Sunday, May 18, 2014

Justin Morneau shows depth of Colorado Rockies offense with walk-off home run

Justin Morneau won it for the Rockies on Sunday.
One thing is certain, the Colorado Rockies are fun to watch in 2014.

Justin Morneau added the latest chapter on Sunday afternoon with a walk-off, two-out, full count two-run blast to center field to give the Rockies the victory and giving them two-of-three in the series against the Padres.

The game came on a day when the club didn't get a great start from Juan Nicasio, but the Rockies kept scoring runs behind him and kept the club in the game. A four-run 4th inning gave the Rockies the lead, but more runs would be necessary. Troy Tulowitzki launched his 13th home run of the season to get the job done. Later, Carlos Gonzalez would add a huge two-out RBI single to give the Rockies their sixth run of the day.


In the end, it turned out that the team would need all of those runs.

Nicasio ended up going six innings, giving up four runs on nine hits, including two home runs. The numbers suggest that his outing was what a team looks for from a guy in the back end of their rotation, particularly at Coors Field. The problem is, Nicasio wasn't nearly as good as his mediocre line suggested.

This Rockies team is very good. They don't have an easy out anywhere in their lineup, and they simply crush the ball. Sunday was a prime example of just that. While both Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez had contributed in the game, the Rockies didn't find themselves having to rely on one of those guys to get the job done. Morneau provides a power bat that gives the Rockies one more potent bat that they can rely on.

With all due respect to Todd Helton, Morneau, at 33-years-old, still has the pop in his bat, and still has the bat speed to take a ball a little bit low in the zone and drive it over the center field fence. Helton had occasional pop at the end of his career, but certainly not what Morneau possesses.

Morneau may be just one bat, but it changes the complex of a lineup when there is a legitimate home run threat from that additional spot. It makes pitchers have to change the way they approach every at-bat throughout the lineup and factor in what a guy may be able to do at the plate. Morneau makes the Rockies lineup a great one instead of just a good one.

No matter what the Rockies pitching does, the offense is going to heave the team onto their backs on several occasions throughout the 2014 season and snatch wins from the jaws of defeat. Those games will provide plenty of excitement for those who are rooting for the Rockies.

While those types of wins are exciting, the reality is, it isn't what teams want to be doing on a continual basis. The Sunday win covers up a couple of extremely glaring issues that the Rockies are facing. Not only is the back end of the rotation a huge question mark for the club, but the time has arrived to question whether or not LaTroy Hawkins is fit to be closing baseball games at the big league level.

Hawkins has been a severe liability to the Rockies. His blown save in the 9th inning on Sunday was anything but a huge surprise. With a two run cushion, Hawkins gave up a long two-run homer to Everth Cabrera of all people. The confidence level when Hawkins takes the mound simply isn't there anymore.

The Rockies haven't seen Hawkins pitch a clean inning since April 28th, and he has only had two clean outings since all the way back on April 12th. Although only five runs have scored on Hawkins all season long, a closer working with base runners on is a closer who is about to get burned. Playing with fire isn't a matter of if, but when, the burn happens.

The wins are fun, the offense has been incredible. Even with a lapse over the past couple of weeks, the Rockies have been an absolute juggernaut at the plate. However, there are cracks in this team. There are issues that must be addressed.

If the Rockies want to be playing meaningful baseball games in September, Juan Nicasio can't be one of two questionable pitchers in the starting rotation, and LaTroy Hawkins can't be closing games. The offense simply can't be asked to pull the weight of the team that often. The pitching has to do their part.

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