A young man named Clayton Mortensen pitched 6 shut-out innings for the Rockies last night. He gave up just 2 hits. He was also the Rockies' third player to be called up from Triple-A since the beginning of the season and asked to pitch at the last minute. And he was brilliant.
Sadly, he was not the starting pitcher in this game versus the Giants. He came in in the 4th inning to clean up the mess that Esmil Rogers made. Rogers, who was stellar against the Pirates and okay against the Mets, was terrible against the Giants last night. He gave up 3 home runs in the first 2 innings, after owning the longest streak without giving up a home run among active pitchers. His velocity was there, but pitch after pitch was right where the hitter wanted it to be. In addition to those home runs, one of which was a 3-run homer, Rogers gave up 3 more runs on RBI singles and a sacrifice fly. Jim Tracy was wise to pull him after the 3rd. Rogers is still a very young pitcher, so let's chalk this one up as a learning experience and leave it behind.
The great news is Mortensen. Who can we send back to Colorado Springs so he can stay with us? The Giants are not an offensive powerhouse, but Mortensen's dominance of them was total. It's too soon to say whether he should actually take Rogers's spot in the rotation, but my guess is we should wait and let Esmil take the ball again. He's got the stuff, he just needs some more confidence and coaching. Mortensen needs to spend enough time in either the minors or the bullpen that when he does come to as a regular starter, he's really ready.
As far as the Rockies' offense goes, well, they were trying to get hits off Tim Lincecum, so they can be forgiven for their failure. The Giants have one of the toughest pitching staffs we'll face this season, perhaps surpassed only by the Phillies, so we aren't going to be a run-scoring machine against them. Last night, though, was particularly sad. Troy Tulowitzki was 0-for-3 with 2 strikeouts and Ryan Spilborghs was 0-for-4 with 2 strikeouts. Together, the Rockies managed only 4 hits, 3 off Lincecum, and the first didn't come till the 7th with a Carlos Gonzalez single. The only RBI hit was a Todd Helton double that scored Cargo. Throughout, I felt as though I was watching that game last September when the Giants' Matt Cain nearly no-hit the Rockies. In both cases, it felt like we were being slaughtered by a team with which, talent-wise, we were almost equally matched.
As I said in my write-up on Sunday's game, the key to this series will be th Rockies' offense. We need to be able to get to the Giants' pitchers. If Mortensen had started last night's game, chances are good we would have won it 1-0, or at least gone into extras tied 1-1. That's how it should have gone. Because Rogers was so shaky, we didn't get the chance to find out. Tonight we face Jonathan Sanchez, a good pitcher but not as good as Lincecum. He won 13 games with a 3.07 ERA last season, great stats for most pitchers, but we're starting a guy who won 19 games with a 2.88 ERA. Yes, Ubaldo Jimenez is back, and he will, I hope, save this series for us. If, now that he's healthy, he can pitch the way that we planned on him pitching on opening day, the Giants will have limited offensive production. The question is, can the Rockies' bats capitalize on that opportunity and take care of Sanchez? Answers will be revealed beginning with Jimenez's first pitch at 6:40 p.m.