|Roy Oswalt didn't look like the answer the Rockies were hoping for.|
It might not have been a fair matchup for his Coors Field debut, but Roy Oswalt got the call on the mound for the Rockies. For Oswalt, the majority of his career came from the side of Kershaw. Opposing teams felt like they didn't have a chance against him, and if they were going to face him, they needed their starter to have his best stuff.
On Tuesday night, Rockies fans are hoping that they didn't see Oswalt's best stuff.
When Oswalt gave up back-to-back singles to start the second inning, it was evident that his stuff wasn't the swing-and-miss stuff that he brought with him to the mound for the majority of his career. When Nolan Arenado mishandled a ground ball from Matt Kemp that could have been thrown to the plate to cut down the first run, but instead went as a fielder's choice with Kemp being thrown out at 1st, it felt like it wasn't the Rockies night.
Oswalt went on to give up another run in the second, a home run in the third inning, and another run in the fourth inning and the teams may as well have packed in all of the gear and had the grounds crew start getting the field ready for Wednesday night's game. It was finished.
The Rockies lost 8-0. No team has ever won a game when they didn't score. However, when Kershaw has his best stuff, no offense is going to hit him. For the Rockies, no pitching performance was going to give them a win, so it could be argued that how Oswalt pitched really didn't matter.
However, the issue is in the long-term plans for Oswalt. After a lackluster 2012 in Texas, the former ace made a point that he was in far better shape, had done a better job of preparing for the season, and was closer to his former self than he showed a year ago.
With all of the hype, the first three starts show that Oswalt is nowhere near the type of pitcher that once dominated the National League. The question for the Rockies becomes what they should expect moving forward with the veteran pitcher.
The baffling thing for the Rockies is that Oswalt's struggles don't seem to make sense. In his first two starts he had dominant stuff. He was throwing in the mid-90's and had bite on his slider. The Nationals seemed to punch the ball through and score some runs with two outs. In his next start in Boston, he had a couple of bad innings, then looked far better. His struggles don't resemble the same struggles that Jeff Francis or Jon Garland were having. His stuff seems like it should be working, it just isn't.
At this point, the Rockies are very fortunate to play in a division where the leader is in a 120-MPH tailspin and being two games under .500 still leaves the Rockies just a game and a half back. However, there is no way around how much they are depending on Oswalt to deliver. They don't need a Cy Young candidate, but they do need someone who isn't going to give up five runs every time he takes the mound.
Oswalt's stuff still looks good, but when balls are getting squared up, or frankly, even when they are finding holes, it is usually a sign that the pitcher is missing his spots. He might not be missing by much, but in the big leagues, command is extremely important. Even an inch or two off can be the difference between a strikeout and a double in the gap.
The clock isn't ticking on Oswalt yet. The Rockies simply don't have anyone ready to assume that role. However, the fact that the Rockies are putting so much stock into the veteran means that it is nail-biting time for the Rockies and their fans.
The National League West, despite being weak, is going to be so crowded towards the end of the season that every game is going to matter. The Rockies won't be able to stick around unless they have a rotation full of guys they can trust. At this point, Oswalt isn't trustworthy. He needs to get back to the point where he can keep the Rockies in the game.
Tuesday night was done as soon as Oswalt gave up the first run because of what Kershaw was able to do on the mound, but against an everyday starter, Oswalt must be better and give his team a chance.
The story of Roy Oswalt as a Rockie continues to write itself. The end of the story has yet to be determined, but if he has two starts on the next road trip that resemble his first three, it will be all but certain that the story won't be one that has a happy ending, both for Oswalt and for the Rockies.
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