|Juan Nicasio was brilliant on Sunday.|
On Sunday, a day the Rockies generally forget they are playing, the club put together arguably their best game of the 2013 season. They defeated the defending World Champion San Francisco Giants in shutout fashion, 5-0 to complete a four-game series victory.
With his job on the line, starter Juan Nicasio rose to the occasion. In six innings the righty delivered shutout baseball, giving up just three hits and one walk. Importantly, he struck out five, which may not seem all that impressive, except when it is considered that Nicasio has struggled to put away opposing batters all year long.
Nicasio was incredibly dominating. He was using his four-seemed fastball noticeably more. He wasn't trying to move the ball around too much, he simply put his faith in his stuff and went to the mound and got outs. With Yorvit Torrealba behind the plate for the first time for Nicasio, it has to be a consideration that his aggressive game calling aided in Nicasio's confidence in the four-seemer.
With Tyler Chatwood filling in for the injured Jeff Francis, and Drew Pomeranz knocking on the door in Colorado Springs, Nicasio is on thin ice, and he knows it. It would make sense to leave Nicasio in the rotation if this team was in a similar boat to the 2012 version of the Rockies. However, this is a team that sits one game out of first place with the division-leading Arizona Diamondbacks heading into town for a three-game set starting on Monday.
It seems like the Rockies left Chatwood and Pomeranz in the minor leagues to begin the season because they only want one project at the big league level. Nicasio is that guy. However, that could quickly change if someone forces the issue, which has clearly been the case.
On Sunday, Nicasio did a phenomenal job. However, the offense also did it's part. Nicasio was going up against Barry Zito for the Giants. That name causes Rockies fans to shutter. The lefty has revived his career, but if the Rockies were asked, he has been a Cy Young candidate for the past six seasons. The Rockies hadn't beaten Zito since all the way back in 2008.
The Rockies got over that hurdle, smacking Zito around for 11 hits in 5-2/3 innings. He was responsible for all five of the Rockies runs on the day and headed out wondering who this Rockies team was that had actually put up a fight against him.
The importance of the three victories the Rockies just got cannot be overstated. This was a team that had been playing horribly for the entire month of May, a month that has been their demise over the past three seasons. On Thursday, the Rockies held a 6-0 lead against Matt Cain, and blew it. It was the kind of victory that could have sent the club into a tailspin and caused them to pack it in, much like they did in 2012.
Instead, the Rockies bounced back from a terrible loss. They seemed to come to the park more motivated after the devastating loss. They could have felt bad for themselves, they had their ace on the mound with a six-run lead and couldn't get the job done. It is a loss that can have a negative effect on even the best teams.
The Rockies showed their maturity over the weekend. They proved that they are a team that believes in themselves and knows that they are capable of contending. Not just contending in May, but contending down the stretch and for the long-haul. It was something that hasn't been seen at 20th and Blake since the middle of 2010.
So far in 2013, the Rockies have created more skeptics than believers. Rockies fans are cynical due to the way things have gone since the last playoff appearance in 2009. Each year that team tries to convince fans that this year's team has enough talent to make a run--if everything goes right. When things predictably fall apart after a good April, fans grow weary.
This team, however, feels somewhat different. No one was trying to sell the fan base on the illusion of grandeur. This was a team that even the players were saying everything would have to go perfectly for them to contend. Well, in April, it nearly did go perfectly.
When the traditional May struggles came along, the fans were prepared for it, refusing to have their hearts broken again. When the Rockies started to struggle, it was easy for fans to pull away because it was a common story.
The only problem is, this weekend at Coors Field, the Rockies roller coaster ride just took an unexpected turn.
The plot was so ripe for the traditional May swoon that this weekend's games should have started the Rockies free fall. Instead, they picked themselves up and looked like a better team than the sloppy Giants. The bats produced, the pitchers were solid and the Rockies overall seemed like a team bent on success.
Whether or not this team will continue to contend throughout the summer remains to be seen, but what this weekend showed is that they are going to give it a better run than almost anyone had expected before pitchers and catchers reported in February.
Follow me on Twitter @RockiesReview. Like me on Facebook, search "Rockies Review"