|Carlos Gonzalez had a career night on Tuesday in Chicago.|
Ask the Chicago Cubs the same question, and they would quickly disagree. CarGo had a career night on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field, helping the Colorado Rockies route the Cubs 9-4, giving the Rockies a chance to win the series on Wednesday night.
Gonzalez put together his first five-hit night in his brilliant young career. Included in the five hits were two home runs and a double. Both home runs were classic CarGo homers, line drives that had fans in the seats scattering, rather than trying to catch the souvenir.
CarGo wasn't the only Rockie who had a great night. The bats that had been largely missing since the team's three game series win in Los Angeles nearly two weeks ago. The Rockies have blown several opportunities. Specifically, the Rockies offense, which had Rockies fans believing that the team could be a contender in April, had blown great pitching performances from a starting rotation that was supposedly the achilles heal of this team.
The Rockies logged 17 hits in all, nine of which went for extra bases. Troy Tulowitzki's at-bats were extremely encouraging. Tulo had been fighting through a groin strain that had fans wondering if the star shortstop would be hurt for an extended period of time once again. Tuesday's performance from Tulo may have been the first real sign that the shortstop is completely healthy.
Tulowitzki laced two doubles, but may have connected with the most solid single of his career in the 7th inning. Tulo launched a line drive to left field that continued to carry and fooled Alfonso Soriano, going over his head and one-hopped the ivy-covered brick wall.
The game was yet another example showing that the Rockies depend heavily on their two superstar sluggers. When CarGo and Tulo are hitting, there are few teams and few pitchers in baseball who will come out on top of that battle. When on, they could be put up against any two slugging tandems in baseball and it would be hard not to give them the nod.
With CarGo and Tulo doing their thing, Jeff Francis was making his doubters swallow their words. The reality is, if Francis had been rocked on Tuesday night, the Rockies would have had a hard time explaining to their fans why they had two very productive young pitchers in Triple-A, and an ineffective, back-side-of-his-career pitcher taking the mound every fifth day.
If the Rockies are serious about contending, and they insist that they are, they must put the best team on the field that they possibly can. In order to stay in the rotation, Francis must perform. If he doesn't, this team cannot afford to wait around and hope that things turn around.
On Tuesday, Francis pitched six solid innings. He gave up one run on just three hits. Most impressive, he struck out seven Cub batters, while walking only one.
With his fastball hovering in the mid-80's and his changeup in the 70's, Francis has little margin for error. He has to be fine with his pitches. If he misses his spots, he is going to get hard. When Francis was in the heyday of his career, he could miss every now and then and get away with it. Those days are long over. Francis can still dominate from time to time. That was evident on Tuesday night.
The reality of Jeff Francis is that he is around to buy time for the younger pitchers like Drew Pomeranz and Tyler Chatwood to develop. If he can give the Rockies enough decent starts to get them to the All-Star break, without getting completely rocked every fifth day, he will have done his job. At some point, the Rockies are going to have to make a tough decision with Francis. Nights like Tuesday night push that decision off just a little further down the road.
The Rockies find themselves with a chance to go .500 on a six-game road trip that started off in nearly the worst way possible. If they are able to come back to Coors Field in the same spot as when they left, the road trip will end up being a success.
If CarGo and Tulo can continue what they did on Tuesday night and extend that to the home stand, the Rockies could quickly find themselves back on top of the National League West standings. If Jeff Francis can pitch like he did on Tuesday night, the Rockies could end up staying at the top of the standings.
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