Saturday, July 20, 2013

Good at-bats key to Colorado Rockies victory over Chicago Cubs

The Rockies won a much needed game on Saturday.
The Colorado Rockies offense is as good as any in baseball--when they don't get themselves out.

Dexter Fowler broke the game open with a 4th inning triple for the Colorado Rockies. The hit came after the Rockies had continued their pre-All Star Break slumber at the plate for the first 12 innings. The triple gave the Rockies a 3-1 lead, that would turn into a 9-3 victory.

On Friday night, Fowler came to the plate after a four pitch walk and immediately swung at two off-speed pitches out of the strike zone. It wasn't just Fowler taking those types of at-bats, it represented the type of at-bats the Rockies had been taking for the better part of a month.

On Saturday, Fowler's triple was much-needed and impressive, but it represented something that this club needed desperately, it was a great at-bat.

Fowler followed Juan Nicasio, who had worked a walk on six pitches. With two men on and a run home, the centerfielder had a chance to do some serious damage. Situations like these are usually good news for a team with the talent that the Rockies possess. However, in the Rockies slide, they have most noticeably missed in the situations favoring them.

However, on Saturday, Fowler sat on the first two pitches. Instead of firing at the first pitch anywhere near the plate, trying to do too much the speedster with some power did what good hitters do. He made the pitcher throw him a strike. Instead of getting into a pitcher's count, Fowler worked the count in his favor. After two strikes, then a ball, Fowler still had a full count and the pitcher Carlos Villanueva's attention.

That is when Fowler lined a slider to right field, scoring both Wilin Rosario and Nicasio, giving the Rockies two-run lead, but more importantly, taking the lid off of the pressure cooker that the club's at-bats had started to become.

When pressure arrives, often times even big league hitters start to press. Instead of realizing how difficult it is to throw consistent strikes at the Major League level, a batter will start to expand his strike zone and swing at pitches that not only aren't in the strike zone, but aren't pitches that can result in good things for the batter. It is completely psychological, but it happens all the time. The Rockies were in the midst of one of those struggles, but desperately needed to come out of it, with the division lead getting further and further away.

After Fowler's at-bat, Carlos Gonzalez showed off. Leading off the 5th inning, CarGo launched a no-doubter home run into the mezzanine level above the Rockies bullpen in right-center field. The home run was icing on the cake, and the last pitch that Villanueva threw on the night.

Todd Helton also showed that there is still some gas left in the tank. The old man went 3-for-4 with a double and a walk. The double moved him into 18th on the all-time list for doubles, past Wade Boggs.

The Rockies must continue to hit the ball well. They cannot keep relying on their starting pitchers to throw gems, like they got from De La Rosa on Friday night, and not supplying some run support. The fact of the matter is, this team is built to score runs. They have been fortunate enough to have three very good starting pitchers fall into their laps, which has been the sole reason for their mild contention.

However, at some point, if this team wants to stay in the race, if they want to prove their doubters wrong, they must go on a run and gain ground. They must quit playing catch up and start making other teams fear them. That isn't going to come in the form of 2-1 wins, it is going to come in the form of the offense scoring so many runs that even if a starting pitcher has a bad outing, they have enough run support to make up the difference.

The Rockies need to win on Sunday. There are very few times in July that a game is a must-win for any team. However, this home stand is crucial for the Rockies, and picking up a series win in the first three-game set is imperative.

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