|Nolan Arenado took a phenomenal at-bat on Friday. (Getty Images)|
The Rockies belted four home runs on Friday night in a 6-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles. Juan Nicasio threw six strong innings, giving up just two runs. He settled in after giving up a lead off home run to Nate McLouth in the 1st inning.
The home runs and the solid pitching was a welcomed sight for Rockies fans, but what fans should take away from the game on Friday wasn't about the long balls, or what happened on the mound.
The biggest positive to take away for Rockies fans came in the 5th inning. Wilin Rosario lead off the inning with a double to left field. After McLouth made a great catch going back on a Todd Helton fly ball, and a wild pitch that allowed Rosario to move to third base, Nolan Arenado was at the plate with a job to do.
Much to the surprise of the experts, the failures of the Rockies in 2013 haven't come from the mound, as must predicted. Instead, they have come at the plate. The offense was supposed to be the strong suit of this team, but it has failed over and over again.
The issue with the bats has come from poor execution at the plate, poor planning and a lack of discipline. This team has no shortage of talent on the offensive side of the field. There is no reason for the failures that they have experienced. When the team has struggled, the offense struggles with swinging at bad pitches, which leads to strike outs or to balls on the outer half of the plate being pulled instead of taken the other way.
In the 5th inning, with the Rockies still not on the board, Arenado didn't try to tie the game up with a long ball. He worked the count to 2-2 before drilling a fastball on the outer half of the plate the other way, into right field for a base hit. The hit put the Rockies on the board and got them going.
Of course the home runs were good for the Rockies. Rosario taking a ball the other way out of the park was an example of his pure power. Charlie Blackmon hitting a ball out of the park and onto the street was another example of what this team can do when the are on. Charlie Culberson hitting his first career home run on a slider down in the zone was a positive.
Seeing the Rockies score runs on the road, against a good team was good no matter how they arrived. However, with under two months to play in a season in which the Rockies have nothing to play for except 2014, the key is overall improvement. Home runs are good, but productive at-bats are what wins baseball games. As the Rockies have seen in 2013, a lack of productive at-bats is what loses baseball games.
The story of the issues in the front office has been told. Everyone knows there needs to be changes. However, the reality is that the talent is on the field. This team is good enough to win plenty of baseball games. Even with no serious changes in the front office, the Rockies have no excuse not to be contenders in 2014. The key to becoming true contenders comes in the form of playing clean baseball. That means going back to fundamentals. They need to take at-bats like Arenado's on Friday, they need to play good defense, and pitch to the lower half of the strike zone and pitch to contact instead of pitching for strikeouts.
One of the reasons that Rockies fans are still frustrated with this team, despite losing 98 times a year ago, is because the talent is there. It is clear that this team is better than they have performed. It seems that for every game like Friday night's, there are four where the offense under performs.
This team might not have the talent to be a winner in 2013, due to youth and inexperience, but they have no excuse not to be in the mix in 2014. In order to do that, they have to continue improving daily. It has to start now.
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