Saturday, June 7, 2014

Colorado Rockies finally break losing streak behind Chacin's return to form and Barnes walk-off winner

Brandon Barnes provided the walk-off win on Saturday.

It took 10 innings, but the Colorado Rockies can breathe a little easier. When Brandon Barnes drove a two out, 10th inning pitch from Chris Perez into the right-center field corner, scoring Justin Morneau from 1st base, giving the Rockies not only a victory, but a reprieve from a losing streak that has changed the course of their season.

The win came courtesy of a vintage Jhoulys Chacin outing. It took until the beginning of June, but Chacin finally looked like the pitcher that can be dominant. His sinker was on, he was fooling the Dodgers all day with his stuff, and his velocity was back in the low-90's, alleviating concerns that he is injured.

Chacin worked into the 7th inning, giving up three runs on six hits. He struck out four and walked three. His line, however, wasn't reflective of the way that he pitched. He was much better. Through six innings, Chacin hadn't given up a run. The right-hander ran out of gas in the 7th inning when he walked Matt Kemp to lead off the inning, then gave up a hit to Andre Ethier, followed by a base hit to Justin Turner, which scored the Dodgers first run of the game. It was apparent that Chacin was done, and he headed to the dugout, giving way to Nick Masset.

Masset got to face Dodger catcher Tim Federowicz, who was sporting a .102 batting average coming into Saturday. In what truly reflected the bullpen struggles of late for the Rockies, Federowicz drilled the first pitch he saw deep into the left-center field bleachers, giving the Dodgers a 4-3 lead after the Rockies had been dominant all day. The home run was just the fifth of Federowicz's career, the second against the Rockies.

With an eight game losing streak on their shoulders, it looked like the Rockies weren't even going to be able to win a game in which their starter was good and their offense had scratched out runs against one of the best pitchers in baseball, Zach Greinke.

The Rockies bullpen has been shaky, at best. They have struggled to get outs and the results have been incredibly embarrassing. When Federowicz hit the home run, it seemed like not only would the Rockies lose again, but that they would have to endure another torturous rampage of their bullpen.

Instead, both Rex Brothers and Adam Ottavino did a very good job of keeping the Dodgers off of the scoreboard again. Kemp led off the 8th with a triple off of Brothers, but the lefty got Ethier to ground out with the infield drawn in, preventing the run. Ottavino was called upon and got two soft ground ball outs, leaving Kemp stranded and giving the Rockies a shot.

The win boosts the dashed hopes of Rockies fans. It allows fans to look at the record of their team once again and believe that the club has a shot to contend. That is a great feeling to have. It is early June, and despite the writing on the wall and the clear issues with this team, fans have the right to be excited.

The hot start that the Rockies had was a great way to stir up hope from a disgruntled fan base. It re-energized everyone into believing that this team might actually have a chance to be good. It also gave them the leverage to lose a few games and still be within striking distance.

The issue, however, is the unraveling of the bullpen. It would be easy to say that the Rockies would be much better had Tyler Chatwood and Brett Anderson not been hurt, but the reality is that the Rockies bullpen is an absolute disaster. With the exception of Ottavino, there simply isn't one member of this relief corp that can be trusted. There isn't a lead that is safe once the starters had the ball to the bullpen.

There might be an answer. It has been one that has been mentioned in the past, but has never gained traction. The answer might be to move Juan Nicasio to the pen. He doesn't have to be the closer, or even the 8th inning guy, but with his stuff, a strong fastball that could be good for one inning, he could be the exact thing that the Rockies need in the bullpen.

They need to come up with some solution, whether that is Nicasio moving to the bullpen or making a trade, or bringing someone in from the minor leagues. The reality is, this team probably won't be able to contend anyway, but with their bullpen in it's current shape, they won't be able to even crawl back to respectability.

For the Rockies, the dream of contending only still lives on for the most die-hard of fans. The recent cool down has made it clear that this team has a ways to go to be a true contender for a six month season. They must find a way to get better, not only in the bullpen, but in the starting rotation as well. There are prospects on the horizon for that job, but to suggest that any one of them, let alone several of them, can help the Rockies contend immediately when they come up full time in 2015 is asking too much.

The Rockies finally picked up a win on Saturday. The drama of the win might be the boost that they needed to get back on track. The goal, however, may have changed from making the playoffs, to being a team that has a chance to win every night.

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