|Jhoulys Chacin has had a breakthrough season for the Rockies.|
When Jorge De La Rosa has a good outing, it seems like it puts a charge into Jhoulys Chacin to go out and have a great game himself, then De La Rosa raises the bar a little higher, and Chacin tries to match. In a year of overall disappointment for the Rockies, the silver lining has come from two guys who most didn't give the credit that they deserved, including the front office of the Colorado Rockies.
On Monday night, the Rockies ran their winning streak to four games, which feels like 15 straight after a 5-5 homestand against the National League's worst, followed by a 1-9 road trip that they barely showed up for.
The win on Monday came courtesy of an offense that looked like the one that was advertised at the beginning of the season. They put up eight runs before a 1:03 rain delay, then came back and scored another six in the 8th inning to turn a beating into a laugher.
The Rockies offense was led by DJ LeMahieu. The second baseman started the season in Triple-A, and frankly, seemed like a long shot to contribute at the Major League level. Nolan Arenado was waiting in the wings to fill the spot at third base that was being held down by Chris Nelson, and Josh Rutledge had been phenomenal is his cameo when Troy Tulowitzki was injured the year before. With Tulo back, Rutledge was handed the second base job. With Jordan Pacheco hitting over .300 in 2012, LeMahieu was the odd man out.
Players have two choices when they are in LeMahieu's shoes. They can go to Triple-A and give up on their career, get a few call-ups here and there, but no real chance to break through. The other option is to play so well that the big league club simply can't ignore it and has to make room on the 25-man roster.
LeMahieu has not only been stellar at the plate, continuing to get better by hitting the ball the other way and doing little things to move runners over, he has been extremely impressive in the field. Several times, including twice on Monday, he has made plays to his left look routine when most second baseman would be watching the ball shoot into right field for a hit. He has a very quick turn on double plays. That type of defense can be invigorating to a pitcher. Instead of a hit and a man on, that pitcher now has an out and the bases empty.
On Monday night, LeMahieu was the star at the plate, going 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a walk. He hit his second home run of the season and finished a triple shy of the cycle.
LeMahieu made it happen on offense, but much like the Rockies blow out win on Friday night, there still has to be plenty of credit given to the starting pitcher. Chacin gave up a lead off double in the 1st inning, and followed that with a walk to Chris Denorfia. He got out of the inning without giving up a run. In the 2nd inning, he gave up another lead off double, and stranded the runner.
The score finished as a blowout, but in the early going of games, momentum shifts when a pitcher can get big outs and keep the opposition off of the board. The Rockies scored five runs in the first two frames, putting them up 5-0. However, if Chacin would have allowed two or three runs in his first two innings, which easily could have happened, the course of the game shifts dramatically.
Between Chacin and De La Rosa, the Rockies have a serious one-two punch. There are teams with better known pitchers who could be argued as better, but the Rockies have two guys who are doing it consistently at Coors Field and on the road. They get ground balls, and pitch the way they should pitch. If the Rockies were still in the race, if the offense had hit the way that it should have, both Chacin and De La Rosa would be talked about far more than they are.
Those two pitchers, along with what Tyler Chatwood has done, give the Rockies a base to build upon. It is a great starting point for them to get better in 2014. The front office must take advantage of that and put the pieces into place to take the next step.
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