Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Comeback Kids

Rockies 5, Giants 3

Here's a stat that might make Ubaldo Jimenez's troubles a little easier to swallow: the Rockies have 15 comeback wins this season, most in the National League. The bats are staying in it, and that matters a whole lot.

The sad news is that Ubaldo STILL doesn't have his first win, and it really is starting to feel like waiting for his 18th felt last summer. Everyone's on edge about Ubaldo, waiting for him to mess up, expecting him to, so that his small mistakes get blown way out of proportion. In my opinion, this was a very good start for him. He made it into and through the 7th inning for the first time this season. He walked ONE batter in those 7 innings. He was averaging close to one batter per inning before now. That is a massive improvement in control for him. When he did miss with his pitches, it was in the strike zone. Obviously, we would prefer he didn't give up 8 hits and 3 runs in each outing, but it was still a quality start, and he still struck out 7. I know I've said this before, but I still believe he's on his way back. I hope the team can have some patience with him, because the ace is in there, and he's poking his head out little by little.

I was pessimistic about this game, though, because beyond Ubaldo's potential to walk the entire lineup twice, the bullpen worked hard yesterday, and I did not want them having to come out and pitch 3 or 4 innings. Especially since that likely would have meant a Morales or Paulino appearance. With Ubaldo going deep like he did, the pen only had to cover 2 innings, and Matt Belisle and Huston Street managed that just fine. Both gave up a hit, but the runner was stranded at 1st.

In between Belisle and Street, the Rockies offense broke open, and it was beautiful. They went into the 8th inning trailing 3-1, the only run resulting from a lead-off home run by Troy Tulowitzki in the 2nd. And then it was like they suddenly remembered how to hit in the clutch. It helped that Giants' manager Bruce Bochy unwisely chose to leave his starter, Jonathan Sanchez, on the mound in the 8th. The decision makes sense in light of the fact that Sanchez had only given up 3 hits and thrown fewer than 80 pitches. But he was just tired enough for the Rockies to cut loose against him, and cut loose they did. Ryan Spilborghs and Chris Iannetta led off the inning with a pair of singles. Spilly not being much of a reliable hitter lately made this very gratifying. Alfredo Amezaga came up next and hit a bunt that was meant to be a sacrifice, but Sanchez made a critical throwing error to 1st (much like Tim Lincecum did last night), which allowed Spilly to score and Amezaga to reach base safely. There were runners at the corners and nobody out, and the Rockies were within a run. Bochy chose to pull Sanchez then, and replaced him with Javier Lopez.

Dexter Fowler came to the plate next and had a terrific at-bat, which ended in a very well-hit ball that should have been a triple. Unfortunately, it sailed over the fence on the bounce, which meant Fowler had to stop at 2nd and Amezaga at 3rd. But Iannetta scored, and suddenly it was a tie game. This would be the time when the Rockies of early May would have seemed completely unable to plate a run. A man on 3rd with no out was like an invitation for two strikeouts and a flyout. But ... these Rockies made it happen. Jonathan Herrera grounded out, but Carlos Gonzalez hit a single to right and Amezaga scored easily. Fowler, legs churning, was right behind him. Sergio Romo came in and closed the door on the inning, but those two runs were all the Rockies would need.

I love that the Rockies just took two straight from the Giants, and I love that they came back for the win in both cases. Whatever was said in their pre-game meeting yesterday, it appears to have sunk in. Cargo and Tulo are hitting reliably, the other guys are hitting and running when it matters, and the bullpen isn't selling wins to the other team for a song like they were in Arizona and San Francisco. Good stuff. Let's keep it going. Phillies are up next, and as the Rockies are facing the back end of their rotation, it would be a good time for some more key wins.

Today's Tweet of the Game belongs to @KrissiBex: "Watching Ubaldo struggle is like watching someone drown puppies." Truly spoken.

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