|The Rockies lost Nolan Arenado for a long time on Friday night.|
After drilling a ball off the top of the left field wall in the top of the 2nd inning, Arenado hesitated on his way to second base. It was hit so hard that going to second base wasn't a given. The hesitation Arenado gave made it a bang-bang play. The slide was of the awkward, face first variety. It was late, which caused Arenado's fingers to jam into the base. He left in between innings and all the way back in Colorado Springs, reports swirled that Josh Rutledge was removed from the game in the middle of the inning, a sign that Arenado would be down for a while.
The injury came with an insult, as the Rockies watched Adam Ottavino allow the go-ahead run in the 8th inning. The run gave the Braves the 3-2 win, which started a very important nine-game road trip on the wrong foot. Not only did the Rockies offense struggle, the bullpen faltered and re-wrote a common story that is told all-too-often with this franchise.
There were two pieces of good news for the Rockies. First, Jordan Lyles bounced back from his first really bad start of the year on Saturday and pitched extremely well. He went six innings, giving up six hits and two earned runs. He uncharacteristically struck out six and walked just one. The six strikeouts is higher than Lyles usually ends up with, but he was facing a swing-and-miss Braves offense. The key was that he was throwing strikes.
With Lyles struggles on Saturday, it opened up all of the doubters to think that he might not be the pitcher that he has shown himself to be through the first six weeks of the season. He struggled in Houston and came over to Colorado in the Fowler trade without much fanfare. After not being on the Opening Day roster, the hope that Lyles would contribute at a high level really didn't exist. What he did through the first six weeks was far more than anyone could have asked.
Lyles success was a great surprise for Rockies fans, but there has been the ever-present feeling that the real Jordan Lyles will eventually show up. His outing on Friday night showed that the real Jordan Lyles may be the guy that was dominant through the early season.
The Rockies are leaning heavily on Lyles to pick up the slack that has been left by the injuries of Tyler Chatwood and Brett Anderson. The back of the rotation is already a huge question mark, so the Rockies simply cannot afford to have Lyles struggle.
In addition to Lyles, Michael Cuddyer seems to be getting locked back in. After missing a home run by a foot, he drilled his first bomb since being back in the lineup. The 6th inning home run to left field tied up the game and gave the Rockies a chance. He also recorded another hit in his 2-for-4 night.
In the bottom of the 7th inning, with the bases loaded and two outs, Walt Weiss took the ball from Rex Brothers and went to Ottavino to record the final out. On the second pitch Justin Upton lined a ball to right field that looked like it was going to get down and skip to the wall, clearing the bases. Instead, Cuddyer, not normally known as a good outfielder, took a perfect route to the ball and snagged it before it could get down.
Cuddyer being in the lineup is a huge benefit to the Rockies. His leadership and his ability to take good at-bats sets a tone for the Rockies.
Love it or hate it, this Rockies team is built on the idea that if everything goes exactly perfect, they will be competitive. So far that is pretty much how it has gone. The one exception to that has been the starting rotation. However, the club has been successful because nearly everything has gone perfectly. That is why the injury to Arenado is so concerning. He has been a consistent force in both the lineup and in the field for the Rockies. An extended loss of his bat and glove could be a huge issue for the Rockies.
The Rockies started their longest road trip of the season on a bad note. They must find a way to scratch out some wins. They have hung around all season long, but a 2-7 road trip could put them in a very bad position. They need to find a way to come back to Coors Field with at least four wins. That isn't going to be an easy task, but if they are serious about winning, that is what needs to happen.
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