|Charlie Culberson was the hero on Saturday night.|
A night of excitement was capped off with a walk-off home run, courtesy of pinch hitter Charlie Culberson. The utility infielder was hitting just .109 when he stepped to the plate with one out and Troy Tulowitzki at second base and the Rockies down by a run.
Culberson drilled a 1-2 pitch from Kyle Farnsworth deep to center field. It was clear that it would go over Juan Lagares' head, but whether it had the height and distance to make it into the pond beyond the centerfield wall wasn't clear. However, the ball just kept traveling, falling well beyond the wall and giving the Rockies win.
If the 11-10 win can be summed up in one word, that word would be character.
This is a team that folded when the opposition got up by a few runs a year ago. This was a team that wasn't worth the cost of a Rockpile ticket once the calendar turned to July. There was no fight, there was no heart, and frankly, there was no chance.
Franklin Morales, quickly showing that he may be the weak link in the starting rotation, looked awful on Saturday. He gave up six runs in five innings of work. He dealt with traffic throughout his outing, giving up nine hits and walking a batter. The one positive was that he was able to gut his way through five innings, which saved an already short-handed bullpen from having to throw six or more innings.
Luckily for Morales, the Rockies offense looks nearly unbeatable. Despite being down 6-0, the feeling was that the game wasn't over. Unfortunately for the Mets, the momentum quickly shifted, and after Troy Tulowitzki was drilled in the back by a pitch, the bases were loaded, and Nolan Arenado, who still needed a hit to extend his hitting streak to 23 games strolled to the plate.
With four runs already in and the bases loaded, a base hit could tie the game. Arenado wasn't looking for a single. He crushed the first pitch he saw, a slider, deep into the left field seats for a grand slam. The blast gave the Rockies a 8-6 lead and the feeling that they simply cannot be defeated.
The game went back-and-forth, but suddenly looked like the Rockies might have come back in vain. The Rockies bullpen couldn't hold the lead. The Mets tied the game, the Rockies took the lead, the Mets tied it again, then took a 9th inning lead after LaTroy Hawkins entered the game.
That's when Culberson lifted the team on his shoulders.
The problem for this team is that there are so many players contributing that there simply isn't enough time to give every contributor their due. Arenado's 23-game hitting streak is remarkable. In a year like 2013, that may have been one of the highlights of the team's entire season. However, at this point in the 2014 season, it is barely more than a blip on the radar.
It's hard to give Arenado his due when Tulowitzki is putting up MVP numbers. His 3-for-4 night on Saturday rounded out his batting average to an even .400. There are few players in the history of the game who get locked in the way the Rockies shortstop does. There is no way to accurately describe how locked in he is at the plate. He seems relaxed and more comfortable than he has ever been at the plate. If the past month is even slightly an indication of what can be expected from the Rockies superstar all season long, Rockies fans may as well start saving their money for playoff tickets.
Could this Rockies team be for real? One thing is certain, this team is far better than it was a year ago. The talent is far deeper. Look at the offense alone. Arenado's emergence gives the Rockies another bat that is not only dependable, but on the track to becoming an All-Star. The addition of Justin Morneau has given the team another left handed bat that provides one more hitter that a pitcher must think about when dealing with the Rockies. With all due respect to Dexter Fowler, the approach that Charlie Blackmon takes at the plate makes Fowler look like a little leaguer. He swings to hit the ball hard, not to hit a home run. He hits the ball where it is pitched and looks like he knows exactly what pitch is coming. There are no holes in his swing to discuss.
The Rockies history makes them easy to dismiss. It also makes them difficult to get behind. However, there is something different about the way this team plays the game. There is a fight. There is heart. This team believes that they are good. They don't view themselves as a bad team, they view themselves as a team that can beat any pitcher in any park.
The Rockies will certainly have to deal with more adversity as the year continues, but through May 3rd, the Rockies look like they aren't going anywhere. Believing that they can win, and win now, is a huge advantage in baseball. If they continue to play with that confidence, there is no reason to believe that they are going to fade away.
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