Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Wilin Rosario delivers walk-off 10th inning single as Colorado Rockies keep standings close

Wilin Rosario was the hero on Tuesday night.
From goat to hero in the matter of a night.

That is the story of Wilin Rosario on Tuesday night. The catcher laced a single down the right field line, scoring Carlos Gonzalez from second base after the Diamondbacks had walked Troy Tulowitzki in order to pitch to Rosario. The 10th inning single scored Gonzalez to give the Rockies a victory and put them a Wednesday matinee victory away from being tied for first place.

Rosario's clutch hit comes the night after being heavily criticized for his lackadaisical defense behind the plate. Jon Garland threw two wild pitches in critical moments on Monday night, however both pitches were very block-able, and ended up costing the Rockies.

There is no one who suggests that Rosario is a great defensive catcher. The issues are clear and apparent. However, his bat makes him one of the best hitting catchers in the big leagues. He is good for 30-35 home runs and puts the ball in play enough not to be considered an all-or-nothing guy.

Rosario's defense isn't where it needs to be, but anyone who hung on to endure the full 162 games a year ago knows that the strides he has made in the offseason are significant. He isn't where he needs to be, but his work is noticeable and gives hope that eventually he could be a serviceable defensive catcher in the big leagues. Combine that with his bat and suddenly the Rockies have the catcher they have been longing to develop for 20 years.

The win was gigantic for the Rockies. It came after Jhoulys Chacin, the ace of the pitching staff, blew another big lead when his team looked to be in complete control.

Chacin cruised through six innings, giving up just one hit in those six innings. The game was all but wrapped up. The Rockies had put up four runs, thanks to Troy Tulowitzki hitting a long home run and DJ LeMahieu continuing what he was doing in Colorado Springs at the big league level.

However, after recording the first out in the 7th inning, Chacin simply fell apart. The righty walked Paul Goldschmidt, saw him go to third base when Jordan Pacheco booted a ground ball, but then walked Cody Ross to load the bases. Suddenly, with the tying run at the plate, the Rockies were staring at snatching a loss from the jaws of victory. Chacin gave up a Jason Kubel double, then a Martin Prado single, and the game was tied. Josh Outman entered the game and ended the threat, striking out Gerardo Parra and Didi Gregorious in back-to-back at-bats.

The win is big for the Rockies, but the fact that Chacin blew a big lead for the second straight start is concerning. On Thursday, Chacin was staked to a 5-0 lead over Matt Cain and the Giants, then completely imploded, giving up eight runs and picking up the loss. Tuesday's outing was more of the same. His stuff was nearly un-hittable early, then suddenly Chacin was leaving breaking pitches high and over the middle of the plate. He wasn't finishing his pitches and seemed to lose focus.

For Chacin, the lack of focus seems to be the biggest concern. He is a guy who has the stuff to be a legitimate No.2 starter in the big leagues. There are plenty of teams that would love to have a guy with Chacin's stuff in their rotation. However, he must find a way to turn the corner and get to the point where he is dominant through his entire outing. He needs to be able to get to 100 pitches without the concern of implosion.

In any Major League Baseball season there is time for fans and observers to nitpick and find things that aren't perfect. However, one thing is very important for fans to do. It is critical to take a step back and look at the long term team that they are watching. This is a Rockies team that was predicted by many to lose over 100 games. Beyond that, even the most ardent supporters picked them to go 81-81. One of the rules in baseball is that looking at the standings before Memorial Day is a waste of time. Well, the Rockies are a weekend away from Memorial Day, and, barring a complete meltdown, are in the race.

What does that mean? It means that the Rockies aren't pretenders. They aren't a team that had a good run in April and are now falling back to the pack. The convincing factor about these Rockies is that they went through a long bad streak and they are still right in the thick of things. This team might not make the playoffs, but they are showing how much they have improved.

For fans, even if this team doesn't end up playing meaningful games in September, they have made gigantic strides. An honest answer to what the 2012 Rockies team would have done in a similar situation is that they would have rolled over and waited for the opposition to put them away. This Rockies team not only stopped the bleeding, but also fought back and found a way to win.

The fact that this team believes in themselves suggests that they could end up being the surprise team of 2013. If they hang around long enough, this is a team that could be discounted as a pretender all season long before suddenly ending the year in the playoffs. There isn't a Rockies fan that would complain about that.

The Rockies go for a series win and a share of first place with a Wednesday afternoon affair with the Diamondbacks.

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