Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tyler Matzek pitches Colorado Rockies to victory against Giants in impressive road start

Tyler Matzek showed great growth on Monday night in his win.
When DJ LeMahieu laced a Jake Peavy fastball to left field with two outs in the top of the 7th inning, it looked like it might be the worst thing for the Colorado Rockies chances of winning in what ended up a 3-2 win for the Rockies.

That might not sound like it makes much sense, but LeMahieu's single meant that Tyler Matzek's spot in the lineup was coming to the plate. History, at least since Bill Geivett has been influencing the on-field decisions, suggests that the Rockies would pinch hit for Matzek, despite him having less than 90 pitches thrown and keeping the Giants in check.

However, much to the surprise of the viewing Rockies audience, Matzek strolled to the plate. Ironically, it became one of the defining at-bats of the game. Peavy had to deliver nine pitches to Matzek before walking him. The final two balls were very close to the strike zone, and Peavy let home plate umpire Doug Eddings know how he felt. However, Matzek was on first base and Charlie Blackmon had his turn. After Blackmon singled, which was followed by a strange series of plays at the plate, a safe call, an out call, a review and an overtuned safe call, the game was in complete disarray.

In the end, the Rockies didn't score a run, but the decision by Walt Weiss to let Matzek hit was a big show of confidence to the rookie left-hander.

Normally, and in years past, the right move would have been to pinch hit for the pitcher. He already gave the Rockies six strong innings and the club had the lead. With a runner on base, there is a chance to score another run, and potentially wasting an out with a pitcher at bat isn't very smart. However, with the Rockies bullpen that is nothing short of awful, the right decision was to stick with Matzek.

Too many times in a terrible 2014 season, the Rockies have watched a starter give them a good outing, only to be pulled out of the game because of the team's pitch-count theory. The bullpen, almost on cue, blows the game and allows it to get out of hand. If a team has a bullpen, especially a back-end of a bullpen, that is really good, six innings from the starter is good enough. However, in no case, even with the Rockies patch-work rotation, has there been a situation where the bullpen was a better option than the starter. Finally, on Monday, Weiss seemed to understand that. He was rewarded, as the Rockies only needed two innings from their pen, which consisted of two of the three better bullpen members, Adam Ottavino and LaTroy Hawkins.

While the move to leave Matzek in the game was something different, the story of the game was Matzek himself. The rookie was impressive. In fact, his start closely resembled starts that are commonplace from the Rockies ace Jorge De La Rosa.

Early on, Matzek looked shaky. In fact, three batters in for the Giants and the had already scored a run. Then, in the 2nd inning, Giants backup catcher Andrew Susac drilled a Matzek fastball over the centerfield wall, something that isn't easy to do at AT&T Park in San Francisco.

The sign of a good pitcher, however, is one who can figure out how to get outs even without his best stuff. In seven innings of work, Matzek was able to work the Giants lineup into four ground ball double plays. He worked around traffic, but minimized the damage.

A highlight that might be the biggest example of Matzek's growth came in the bottom of the 4th inning. Already having been knocked around a little, Matzek gave up a one-out triple to Michael Morse. It was another sign early on that Matzek didn't have his best stuff. Matzek, however, beared down. He got Joe Panik to strike out on a slider in the dirt, one with sharp bite, then he pitched around Susac in order to face Brandon Crawford. The Giants shortstop swung at the first pitch, another good slider from Matzek, and grounded out to Justin Morneau at first base.

In some of his early starts, innings like the 4th would have gotten away from Matzek. He would have given up another hit, then he may have nibbled at the strike zone, walked a batter or two, then allowed a bit hit when he forced a pitch that caught too much of the plate. Instead, he trusted his stuff, picked his matchups and got out of the inning without giving up a run.

Monday night may have been Matzek's most impressive start since his big league debut all the way back on June 11th. His numbers don't show exactly how good he has been. In fact, he has been much better than his numbers, but in a rookie season, it hasn't been exactly what he or the Rockies were probably hoping for.

In all, Matzek gave up eight hits in his seven innings. He walked two and struck out seven while giving up two runs. The seven strikeouts came courtesy of a hard slider that has a late bite to it. Batters seem to be fooled because of the velocity on the pitch, then the late bite darts the ball away from the bat.

For the Rockies, stuck in a miserable 2014 season, Matzek is someone who they are relying on to provide some level of hope heading into the 2015 season. He was a first round draft pick for a reason. Despite having as bumpy of a road as someone can have through the farm system, the lefty is still only 23-years-old. There is plenty of time for him to figure everything out. His stuff is clearly good enough to be successful in the big leagues, however, how quickly he can mature is very important.

If the club can figure out a way to re-sign Jorge De La Rosa, they may not have the money or the gumption to see if Brett Anderson is worth his $12 million option. That means that Matzek will be an integral part of the club's 2015 rotation. If there is any hope that this team can turn the ship around and head in the right direction, it will take a major contribution from Matzek.

On Monday, the lefty gave the fans something to cheer about and be excited for. There hasn't been much to be excited about since the middle of May, and unless there are changes in how the Rockies go about their business, anything on the field is a sub point. However, Matzek turning into a viable pitcher is a big step in the right direction.

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  1. Of note;
    Matzek shouldn't have come to the plate. DeLemahieu struck out looking, but the Ump threw the call. Matzek then struck out, but again the Ump disgraced his uniform. With four outs already passed, LeMahieu was out by a foot and a half at home, but the Ump called it a run. This fifth out of the inning, however, is something that can be challenged. It was and despite the Umps best efforts, the inning ended with zero runs.

    It's very similar to the Rockies heralded sweep in SF months ago, which was also regularly thrown by the Ump staff. It also brings up Arenado being out by a foot in the 13th inning the other night, but called a run and the tired Marlins coach decided to let it slide.

    Just sayin' - If you're so bad the game must be disgraced through fraud for you to have any chance, if the propaganda heads (ROOT) must blatantly lie in support as they did last night, you really are the worst creation of the game and forfeit your right to compete.

  2. Replay has done a lot to correct human error, but managers should have some way of asking for a new dealer (Ump) when the one they have is clearly stacking the deck (calling balls/strikes to one teams advantage, the other's detriment) like last night.

    The league should also relax their retribution toward coaches or players who point out the failure and/or fraud of the league's judges and act more appropriately toward Umps that are inept and/or throw games.

  3. Very nice writeup of Matzek. I've become more and more of a fan of his, and on a personal level, he's gaining a reputation for signing lots of autographs before the game among the ushers. As we talked about on Twitter, I still would have pulled him but I'm glad the move paid off.

    The umpiring was pretty bad though and it doesn't speak well of the Rockies that they scored so few runs given so many extra outs due to umpiring calls and errors. I think even Maddux would've been angry after that game so I can't fault Peavy.