|Justin Morneau has returned to his MVP form.|
The Coors Field effect might be something that Colorado Rockies fans get sick of hearing about, but if that is what is helping Morneau return to the 2006 form that earned him the American League MVP award, Rockies fans will be willing to hear about it all year long.
On Tuesday night, with the Rockies in the midst of a seven-game losing streak, Morneau loaded the Rockies onto his shoulders and swung his way to a victory. The lefty went 3-for-5 with two runs scored and six RBIs. His 4th inning 3-run home run that was as high as it was far was the turning point in a game that could have gotten out of hand for the Rockies.
What might be the most surprising stat in baseball is that Morneau's big night at the plate brought his RBI total to 57 on the season. Consider that the Rockies aren't halfway through their schedule and the math is easy enough to show what kind of a season Morneau is having in purple pinstripes.
While the Rockies have certainly struggled in June, Morneau has been a real bright spot for the 2014 Rockies. His presence in the lineup has, at times, shown how much production the Rockies have been missing at first base over the past three seasons. With all due respect to Todd Helton, who deserves plenty of credit for his own ability at the plate, Morneau has stepped in and provided a punch that simply wasn't there in Helton's bat the last few years.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the night for Morneau is that five of the RBIs came against left-handed relievers. One knock against Morneau was that he struggled to hang in against lefties, especially in his post-concussion days. On Tuesday night, the first baseman showed that any theory that he can't hit lefties is incorrect.
On the mound, despite a line that doesn't suggest it was a great night, Jorge De La Rosa got back on track and picked up a much-deserved victory. De La Rosa is the type of pitcher who can contribute in huge ways, but never seems to be noticed for his performance. He mad one really bad pitch on the night. It came in the 3rd inning to Jhonny Peralta, who drilled a pitch that caught far too much of the plate to tie the game at three. At the time it looked devastating. The Rockies had just put up three runs against a pitcher who one-hit them a year ago in Shelby Miller. However, De La Rosa didn't make any other mistakes on the night.
De La Rosa pitched seven innings, giving up five runs, only four of which were earned. However, the best part of his stat line is the fact that he didn't walk anyone. He was pounding the strike zone and got huge outs when he needed to get them.
The reality is, if the Rockies are going to turn the ship around, they are going to need to rely on Jorge De La Rosa in a huge way. The lefty has won 16 games twice in his career for a reason. He knows how to pitch. He attacks the strike zone and has the ability to get ground balls, which can quickly turn around an inning, like it did in the 6th inning, when Tony Cruz hit a De La Rosa slider to Troy Tulowitzki, who started the 6-4-3 double play.
The win showed what the Rockies can do when they play as a team. They got good pitching, a phenomenal hitting performance, and got contributions from everyone else along the way. Wilin Rosario remains hot at the plate. He has become healthy after figuring out that he doesn't have to be a dead pull hitter in order to succeed. His ability to hit the ball to the opposite gap has helped him stay back on the ball and not wave at the off-speed pitches.
Despite the game largely being decided, Brandon Barnes also showed why the Rockies picked him up. He may not be the most blessed with physical abilities. However, he makes up for it in pure heart. Despite striking out three times in his 0-for-5 performance at the plate, Barnes contributed. Matt Carpenter led off the 9th inning with a sharp line drive that was destined for the right-center gap and a lead-off double. Instead, Carpenter headed back to the dugout after Barnes went full superman and snagged the ball, giving the Rockies one out in the 9th instead of a runner on second base and no one out.
The Rockies are going to need many more performances like Tuesday night's if they are going to crawl back to respectability. The first goal should be getting back to .500 and seeing where things go when some of their injured players return. The Rockies have a chance to crawl a little closer when they go for a series win against the Cardinals on Wednesday afternoon.
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