|Dexter Fowler was a big contributor to the Rockies win on Saturday.|
It was the type of game that had someone with no rooting interest on the edge of their seat the whole night. Good pitching, clutch hitting, rallies, questionable calls, close plays, and momentum shifts were commonplace on Saturday. In the end, the Rockies won 6-4,
With Pirates starter A.J. Burnett fooling the Rockies at the plate, it looked like a familiar scenario might play out at Coors Field after Rockies starter Juan Nicasio gave up two runs in the top of the 6th inning to give the Pirates a 3-1 lead.
The standard story for the Rockies over the past two months has been to keep flailing at pitches out of the zone, swing for the fences, then wonder what happened when a potent lineup finished another game with only one run.
However, the Rockies answered back. It was something that came out of the vault that hasn't been opened since April. Not only did the Rockies score five runs in the bottom half of the 6th inning to take a lead that they wouldn't relinquish, but they did it with two outs.
Michael Cuddyer led off the inning with a single to right field on the first pitch he saw. The hit came after he had struck out in his first two at-bats. Todd Helton struck out, then Wilin Rosario flew out to center field. However, on Rosario's fly out, Cuddyer wisely tagged at first base and moved to second, beating the throw in by Andrew McCutchen. The hustle play put him in scoring position, allowing him to score on Nolan Arenado's double. With McCutchen quickly fielding and getting Arenado's hit back in, Cuddyer likely wouldn't have scored from first base.
Jonathan Herrera, a guy who is designed to be the 25th man on the roster, has quietly contributed to this Rockies team. After Arenado's double, Herrera walked on four pitches, passing the baton to pinch-hitter Charlie Blackmon. Blackmon promptly lined a double to right-center field, scoring Arenado. Dexter Fowler, struggling since the All-Star Break, came up and kept the line moving, singling to right to score both Herrera and Blackmon. Corey Dickerson then lined a pitch to the opposite field, and Fowler, potentially being too risky, pushed on towards 3rd base. The throw from Starling Marte was in time to get Fowler, but on the slide, Fowler kicked the ball out of third baseman Pedro Alvarez's glove, allowing him to score.
The 6th inning was full of clutch hitting. That is something that has escaped the Rockies since before they boarded their charter to Arizona to start a 10-game road trip in late June. With the clutch hitting on Saturday, and the outburst of runs on Friday, the Rockies offense is suddenly back.
Make no mistake, the Rockies will not be back in any playoff race anytime soon. That dream has been crushed, at least in 2013. However, the way to make the 2013 campaign a good one is to make a marked improvement over 2012. In the early going, the Rockies had certainly turned the page on the poor performances from a year ago. However, as the season continued on, the same bad habits that caused the Rockies to lose 98 games a year ago were starting to make appearances again.
The Rockies don't have to sweep a bunch of series' before the end of the season. They don't even have to win the majority of series' in the final six weeks to show some improvement. What they do need to do is show heart. They need to play hard and show improvement.
Some of the areas of improvement that need to be seen start with the offense. This is a team that strikes out far too much. This is a product of trying to do too much, trying to hit balls into the seats, and not hitting to the opposite field. This is also a team that needs to hit better in the clutch. When it counts most, the Rockies have fallen on their faces far too many times.
Both of those issues can be resolved with better discipline at the plate. There has to be a better plan. It is easier said than done when the guy who actually has to hit at the plate is dealing with 90+ MPH fastballs, but the Rockies hitters have to start figuring out what the opposing pitchers are throwing them to get them out.
The Rockies still have six weeks to make the 2013 season a success. Character is often revealed when the prize that was hoped for is no longer available. With the playoffs unrealistic, the Rockies need to continue playing as if their games matter. They need to play with the idea that they need to improve in order to be serious contenders in 2014 and now is the best time to improve.
If the Rockies can play with heart, play hard and with determination, and put the goal of bridging the gap between them and the true postseason contenders, the 2013 season can go down as a success, despite a rough June and July.
Games like Saturday night are a good start. Watching inspired baseball is fun. The Rockies played inspired on Saturday night and it resulted in a win.
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