|Juan Nicasio gave the Rockies six strong innings on Saturday.|
However, fans of the Colorado Rockies know how important this nine game road trip is for the hopes of the 2014 season. Keep their heads above water, and there might be a chance that this team will avoid their annual fade.
The Rockies struggle on the road has been so well documented, but never overcome. The mystery of why it happens simply can't be figure out.
After Friday night's loss in the series opener, things looked bleak for the Rockies. They had Juan Nicasio going against Mike Minor on Saturday, then Franklin Morales going against Julio Teheran on Sunday. Those pitching matchups favor the Braves heavily.
On paper the games favor the Braves, but Nicasio had a different idea. The Rockies starter threw six innings of shutout baseball, giving up just two hits. He struggled with command slightly, walking four Braves batters, but struck out five against the free-swinging Atlanta team. As much as Nicasio has come under fire, he lowered his ERA to a stellar 3.61 with his Saturday performance.
The Rockies are built with talent, but they are also built where they will need positive contributions from every player on the roster. If they want to succeed, they are going to need to Nicasio to fill the gap left when Tyler Chatwood and Brett Anderson went down with injury.
Traditionally, the Rockies forget to bring their bats on the road. They may crush the ball at Coors Field, but they leave and suddenly they need their pitcher to give up three or less runs for them to have a shot. While that was still the case on Saturday in the Rockies 3-1 win, they got the big hits when they needed them, and they got them from their biggest leaders.
Notching only six hits, the Rockies weren't exactly crushing the ball, but they got on the board early when Michael Cuddyer blasted his fifth home run of the season and second home run in as many days to lead off the 2nd inning. The home run gave the Rockies at least a tiny bit of breathing room. In the 6th inning, Tulowitzki hit a ball deep to left field that was about 15 feet from the foul line, but deep enough to give the Rockies a 2-0 lead.
For the Rockies, maybe solving the puzzle that is their road struggles, the key is to pitch well and get a big hit every now and then. They may not be able to depend on hit after hit after hit like they do at Coors Field, they may need to grind out at-bats and strike when they have a chance.
Saturday's win gives the Rockies a new chance on this road trip. If they can find a way to go 4-5 on the trip, they come home in a good spot. If they allow a few bad games to lead into a losing streak, or if they lose a few games that they had a chance to win, then they could easily be far enough out of the race that they will need to press to get back into it. However, getting through the trip without a complete disaster would suggest that this team can go on a run at home and will either be on the top of the National League West, or close to it as they roll into June.
It is tough to say enough about the performance of Nicasio. He is essentially bridging the gap for the Rockies until the two injured starters return to the rotation, or until top prospects Jon Gray or Eddie Butler are ready to start their big league careers. Nicasio picking up wins in a dominant performance not only helps the Rockies in the standings, but it also brings quite a bit of hope to the club. If he can be relied on, the Rockies have enough talent in their rotation to win games where the offense doesn't hit to their potential. They have a shot to win games on the road when their offense is battling a 21-year-old fight that doesn't seem like it is going to be won anytime soon.
The Rockies look to win a series in Atlanta on Sunday. Once again the pitching matchup doesn't favor the Rockies, but if they can scratch out a few runs, and Franklin Morales can pitch well enough, the Rockies could head into Philadelphia in a good position for the remainder of the road trip.
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