Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Sunday Win! A Day Game Win! A Series Win!

Rockies 5, Dodgers 3

It's hard to say what the best part of today's game was, besides the obvious things pointed out in the title. Maybe it was that the Rockies only had 3 hits, but they managed to score 5 runs off those hits. Maybe it was that Kevin Millwood finally earned his first victory as a Rockie and well deserved it. Maybe it was that the team made three sacrifices in one inning, something I don't think they've done all season. Maybe it was the three relievers who did not allow the Dodgers to retake the lead, despite the fact that all three of them pitched last night as well. But no need to make this hard on myself by trying to pick one. All those things are worth celebrating.

Say what you will about Millwood, he is an innings-eater, and that is something we need right now. He's averaging a deeper outing than anybody else in the rotation. And he doesn't start to struggle in the later innings, either. He just throws enough pitches to where it's time to take him out. There's always the home runs, and today he allowed a solo shot to none other than James Loney, but other than that I have no complaints about him. He held the Dodgers to 3 runs in 7 innings despite 7 hits and a walk, and he struck out 4. He also made a defensive play that I didn't think a man of his age could make. Chad Billingsley hit a liner back to the mound. Millwood snagged it and went down to his knees with the force of it, then threw to 1st to double off Jamey Carroll. An outing to be proud of for him.

Speaking of great defense, Chris Nelson brought it to the hot corner again today. He dove and smothered a ground ball off the bat of Justin Sellers and threw it to 2nd in time to get the force play there. Matt Kemp hit an RBI double later in the inning, which would have scored 2 runs if Nelson hadn't made that play. He's so clumsy at 2nd, but I just adore him at 3rd. Ty Wigginton has been good to us, but I wouldn't be too sad to see him go in the off-season so Nelly can be our everyday third baseman (as to what that would mean for Ian Stewart, I don't know, and I'm deliberately not thinking about it).

Offensively, these guys got this win by the skin of their teeth, but they stayed with it, and that's the most important thing. In the 1st inning, Mark Ellis singled and Carlos Gonzalez homered, but after that they wouldn't get another hit until the 7th. It was starting to look ugly. Then Jason Giambi walked and Seth Smith came to the plate. He unloaded on a Billingsley cutter and hit a no-doubter to center. Not only did this give the Rockies a lead that they wouldn't lose again, it was an excellent swing when mostly there had been weak grounders and pop-ups.

Even better than that, the offense kept trying to score! Something kept them from giving up. In the 8th, Eric Young Jr. led off with a walk and Dexter Fowler and Mark Ellis hit back-to-back sacrifice bunts - that's right, two in a row - to get EY to 3rd. Dex was on 2nd, since catcher Dioner Navarro made a throwing error that allowed him to reach base on his sacrifice. Cargo was intentionally walked to load the bases. Then Tulo hit a sacrifice fly! He never does that. By all accounts he was swinging for the fences as usual, but we'll give him credit for what he did and not think too much about what he meant to do. His sacrifice scored EY. The rest of the inning didn't unfold quite as prettily. A passed ball moved both runners into scoring position, and with Todd Helton coming to the plate it seemed like a given that another run would score. But he struck out swinging. He's off the hook after yesterday's performance and this season in general, but that hurt.

So the Rox went into the 9th with a 5-3 lead and the ball in the hand of Rafael Betancourt, occasional closer and all-around magic man. He gave up a lead-off single to James Loney, whom no one could get out, but after that it was a 1-2-3. Just like that, the Sunday losing streak was snapped. We can all breathe a big sigh of relief. And guess what else? The Astros are coming to town tomorrow. If you think the Dodgers were bad ... let's just say that if ever the Rockies had a chance to get a winning streak going, now is the time.

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