Friday, April 12, 2013

Colorado Rockies ride Dexter Fowler to comeback victory in San Diego

Fowler has been a huge surprise.
Who is this guy?

Dexter Fowler, suddenly a guy more fitting of the cleanup role, launched two home runs on Friday night, both of which came when the game was tied, helping the Rockies to a 7-5 victory at Petco Park in San Diego.

It defies reality. Fowler has always been talented. He was one of the most highly touted prospects in Rockies history. However, he wasn't highly thought of because of his power. The skinny center fielder was known for his speed, for his defense, and overall athleticism. He was never thought of as a guy who would hit for power.

Both home runs were absolutely crushed. The 9th inning home run off of Huston Street was to the deepest part of the park, well into the night when it is nearly impossible to hit a ball out of Petco Park. In fact, the ball was hit so hard, there was no doubt that it was leaving the yard.

What is baffling is that Fowler's power is coming from the left side of the plate. Less than two years ago, there were plenty of Rockies followers (myself included) who believed that Fowler should give up switch hitting because he struggled so mightily from the left side. He hit better from the right side, and frankly, he looked lost from the left side. His swing was loopy and the inside slider got him seemingly every time.

Suddenly, Fowler is as close to dependable as it gets hitting from the left side. It is almost crazy to think about how good Fowler has been in the early going of the 2013 season. This is a guy who had such a bad spring training in 2012 that many Rockies fans believed he would never figure it out. A short 13 months later, Fowler looks like the early favorite to start the All-Star Game in center field.

Fowler's game is officially the complete package. His covers an unbelievable amount of ground in center field, he has a good arm, he has speed, he makes contact at the plate, and suddenly he is hitting for power, and hitting for power at will.

The Rockies knew their offense would be strong in 2013. They knew that they would score runs, but the reality is, no one expected Fowler to have the kind of impact that he has had in the first two weeks. It is early, but if he can continue hitting the way he is now, or even close to it, the Rockies will have an offense that simply said, will be good enough to overcome bad starting pitching. It will be good enough to throw the team on the lineups back and overcome any amount of runs the starter gives up.

Fowler stole the spotlight on Friday night, but the face of the franchise finally showed up for the Rockies as well. Todd Helton, mired in a 2-for-21 slump coming into the game, logged three hits, including an 8th inning double that scored Troy Tulowitzki and put Michael Cuddyer at third base, giving Wilin Rosario an opportunity to tie the game, which he was able to do in his at-bat.

The performance was reminiscent of the Helton of old. He had his swing back, he looked like he saw the pitch well and squared up the ball. For the past three days, the talk around the Rockies has been Helton and his declining play. He showed that he still has some gas left in the tank on Saturday.

If Helton can get hot, along with Fowler, the Rockies are going to be in really good shape.

The talk is all about the Rockies offense. However, the pickup of Jon Garland less than a week before Opening Day is proving to be a huge move. Garland is a veteran pitcher who is able to minimize damage. He wasn't perfect on Friday night, he gave up a two run homer immediately after his offense gave him a two run lead, but overall he pitched the way a veteran is expected to pitch. He threw strikes and got ground balls. He was efficient and got the job done. His performance allowed the Rockies offense to have a chance to win the game.

There is no doubt that the Rockies had a tough series in San Francisco. However, it must be remembered that the Giants are the World Champions for a reason. The Rockies are coming off of a 98-loss season. The expectation level for what they are able to do in San Francisco should not be very high. The fact is, they are beating the teams that they need to beat.

The Rockies go for the series victory on Saturday night, as ace Jhoulys Chacin looks to build on his strong start.

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