Series Recap: Colorado Rockies at Arizona Diamondbacks
April 8, 2009
Last year it took seven games before the Rockies got their second win of the season. It took three tries before the team won its first series.
2009 is a new story.
Using a tough early schedule as motivation, the team got off to a good start in the opening series.
Series Recap: The Rockies never trailed Wednesday afternoon, soundly defeating the Arizona Diamondbacks 9-2 at Chase Field and taking the opening series two games to one.
What I liked: As a team, the offense was solid, putting up 20 runs on 25 hits in three games.
In games one and three, the team scored eight and nine runs, respectively. During Tuesday evening’s game, the team was in the middle of a pitcher’s duel between Ubaldo Jimenez and Dan Haren. Even then, however, the Rockies were able to get productive hits and bring runners around when they needed to.
The key hits were something that did not come easy in 2008.
Offensive power from the lineup was seen from top to bottom. Even the team’s arguably least powerful hitter, rookie Dexter Fowler, hit the first pitch he saw in game three over the left field wall. In all, seven home runs were hit in the series, including back to back home runs, twice.
What was more impressive, however, was the pitching.
Jimenez was phenomenal, allowing just four hits and zero runs in seven innings, striking out eight. As a big surprise, No. 5 starter, Franklin Morales pitched six solid innings in Wednesday’s game, not letting a run past the second batter of the game. Stephen Drew’s home run was the only runner to reach scoring position off of Morales.
Morales, who was told prior to the start of the season that this was his only chance to prove himself, did everything he could to keep his spot in the rotation. With several off days, Morales will pitch in Triple-A for next two weeks. His next possible start would be April 21. He is competing with newly acquired Jason Hammel and Matt Belisle for the last spot in the rotation.
The bullpen struggled a little bit in the first game, allowing three runs in 5.66 innings, but has since been nearly perfect, allowing just two hits and one run in five innings of relief.
The team was also perfect in the field, committing zero errors in the three-game series.
What needs improvement: Even in the loss, I was impressed with the product on the field. There’s not much to complain about.
Aaron Cook, who pitched in the opener, got the hook just seven outs into the game after giving up six runs. This was not the type of start expected from the club’s ace. However, the pitcher has revisited film and knows what he needs to do in order to perform like an ace for the remainder of the season.
The base running wasn’t how I had hoped it would be. Although I do agree with manager Clint Hurdle’s plan of being more aggressive, it didn’t work in the series, which included players like Brad Hawpe and Chris Iannetta being thrown out while trying to steal and pitcher Franklin Morales picked off at first base.
However, I hope that the early struggles don’t hesitate Hurdle’s aggressive decisions.
Overall: The Rockies were 3-15 against the Diamondbacks in 2008. They knew that in order to compete this year, they would have to beat the teams picked ahead of them in the division.
It’s still early, but I liked what I saw in the opening series.
Series Preview: The road for the Rockies doesn’t get any easier as they open up their home schedule in a weekend series against the defending World Series champion, Philadelphia Phillies.
After trailing 10-3, the Phillies scored eight runs in the seventh inning Wednesday afternoon, becoming victorious for the first time since clinching the title last October. The Phillies had dropped their first two games to the Atlanta Braves earlier in the week.
The Rockies were 0-6 against the Phillies in 2008, and haven’t beat them since sweeping them in the 2007 NLDS.
Phillies’ Cole Hamels (14- 10, 3.09) vs. Rockies’ Jason Marquis (11-9, 4.53), 2:10 p.m. MT
Phillies’ Brett Myers (0-1, 6.00*) vs. Rockies’ Jorge De La Rosa (10-8, 4.92), 6:10 p.m. MT
Phillies’ Chan Ho Park (4-4, 3.40) vs. Rockies’ Aaron Cook (0-0, 23.14*), 1:10 p.m. MT
This article is also featured on Bleacher Report.
Many probably think I’m crazy for this statement. Perhaps I am.
After trading away the club’s star player (Matt Holliday) and losing the best closer (Brian Fuentes) in team history over the offseason, it’s easy to assume that trading Atkins, arguably one of the team’s most talented players, means throwing away the season for the Rockies.
And although I’m not one of the rare few who support the front office’s plan of building from within and starting over once those players become too good and too expensive, I think that trading Atkins could bring some positives to the team.
Without a doubt, pitching has been the Rockies’ biggest struggle for as long as I can remember. With Jeff Francis missing all of 2009, this year is no different.
Even without Holliday and Willy Tavares, the outfield is stacked. Brad Hawpe and Ryan Spilborghs will be starters, while prospect Dexter Fowler is trying to prove that he’s also big-league ready. Seth Smith, Matt Murton, Scott Podsednik, Carlos Gonzalez and even Ian Stewart and Jeff Baker are also viable options.
In 2008, the Rockies used more second baseman than I can count on one of my hands. Despite the fact that none of them have stepped into the shoes that Kaz Matsui left in 2007, there is depth at the position.
Troy Tulowitzki is a lock at short stop, and many of the second baseman can shift to play either middle infield position when he needs rest.
Todd Helton will get the first look at first base, but with his unstable lower back, it is uncertain how much or how often he will play in 2009. Behind him, the Rockies could use Joe Koshansky as the primary starter.
Baker, a very versatile player, has experience at first base, while Christian Colonel, who is having a very impressive spring, will be waiting in the minors.
Chris Iannetta has more than earned the starting catching role, and although Yorvit Torrealba wants out of his contract with Colorado, teams aren’t showing interest in paying his remaining salary, meaning the Rockies will have a veteran catcher with plenty of experience coming off the bench.
That brings us to Garrett Atkins and third base.
Don’t get me wrong, Atkins is a proven player with a lot of talent. His career batting average is right around .300, he has plenty of power and his defense is on the rise.
It may seem foolish to trade a star, but that’s what makes this idea work. Stars draw interest.
Stewart has proven that he is more than ready to start for the Rockies this year. He greatly improved towards the end of 2008 and has been playing solid all spring. Not to mention that his defense would be a step up, and that he is still just 23 years old and still improving.
The Rockies need to get him in the lineup.
Atkins will most likely be gone after this season with his contract ending, so it would be ideal to get some value for him.
It doesn’t matter how we get it, but the fact is, the Rockies need starting pitching.
As shown, there is quality depth at nearly every position, which should draw interest. Many of these players are ready for the big leagues, there’s just no room for them.
Who knows, there might not be teams that are willing to give up their top arms, but it doesn’t hurt to at least give it a shot and see what’s out there. There are several teams that are in need of a third baseman.
The Rockies have plenty of talent to replace Atkins. Losing him and gaining solid starting pitching will only improve the team.
It’s amazing what one week can do. Seven simple days and it seems like half of the Rockies’ fan-base jumped off the bandwagon after a winless first week in Tucson.
The defeats can be looked at one of two ways:
1) It was the first week of spring training – the rustiness is understandable and the team still has plenty of time to work out their kinks
2) Or others could say, yes, it is only spring training, but it is also only spring training for the teams that are beating the Rockies.
Despite a week of frustration, I choose the first option.
As other writers have shown, there are several factors that could have been a reason behind all of the first-week losses. Pitchers were instructed to throw primarily, if not all, fastballs. Hitters were required to take the first pitch. Base runners were overly aggressive on the base paths.
And let’s not forget the early injuries. Players like Todd Helton, Garrett Atkins, Brad Hawpe, Ian Stewart, Jeff Baker, and Taylor Buchholz all missed parts, if not all, of the early games. In addition, Ryan Spilborghs left camp after the death of his mother.
The point is, yes, the Rockies struggled last week. And yes, signs show that they will probably struggle at other points during the spring.
Several of the early injuries aren’t serious and the players are back in the lineups, becoming contributing factors to the team’s offensive numbers. Todd Helton quieted his naysayers with a 450-foot shot in his first at-bat after having back surgery over the offseason.
And the Rockies’ bats are finally coming along, with Garrett Atkins leading the way with a .438 batting average as of Friday morning.
Ubaldo Jimenez had a strong final outing before leaving for the World Baseball Classic and was dominant, striking out 10 and allowing no runs in four innings in his start against the Netherlands.
Chris Iannetta, although also currently away from the team, showed the nation his power with four RBI and a three-run double in the World Baseball Classic on Sunday night and a home run on Wednesday.
No, the Rockies aren’t at their prime. Todd Helton will still have to play precariously, there are still issues with the rotation and there will be hiccups throughout the season without a doubt.
But the team has started to show improvement in turning things around. After dropping their first seven games (eight unofficially), they started a modest six-game winning streak, climbing their way back into the standings.
It’s still early. There’s no need to hop off yet.