|Jordan Lyles has been a phenomenal addition for the Rockies.|
The most talented shortstop in baseball blasted two home runs and walked twice in another complete performance from a Colorado Rockies club that continues to surprise everyone.
Tulowitzki's performance was once again overshadowed by another Rockie who had a phenomenal night himself. Jordan Lyles continued to make Dan O'Dowd look like a genius as he pitched into the 9th inning. He was removed after allowing a leadoff single to Adrian Beltre to start the 9th, his 104th pitch of the night.
Lyles gave up just two runs in his eight innings of work. He struck out five and walked only one. Much like the Rockies theory suggests, Lyles benefited from a strong use of his two-seamed fastball. He induced ground ball after ground ball, and worked his way out of trouble on several occasions. His defense turned four double plays behind him, a nice way to work out of trouble.
In all, Lyles got 15 ground ball outs, with only two fly ball outs. He moved to 4-0 with the win, lowering his ERA to 2.62.
It is easy to forget that Lyles wasn't on the Opening Day roster. He was added on the second day of the season when Tyler Chatwood had to go on the disabled list when the hamstring he injured in his final spring start didn't heal in time to make his first start. It could be argued that Lyles contribution has been as big as anyone on the entire club.
Is Lyles going to fade? Some stats suggest that he is bound for regression. However, this is a guy who had multiple scouts say that all four of his pitches were below average. In the past two seasons he has combined to lose 21 games. To think that Lyles will continue to pitch as well as he has through the first five weeks of the season isn't realistic. At some point he is going to have a few bad outings. He has done enough, however, to point to a breakout season.
At just 23-years-old and 72 appearances coming into the season, it may simply be the fact that Lyles was forced to jump into the deep end before he knew how to swim. He was learning on the job and was struggling like many young pitchers do. With a terrible Astros team behind him, his margin for error was slim. Suddenly, a trade to the Rockies may have reinvigorated him. He may have received a shot of confidence from the fact that another team wanted him and was willing to trade someone with the talent of Dexter Fowler to get him.
Lyles may not be the guy who will lead the Rockies to the playoffs in 2014. However, he very well may be the guy who keeps the team high enough in the standings early in the season to bridge the gap while two of the five starters recover from injuries that will keep them out until the All-Star break.
The Rockies run has been fun to watch. With nearly every Rockies fan holding their breath and bracing for a gut-check, the team keeps winning. The wins aren't based on luck either. This team is fighting hard. They are putting together good at-bats, they are pitching well to the opposition and they aren't giving up on games in which they are behind. The reality check will come at some point, but the Rockies may be establishing a confidence that they can build on when the going gets tough at some point.
With Tulowitzki on fire, and Lyles continuing his dominance on the mound, another highlight that hasn't been mentioned is Nolan Arenado's remarkable hitting streak. He extended his streak to 25 games in the 2nd inning with a home run on a fastball so low and so far inside that it looked like it might hit his shins. Instead, Arenado turned on it and drove it down the line, just inside of the foul pole.
At just 23-years-old, the future looks very bright for Arenado. Regardless of how the final four and a half months wind up for this team, the play from the Rockies third baseman should be something that this team builds around. The only thing more impressive then his 25-game hitting streak is his defense, where he seems to make not just a highlight reel play on a nightly basis, but a jaw-dropping, top play of the day type of play. Rockies fans can be as skeptical about this team as they would like to be. The franchise has given their fans, even with an early hot start, a reason to take a wait-and-see approach.
Even if the Rockies fade, even if they fall short of contention somewhere in the midst of the summer, Rockies fans already have their reason to be excited for the 2015 season. Arenado's approach to the game is worth the cost of admission. He plays the game the way that it is meant to be played, and he is fun to watch.
With May being the month the Rockies have fallen in recent years, how they play throughout the month is worth paying attention to. If they can make it through the month playing as well as they have so far, this Rockies team deserves some extra attention. If they fall back into the trap that they have over the past three years, the skeptics will crawl out of their holes and make sure they let everyone know that they never believed.
For now, this team has plenty of reasons to grab a seat on the couch and watch every night. This is a fun brand of baseball, and whether or not it continues all summer isn't worth worrying about on May 5th. Enjoying what the Rockies are doing right now is all that is important. The rest will take care of itself.
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