|The Rockies lost a heart breaker on Saturday|
With the Rockies up 4-0 and in surprising command of the World Champions, the team was once again reminded of why the Giants have won two rings in the past three seasons. They don't quit. They don't back down, and they never give in.
Rockies starter Juan Nicasio looked very good for five innings, following up his nearly perfect outing from last Sunday. The wheels started to fall off in the 6th, when he gave up back-to-back doubles to lead off the inning. Rockies manager Walt Weiss wisely went straight to the mound and pulled his starter, despite the success he had been having early in the game.
That was the last point in Saturday's game that went conventionally for either squad.
The rest of the game was filled with awkward bullpen management, terrible balls and strikes calls from home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez, a botched call on a play at the plate by Marquez, then another terrible blatant missed tag at third base that Marquez missed as he swung over to cover third base on a hit to the outfield.
In a non-conventional game, the Giants won in fitting fashion, with a walk-off inside-the-park two-run home run in the bottom of the 10th inning.
The game was another reminder that to be a great team, not just a good team, the Rockies must put a nail in the coffin of a team when they have them down. They have to step on the throats of their opponents, or good teams will find ways to wiggle off of the hook and snatch a victory away.
The Rockies did a phenomenal job of getting to a pitcher who has had their number for years, Barry Zito. For the second time in a week, the Rockies bested a guy who has owned them since becoming a Giant. However, after going up 4-0, the Rockies seemed to put it on cruise control. They didn't have the killer instinct, they didn't work counts and they seemed to relax a little more at the plate.
Weiss' bullpen management was extremely questionable as well. Apparently the team held dependable middle reliever Edgmer Escalona back because he is expected to pitch on Sunday. That put the Rockies in a position where they had to use Josh Outman, Adam Ottavino, and Rex Brothers in a very strange mix-and-match scenario. It went against the typical use of the bullpen, and the Rockies paid the price. The bullpen, normally solid, walked five batters. Despite Marquez's terrible strike zone, there is simply no excuse for walking batters, especially with the lead.
This loss would normally be alarming. For the entire season, most people watching the Rockies have looked for a moment in the season that they could pinpoint as the exact moment when the bubble of hope would be popped and the Rockies would return to reality. Rockies fans have been trained not to get expectations way up because the history of this team suggests a great letdown.
The thing is, there have been four or five games in which the Rockies could have packed it in. There have been games that seemed like deal breakers for the Rockies. Several times the Rockies have walked off the field and fans were questioning if the end of the run was near.
With all of those difficult defeats, the Rockies have muzzled the cynics. They have bounced back and shown that they are not the same team that was on the field in 2012. The statement that has been made several times over is that this team is good. They believe that they are good, and they don't think that any team is better than they are. Their ability to wash off a bad loss is extremely different than Rockies teams of the past, even the Rockies playoff teams of 2007 and 2009 seemed to reel after a tough loss. This team seems to have a short memory and come back to the field the next day as if nothing happened.
The Rockies get a chance at redemption on Sunday, but it won't be easy as they draw Matt Cain. The Rockies lit him up at Coors Field 10 days ago, but for that to happen again is unlikely. The Rockies are going to need to steal runs whenever they can. They are going to need to be scrappy and find ways to get on base. On top of that, they are going to need Sunday's starter, Jon Garland, to have a better outing than he has had over the past month. He is going to have to do his part, or it will be his name that is bantered about potentially being on the chopping block when Roy Oswalt and others start knocking at the door.
It will be interesting to see how the Rockies react to Saturday's loss. If they allow the adversity to make them better, it could be good for them in the long run. However, the cynics are waiting for a game to point to as the day the bubble of hope was burst.
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