Saturday, June 14, 2014

Brandon Barnes races to game-winning, inside-the-park home run as Colorado Rockies improbably rally again

Brandon Barnes hit the game winning homer, an inside-the-park job.
The Colorado Rockies have forgotten that they are on the road.

With the Rockies down a run with one out to go, Brandon Barnes punched a Sergio Romo pitch to center field with the tying run on first base. When Angel Pagan badly misplayed the ball, trying to catch it when it bent away from him, the first thought was that in AT&T Ballpark, with that gap, and with Barnes hustle, there was a chance for an inside-the-park home run.

When Barnes raced around third base and beat the throw to the plate, suddenly the Rockies went from being down-and-out to having a one-run lead heading into the bottom of the 9th inning.

For the past two days, the Rockies have made Sergio Romo feel like Tony Romo. With the game on the line, Romo has given it away when it seemed locked down.

Barnes hit the game-winner, but it wouldn't have come had Charlie Blackmon not delivered in the previous at-bat. After having strike one called on a pitch that missed the strike zone by six inches or more, Blackmon wasn't going to leave things in the umpires hands again. He swung at a two strike pitch in the same location and served it to left field for a base hit. His emergence, despite a recent slump, has been a huge addition to the Rockies everyday starting lineup.

Speaking of great additions, the Dexter Fowler trade to the Houston Astros, one that was criticized by nearly everyone who follows the Rockies (including me) is looking to be a complete haul in favor of the Rockies. Not only has Barnes provided both a spark and a good bat, Jordan Lyles was an anchor in the rotation until breaking his hand just over a week ago while covering the plate. Meanwhile Fowler is having a decent season, but nothing worth missing.

If someone didn't watch the games played in San Francisco both Friday and Saturday night, they may not believe the news of how the Rockies won both games. The Rockies struggles on the road, but specifically in their West Coast road trips, have been so well documented that when the team heads in that direction, most fans just hope for the best. They want them to pick up a couple of wins somehow and come home to take care of business.

However, when games like the ones that were played on Friday and Saturday happen, the Rockies never pull away with a win. There are plenty of times when the Rockies have an early lead in the game, but the Giants always fight their way back in and steal the win late. In both games so far, the Rockies have flipped the switch and gotten to Sergio Romo, who was perfect in save opportunities at home in 2014 before Friday night.

The late heroics are always fun, but they also steal the spotlight from players who were huge contributors. Rockies fans should be excited about the win because of the nature of it. However, they should probably be even more excited about the start that Christian Bergman gave them. The Triple-A call-up showed signs of maturing on Saturday. Despite it being just his second career start, Bergman was pounding the strike zone. The rookie gave up three runs in six innings, striking out three but walking no one. The stat line doesn't suggest greatness, but it does suggest a guy who can get the job done at the big league level.

Whether it is in San Francisco or at Coors Field, if a starting pitcher can give the Rockies six innings of three or less runs, he has given the Rockies offense a good enough chance where they don't have an excuse. Bergman doesn't have to be great. He needs to keep getting his feet wet at the big league level and learn how to deal with the struggles that come with that. However, if he is able to keep the Rockies in games, he is a huge bonus for the roster. The confidence that comes when a pitcher is reliable is hard to quantify, but it certainly helps a team to know that they have a chance with a certain guy on the mound.

The Rockies still have big question marks on their roster, but the addition of Bergman, and the first start of Tyler Matzek, suggest that this team is improving. Not only on the mound, but improving their mindset on the field. Instead of waving the white flag when things get bad, like they have done in year's past, the Rockies seem like fighters. They go out and try to win no matter what. That is a very good sign for this franchise.

If guys like Bergman and Tyler Matzek can pitch well enough to keep the Rockies in games, the 2014 season could be a huge step in the right direction. The team needs quality starting pitching. If they can get that from Matzek and Bergman, and those two guys can get plenty of experience throughout the season, the Rockies will have taken the necessary steps to be serious contenders in a year.

The Rockies wins in San Francisco are a good sign. It shows that this team isn't quitting and that they believe that they can win any game against anyone, in any park. Most Rockies teams have given up winning on the road at this point in the season.

It might sound unbelievable, but the Rockies go for the sweep on Sunday. If they could pick up that win, it would put them in a good position as they head to Los Angeles after Sunday's contest.

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1 comment:

  1. Brandon Barnes is such a good player. He hustled his butt off to score on that inside the park HR which was the game winner.