Saturday, April 19, 2014

Colorado Rockies show their potential in huge win against Phillies

Troy Tulowitzki took a 14-pitch at-bat in the 1st inning.
This is the Colorado Rockies team that gives every fan hope. This is the team that has fans wonder what could happen if they stay healthy.

On Friday night, the Rockies did everything right. They pitched well and they hit well. And saying well is a huge understatement for both of those aspects of the game.

The Rockies offense made Phillies starter Jonathan Pettibone wish the Phillies charter plane had never landed in Denver. Troy Tulowitzki worked his first plate appearance into 14-pitches before Pettibone finally walked the Rockies slugger. That loaded the bases for Justin Morneau, who drilled a ground rule double that scored two runs. That kicked off the scoring, which became contagious for the Rockies.

The following inning, Pettibone pitched delicately around Carlos Gonzalez in order to face Tulowitzki, right-on-right. That proved to be a big mistake, as the Rockies shortstop sent a ball deep into the pond beyond the center field wall on the second pitch he saw. That bomb gave the Rockies a 7-0 lead before most fans had settled into their seats.

Tulowitzki wasn't the only one who padded his stats. Charlie Blackmon, who seems to be hitting well above 2.000 on the season, logged three more hits, Drew Stubbs had his first three-hit night in a Rockies uniform, Wilin Rosario and DJ LeMahieu also knocked two hits apiece.

The offensive out pour finished with the Rockies scoring 12 runs on 18 hits. It was a night that showed what the offense can do when it starts hitting. The scary thing is that the Rockies didn't even have their batting champion from a year ago, Michael Cuddyer in the lineup.

On the defensive side, Tyler Chatwood urged fans to remember just how good he was in 2013. He was pitching with a huge lead, but did exactly what a good pitcher does in those situations, he attacked the strike zone and got outs, getting the offense back at the plate to score more runs.

Chatwood went seven solid innings. He gave up only two hits and walked one while striking out six. The lone run that crossed the plate was unearned. He recorded 14 outs via the ground ball and only one in the air. His stuff was truly the definition of ace quality on Friday night. He showed that the Rockies should play with confidence every time Chatwood takes the mound.

Of all the hits that the Rockies recorded, including Tulowitzki's huge home run, the biggest at-bat came when Tulowitzki worked the 1st inning walk. Make no mistake, Tulo is an All-Star. He is on the short list for the best shortstops in the game. He possesses a skill set that makes him stand out among the best in the game. However, as good as he is, he often gets himself out. He swings at pitches out of the zone and doesn't work counts.

Tulowitzki's at-bats have never been compared with Todd Helton's. He takes his share of walks, but no one would consider him as a guy who makes the pitcher work to get him to swing the bat.

That is why the 1st inning at-bat was so critical. Instead of getting ahead of himself and trying to do too much, Tulo fouled pitch-after-pitch-after-pitch off. The foul balls weren't an effort to get a hit, they were clearly an effort to keep his at-bat alive and make Pettibone throw another pitch. On the 14th pitch he walked, and passed the baton to Justin Morneau, who had plenty of opportunities to take a look at Pettibone's stuff in the on-deck circle. Morneau got the job done and started the scoring.

Tulowitzki will most likely always be a free swinger. That is who he is, and frankly, his talent allows him to get away with it. However, if he does learn to foul pitches off more often, he will be that much better.

The scoring is fun and encouraging to Rockies fans. However, the performance from Chatwood might just be the most important part of the night for the club. For 22 seasons, the Rockies question mark has been their pitching. With Brett Anderson already on the disabled list, the remaining members of the rotation are all going to have to fill the gap. Chatwood has the talent, but wondering if 2013 is a fluke has crossed many Rockies fans minds with Chatwood. Instead, he is showing that not only is he as good as he was a year ago, but that he might actually be even better.

There are plenty of Rockies fans who are still skeptical, and they have every right to be. However, when they put together an all-around performance like they did on Friday night, fans should simply sit back and enjoy it.

When the Rockies hit on all cylinders, they can be a very good baseball team.

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