|It was Justin Morneau's turn to provide the heroics on Sunday.|
Not only did the Rockies finish off the three-game sweep of the San Francisco Giants on the road on Sunday, they completed the trifecta of coming back from behind in all three games, winning them in impressive fashion.
Sunday's win was the most unlikely of all of them. Rockies fans got their wish when the team removed Franklin Morales from the starting rotation. What fans didn't think about was that having him in the bullpen made the possibility of having both he and Juan Nicasio pitch in the same game a real option.
The Rockies, however, overcame the fact that both of those pitchers were on the mound for them on Sunday. Nicasio started and didn't make it through three innings. He gave up three runs on four hits and walked four while striking out two in just two innings of work. Morales came in to relieve him and gave up four runs of his own in three innings of work, adding to his home run total with three long-balls given up.
Look at the position the Rockies were in through five innings, now consider the fact that they found a way to win the game. What a series.
When games are won in late innings, it always comes with something happening that defies the odds. That was certainly the case both Friday night and Saturday when the club got to Sergio Romo, lacing hit after hit off of the closer, and getting terrible defense benefiting the Rockies efforts.
On Sunday, the improbable came when Justin Morneau pinch hit in the 8th inning with the Rockies down by one run and two on. Bruce Bochy, the Giants manager, countered by going to Javier Lopez out of the bullpen. Rockies fans are very familiar with Lopez as their former bullpen member who has turned into a very good left-on-left pitcher. His delivery is nearly side arm, giving left-handers fits.
Morneau, however, stood in the box on a tough pitch and poked it to left field, scoring Michael McKenry from third base and also skipping around just enough to allow DJ LeMahieu to come all the way around from first base to score the go-ahead run. Suddenly the Rockies didn't just tie the game, they had the lead. The Rockies had done it once again.
The wins were absolutely incredible. All three of them were wins that they snatched away from the jaws of defeat. Over the past two weeks, the Rockies had been doing exactly the opposite of that. They weren't fighting, there wasn't a single aspect of their game that was playing well. The starting rotation was faltering, the bullpen looked like even the biggest of leads wasn't safe with them, and the offense was missing in action.
After a blowup by Walt Weiss in the finale of the Rockies four-game set with the Braves, coming on the heels of one of the best Major League debuts in Rockies history, when Tyler Matzek looked like the real deal on Wednesday night, and suddenly the team woke up. The club was revived and once again became the team that everyone saw throughout the first six weeks of the season. Even LaTroy Hawkins looked good in closing out all three wins.
This season is about growth for the Rockies. This is about changing the culture where the team expects to win every single day. It is a season where the Rockies climb back to respectability and build their confidence to the point where they can believe in themselves enough to contend for an entire six month season. It is also about getting some of their young prospects time on the mound at the big league level to be comfortable and to know how to get outs.
A series sweep in San Francisco, a place that has long been the graveyard for Rockies seasons, is a huge step in the right direction. Throw out the past three weeks before the series. It doesn't matter what the Rockies struggles were or what their record was coming into the series. The fact that they were able to come in and not only win a series, something that would be impressive enough considering their history, but to sweep the Giants, is a huge step in the right direction.
The noticeable thing from an offensive prospective was that the Rockies didn't seem to be lunging at pitches, trying to do too much. They waited for good pitches and they weren't trying to hit three-run home runs with no one on base. The patience at the plate is something that the Rockies were missing in their three weeks of struggle. At-bats in which they got down in the count seemed to be over, as the confidence at the plate seemed to go away.
The Rockies this weekend took good at-bats and didn't care who was on the mound. In addition to taking good at-bats, they seemed very willing to take pitches to the opposite field. In their struggles, the Rockies were getting pull-happy. In all three games there were examples of Rockies batters taking a pitch that wasn't exactly in the wheelhouse to the opposite field in an effort to get the ball in play and see what would happen.
The reality is, the Rockies headed to the West Coast and the hope was that the club could find a way to come home with three wins. Most knew that taking one of the two series in San Francisco and Los Angeles would be difficult, but the hope would be for three wins. Suddenly, the Rockies head to LA with that goal taken care of, and an ability to win a couple more and really make an impact.
On Monday, Tyler Matzek gets to take the mound about an hour from where he grew up. After an extremely impressive debut, it will be interesting to see if Matzek can keep it going or if reality will set in. If Matzek can prove to be a solid big league pitcher, the Rockies will have plenty to be excited about.
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