Monday, July 8, 2013

Tyler Chatwood continues his impressive season for Colorado Rockies, team barely holds on for win

Tyler Chatwood has been a huge plus for the Rockies.
The Padres had lost nine in a row, the Colorado Rockies had lost three in a row and six-of-seven. Something had to give. On Monday night, the Rockies continued the Padres struggles, winning a nail-biter, 4-2.

Tyler Chatwood, a minor leaguer on Opening Day, continued his impressive season for the Rockies. He went 6-2/3 innings, giving up just two runs on five hits. He struck out four and walked three. The Padres didn't score a run until Chatwood ran into trouble in the 7th inning when he nearly worked out of a jam before giving up a run.

The Rockies, who despite their recent troubles have had a better season than anyone could have expected, really should give much of the credit to their young starting pitcher. After posting a 5.43 ERA in 19 big league ball games a year ago, Chatwood (5-2) hasn't resembled that pitcher in the slightest in 2013. His strong outing on Monday night lowered his ERA to 2.74.

In a season where baseball experts said that the Rockies would have a historically bad starting rotation, three pitchers have gone out of their way to make people re-think who they consider experts. Chatwood, Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa have given the Rockies hope. Frankly, those three pitchers have potentially put a false hope in Rockies fans heads that this team has a chance to contend.

Everyone knew the talent was there with Chacin, however, he hadn't turned the corner. After a few rough outings, it seems he has found his stride. Everyone had seen what De La Rosa was made of, but after several setbacks throughout rehab, there was no guarantee that the lefty would return to the form he had found in a Rockies uniform for two very good seasons. They have proved the critics wrong and helped the Rockies exit the road to 100 that they were on in 2012 and get back on the highway to success.

Chatwood may have been even better on Monday night, but he was the victim of a line shot hit back at him in the 6th inning by Everth Cabrera. He was able to stay on the mound, but his slider wasn't as sharp and in the 7th inning he didn't have the same command that he displayed throughout the previous frames.

With the tying run at first base in the 9th inning, with the way things have gone for the Rockies, the game had the feel of one slipping away. Rafael Betancourt, however, nailed down the save, getting Mark Kotsay to fly out harmlessly to left field to end the threat. It was Betancourt's 12th save of the season.

The Rockies, who scored a total of two runs in three games in Arizona, matched that total in the 1st inning on Monday night. It helped that they got to face Edinson Volquez, whose 5.33 ERA is the only thing sillier than his crooked hat. Wilin Rosario did the damage in the top of the 1st, delivering a double into the left-center gap scoring two runs and getting the Rockies off the schnide.

With Troy Tulowitzki on the disabled list, the Rockies have seen how valuable he is to the lineup. However, they have also seen the lack of depth that they have behind him. Josh Rutledge has been a huge disappointment after a solid rookie campaign. On Monday, however, the Rockies got a performance from an unlikely source the resembled what would have helped them bridge the gap of the Tulo injury if they were getting it from Rutledge.

Jonathan Herrera, a guy who really shouldn't be getting too many starts, did a great job taking advantage of his opportunity. He went 2-for-3, slapping two balls into right field. In addition, he also laid down a perfect suicide squeeze in the top of the 6th inning, scoring Nolan Arenado from third base and giving the Rockies a 3-0 lead and just a little more room to breathe.

Herrera is the classic 25th man. He has a very good glove, an average bat, with little-to-no power. He is the kind of guy who a manager can use as a defensive replacement when the game is close enough to be worried about. However, with all due respect to Herrera, a team with him as a regular starter doesn't stand much of a chance to be a contender.

What a team looks for from their 25th man, however, is exactly what Herrera brought on Monday. He gave them a boost and lifted the offense when the team has overall been mired in a huge slump. When the guy who should be producing isn't, he stepped in and did the job.

To say that this series with the Padres is an important one is a huge understatement. This is a team the Rockies have done well against in 2013. In the situation that this team finds themselves in, they have to take advantage of teams that aren't playing well. They must gain ground when they can. If they can go into Los Angeles with a chance to have a respectable road trip, they can go into the All-Star Break with hope. If they lay an egg, they will be playing desperate baseball, which history suggests doesn't go so well for the Rockies at Dodger Stadium.

The reality is, the emergence of Chatwood has been huge for the Rockies. He has helped them turn the corner and start heading back in the right direction. If the Rockies crawl back into this race, they have him, as well as Chacin and De La Rosa, to thank.

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