role in the victory. With two outs in the 5th inning, the face of the Rockies franchise stepped to the plate in the form of Troy Tulowitzki. The shortstop has taken plenty of heat for his lack of clutch hits. In 2013, Tulo is quickly shedding that reputation. One night after roping a double to score a run, Tulowitzki lathered a first pitch fastball deep to left-center field. The double scored three runs and turned the tide for the Rockies.
The double was Tulowitzki's only hit in four trips to the plate. He might not be on fire with the bat, but he is getting it done when it counts.
As mentioned, the offense is supposed to be strong point for this team. It undoubtedly is a strong point, but the Rockies are showing that their pitching is better than advertised.
The Rockies bullpen wasn't the question mark, but on Friday, the relief corps showed that they are a strength for this team. There was no better example than the bottom of the 7th inning. Josh Outman started the inning off with an ugly scene. He uncorked a fastball and missed his spot by four feet, hitting Didi Gregorious in the head, dropping him to the ground.
Clearly shaken, Outman gave up a double to put runners on second and third base with no one out. Matt Belisle was called upon to limit the damage. With the tying run at the plate, Belisle had his work cut out for him.
Those who have watched the Rockies since Belisle has been with the ball club were not as surprised as the casual observer. However, what Belisle did was nothing short of a minor miracle. With the help of Reid Brignac at second base, Belisle worked Cody Ross into an infield pop out, a Martin Prado infield pop out, then he froze Paul Goldschmidt on a 1-2 slider to end the inning without a run scoring.
Belisle has been nothing short of phenomenal for the Rockies. He pitches without being intimidated. He pounds the strike zone and isn't afraid of contact. Living in the bottom part of the zone, he gets plenty of groundballs and weak fly balls that don't leave the infield. On Friday he was helped by a phenomenal catch by Brignac, but it takes nothing away from the fact that Belisle was able to get weak contact, keeping the Diamondbacks from a big inning.
Belisle wasn't the only Rockies pitcher who did a good job. Starter Juan Nicasio gave the Rockies five solid innings. He was pulled after just 82 pitches because there is still a remnant of the Rockies crazy pitching theory left in the organization. Of the 82 pitches, 50 were strikes. He gave up three runs, but only one was earned. The Diamondbacks only scratched out four hits against him.
The reality is, if the Rockies pitching staff is even mediocre, this team has a chance to be competitive. If the Rockies pitching staff is above average, this team has a shot to be a contender. The starting pitching has been a huge surprise. Even with a few bad outings, the Rockies starters have done a great job of keeping the team in the game long enough for the offense to pull through.
It is way too early to declare this team a contender, but they are winning games that they lost in 2012. They can hit on the road, and their pitching is far better than anyone expected. This team has the makings of a club that could come out of nowhere and sneak their way into the postseason.
The last remaining starter to show that he can be an effective part of this team, Jeff Francis, takes the mound for the club on Saturday night in Arizona. A win will guarantee the Rockies at least a split of the four game set.
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