|Nolan Arenado has shown to be dependable late for the Rockies.|
On Sunday, rookie Chad Bettis took the mound for the first time at Coors Field. His first start in Atlanta was a nerve-filled event that didn't end well. His second go-round was better in New York, but not good enough to get his first win.
In a 3-2 victory over the Pirates, Bettis didn't pick up his first big league win, but he certainly helped the Rockies complete their first sweep since April. In all, the rookie went six innings, giving up two runs on four hits. He struck out three and walked two. He was removed for a pinch hitter in the bottom half of the 6th inning, finishing his day with just 80 pitches thrown.
It was clear from very early on that Bettis was a different pitcher than his first two games. He wasn't afraid to pound the strike zone. Of his 80 pitches, 50 were for strikes. He was getting ahead in counts and was getting Pirate batters to swing. The rookie got 12 ground ball outs against just two fly ball outs.
The key to pitching at the big league level, and especially at Coors Field, is to keep the ball low in the zone. To avoid the impact of a gigantic outfield, and the ball flying out of the park, the keep is to keep it low in the zone and get ground ball outs.
As the season continues winding down, the Rockies are looking for contributors, not for 2013, but for 2014. It looks like Bettis will get a two-month tryout for the rotation in 2014. If he is able to pitch the way that he did on Sunday, it shouldn't be a problem for him to find that spot.
It was a day for the rookies, as Nolan Arenado made Bettis' effort all worth while. Again with two outs, as seems to be Arenado's specialty, the rookie third baseman drilled a double down the right field line. The ball landed about three feet inside the foul line and bounced to the wall. It was good enough to score Wilin Rosario from first base, giving the Rockies a 3-2 lead, just good enough for the win.
There is something different about Arenado. Sure, his batting average isn't going to win him a batting title. However, he is almost the guy who Rockies fans would prefer to step up to the plate in a late inning situation with the game on the line. He is the guy who fans want to see when a big-name pitcher is on the mound for the other team. When things get tough, Arenado seems to rise to the occasion.
On Sunday, he once again displayed the ability to pull through in the clutch. Despite hitting just .269, he has never seems lost at the plate. When opposing pitchers have adjusted to him, he has adjusted back to them and been able to stay fairly consistent for a rookie.
There is little doubt that he has given Rockies fans a reason to believe that he will be the 3rd baseman that Rockies fans have been waiting for since Vinny Castilla was traded away when the Dan O'Dowd era began.
The Rockies had a team meeting before the game on Friday night. Whatever was said clearly sent the right message to the team. The way they have played the game since that meeting is far different than the way there were playing since the All-Star Break.
The goal for the Rockies going forward is to improve. The Rockies are in desperate need for depth from their starting pitchers. Jorge De La Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin and Tyler Chatwood have all been great, but beyond that, there has been plenty left to desire. Bettis, Drew Pomeranz and Juan Nicasio need to continue growing up and getting to the point that gives the Rockies confidence when they are on the mound.
On the offensive side of the ball, this team has the talent. They need to take that talent and corral it. They need to take better at-bats, strike out less, hit the ball the other way and foul pitches off that they can't drive. A better plan at the plate will go a long way for this Rockies bunch. If they can do that, the 2014 season could be a good year. If not, it will end similarly to the 2013 season, without the playoffs.
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