Sunday, June 26, 2011

Rookie Rubber Match

Rockies 4, Yankees 6

I just can't be too sad about this loss. For one thing, I got to watch the Rockies play at Yankee Stadium. That's not a once-in-a-lifetime experience for everyone, but it probably is for me. Another thing I'll probably never see again: the old-timers game at said stadium. Most of the time I'm very proud to be a fan of a young team, because it means I've been with them since the very beginning. But every so often I'm jealous of teams like the Yankees for the incredibly rich history they have. It will be several generations more before anyone who was part of the Rockies' organization takes on the mystique of Yogi Berra or Goose Gossage. I've never seen those guys in person before. So today could only have been a good day.

The game itself was pretty fun too. It really gives you some perspective on how fast current major-leaguers are when you see former major-leaguers huffing around the bases! There were a lot of long singles. The two runs that scored came by a Bernie Williams double and a Tino Martinez home run. This was completely thrilling for me. I've rooted for the Yankees at different times over the years, and for a variety of reasons I cheered them on hard during the 1996 World Series. That's still one of the best series I've ever seen. So to see Williams and Martinez rounding the bases in three dimensions ... well, that alone was worth the price of admission.

And now to the game that I really paid to see. It was certainly easier to watch than Saturday's. Juan Nicasio is young, but if he can keep developing those offspeed pitches he will be great. He was great through 4 innings today, before he started hanging sliders and the Yankees figured him out. He retired the first 13 batters he faced. Everything fell apart in the 5th with a Robinson Cano single and back-to-back Nick Swisher and Jorge Posada home runs. Those names should tell you that the life just went out of Nicasio's pitches in a hurry. Swisher I can understand, but for Posada to homer and Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, and Alex Rodriguez all to go hitless against little Juan says something's up.

Jim Tracy gave his young pitcher a chance to get it back, but brought in Matt Belisle after the first two hitters reached in the 6th inning. Belisle got three nice ground balls, one of which was a double play ball off Cano's bat, but another of which found the hole between 3rd and short and scored the tying run. Belisle allowed another run in the 7th; however, it was unearned thanks to a rare Troy Tulowitzki error. Even though Belisle was good today, I'm glad he got the loss because it makes up for the win he stole from Jhoulys Chacin in Cleveland. Matt Reynolds came in after that and finished the 7th, but he gave up a solo home run to Teixeira in the 8th, and that was more than enough for the Yanks. Matt Lindstrom: perfect. Glad to see him coming back around.

Besides that Tulo error (which he redeemed with a terrific throw from the hole in the 8th), the real problem today was (all together now) hitting with runners in scoring position. The Rockies really missed some opportunities today. Yankees' starter Ivan Nova, a rookie like Nicasio and showing equal or better potential, was far from perfect. He surrendered 6 hits and 3 walks in 6 innings pitched, but the Rockies only managed to plate 4 of those runners. In the 1st, Carlos Gonzalez walked and Jonathan Herrera reached on an error. Both advanced into scoring position, but nobody could drive them in. In the 2nd, Ty Wigginton hit a solo home run. In the 3rd, Todd Helton was stranded at 1st after a 2-out walk. I don't need to say more. You know the drill.

Wiggy hit another solo homer later in the game which brings his total for the series to 3. Chris Iannetta also contributed a solo shot. The only run that scored without the help of the long ball was in the 4th. Cargo led off with a walk, stole 2nd, and reached 3rd on Herrera's groundout. Helton knocked him in with a sacrifice fly. We could have used a few more of those.

I think this game was more than winnable, but it wasn't a slaughter. The Rockies held the lead until Nicasio gave up those homers. They reached base in all of the first 7 innings. The bullpen was good some of the time. And I don't blame Wiggy, Charlie Blackmon, or Netta for swinging at crap from Mariano Rivera. That guy is so good the umpires give him several inches of breathing room on either side of the zone. The best we could have hoped for was a mistake pitch down the middle, and the chances of that happening weren't great.

Not a sweep. Rockies still own the American League. A win during our make-up at Wrigley tomorrow makes this a winning road trip. And two more AL teams await us upon returning to Coors. There is hope.

Tweet of the Game: @milehighsoapbox: "This ump must have dinner reservations in New York because the 3rd strike to Blackmon was off the plate." Another possible explanation for the wide zone.

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