|Franklin Morales has been better than anyone expected for the Rockies.|
Oh wait. He wasn't? No one took him at all? Oh yeah. Everyone expected him to be in the bullpen with an ERA hovering around 5.50 for the Colorado Rockies.
On Tuesday night, as the Rockies ensured a winning series against the Giants and a winning homestand, behind an unbelievable performance from Morales, who pitched seven innings giving up just five hits and one run. The lone mistake came when Hunter Pence laced a no-doubt home run in the 5th inning.
Morales mixed in seven strikeouts while walking only two. Frankly, he was brilliant. For the most part, when Morales pitches, Rockies fans have to buckle their seat belts before the game starts. Even when he is good, his control is erratic at best. He might get outs, but no one really believes that the lefty knows where his pitches are going.
On Tuesday night, however, Morales seemed mostly in control. He kept the Giants off-balance and was in control the whole time he was on the mound. If anyone had said before the season started that Morales would be this good, they would have been lying.
The surprise that both Morales and Jordan Lyles have given the Rockies has kept the Rockies in the race through April. They have far exceeded their expectations. With the injuries of Jhoulys Chacin early, then the latest injury to Brett Anderson, the Rockies would have been in serious trouble. However, those two starting pitchers have delivered starts that are not only good, but have been the reason for the Rockies victories in the games that they have started.
Whether it is April or September, every game counts the same. The only games that have slightly more meaning are the games against their division rivals. Taking the first two of the series against the Giants is huge. Finding a way to win within the division is a huge step to contending. A win against a division opponent guarantees a game in the standings. The Rockies were actually good against their own division a year ago, but continuing that with the hopes of performing better overall is a key to success.
With the starting pitching coming through, the bullpen was still a huge question mark. With Rex Brothers struggling, and his velocity down, Rockies fans cringed when Walt Weiss went to him in the 8th inning with two on and one out. It was the exact type of scenario in which Brothers has struggled in the early going. On Tuesday, he got a ground ball on the first pitch he threw to Pablo Sandoval, recording a double play and getting out of the inning.
Winning a game like Tuesday night's, a pitcher's duel at Coors Field, is a huge step for the Rockies. This is a team that has struggled mightily in one run games over the past few seasons. They have to play with a swagger and an edge. That has also been absent from the Rockies over the last three years. This team is playing with confidence. They aren't going to the plate looking intimidated by a good pitcher like Madison Bumgarner. They go and scratch out a few runs and hope their starting pitcher can give them a shot to win.
On Tuesday, solo home runs from Troy Tulowitzki and Nolan Arenado was all the Rockies would need.
This Rockies team still has plenty to prove. They aren't going to have the fan base officially back on the bandwagon unless they can continue winning close games and playing well deep into the summer. Winning one run games is a huge step. The next step is to hold their own on the road. If this Rockies team can go out and scratch out a few wins on the road and come home without burying themselves, they might actually be contenders.
If pitcher's duels are fun to watch, Wednesday afternoon might be another good one. Tyler Chatwood, who looked absolutely phenomenal in his last start, faces off against Matt Cain. If the Rockies can pull off the sweep, it gives them some leverage on the road.
The Rockies have surprisingly had very good starting pitching, even with two of their better starters on the disabled list. If the Rockies can rack up wins now, they will be in a great position when Chacin and Anderson make their way back to the mound.
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