|Juan Nicasio showed his huge steps on Tuesday night.|
That is what would have been an appropriate nickname for Colorado Rockies starter Juan Nicasio in 2013. The right-hander threw his four seemed fastball literally 95 percent of the time. After being rushed to the big leagues, it was the only pitch that was good enough to use at the big league level.
On Tuesday night, with the Rockies in need of a win with a road trip hanging in the balance, Nicasio made it look like it would be a rough night early on. He gave up two runs in the 1st inning. He had two on and a run in before he had recorded a single out.
With the Rockies bullpen already overused, not only was Nicasio putting the Rockies in a tough spot for what could become a difficult road trip, but he was also going to be put in a position to have to eat an inning or two long after he normally would have hit the showers.
However, the Dominican native beared down and minimized the damage in the 1st inning. He gave up only two runs, which ended up being the only two runs that Nicasio gave up all night long. He pitched six total innings, giving up six hits, only four after the 1st inning. He struck out three and walked one.
Suddenly Nicasio looks like the pitcher that everyone was hoping he would eventually become. He is still utilizing his fastball far more than conventional wisdom would suggest that he should, but the fact that he possesses a slider and a change up in his arsenal gets him outs.
The story for Nicasio in 2013 was written over and over again. He was good the first time through the order. However, Major League batters are smart. They recognize patterns and adjust. The second time through the order, and if he was able to make it that far, the third time through became a nightmare for Nicasio. With no out pitch, batters could foul off pitch after pitch until they got one in a zone that they liked. The pitch count would climb and usually the deficit would follow.
The fact that Nicasio can use the slider and change up, even on occasion, allows his fastball to become more effective. A batter has to keep it in the back of their mind that they might see it, which keeps them just off balance enough to turn hard hit balls into off-balance grounders.
If the Rockies want to prove their doubters wrong. If they want to show the skeptics that they are wrong, they absolutely must get contributions from everyone. They don't have the depth to have someone fall below expectations. In fact, they will need a couple of guys to break out and exceed expectations. Nicasio has to be one of those guys. The starting rotation is an area that is always of great concern for the Rockies. However, with Brett Anderson already on the disabled list and Jhoulys Chacin rehabbing until May, the Rockies need contributions from Nicasio.
The Rockies have now played five straight one-run games, winning two and dropping three. With two more wins, they would return to Coors Field on Friday night with a very good road trip, something that has eluded them throughout their history.
Jorge De La Rosa takes the mound for the Rockies. He will be looking to show his critics that he still has the same level of talent that helped him win 16 games a year ago. He will take on Jack Cashner, who has been very good. It wouldn't be a huge shock to see yet another one-run game on Wednesday.
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