BY DAVID MARTIN
Those who don’t watch him will point to his numbers at Coors Field. Those who do watch him know that his home runs have nothing to do with the hitter’s park. On Wednesday, Carlos Gonzalez hit three home runs to help power the Colorado Rockies to a 13-5 victory over the Houston Astros.
The amazing thing about a three-homer night is that it was simply a subplot, as the Rockies got a grand slam from Michael Cuddyer in the 1st inning, his second of the season, and a three-run shot from the suddenly resurgent Dexter Fowler.
Suddenly, this Rockies team is playing the same brand of baseball that brought so many fans to the ballpark in the late 90s. With suspect starting pitching, the Rockies are figuring out that the offense is going to have to hit on all cylinders almost every night in order for the team to win.
This was the way that the team knew it would have to be going into spring training. If they were going to win, it was going to have to come by way of a powerful offense that put the team on their backs on most nights. To win, this club does not need equal performances from the starting pitching, they need the offense to carry the load.
On Wednesday, the outing the Rockies got from Christian Friedrich was not all that bad. Sure, he gave up five runs on 11 hits in six innings of work, but four runs came in one inning. As a young kid, making just his fifth big league start, a bad inning should be expected.
An encouraging sign for the lefty was the three scoreless frames he pitched immediately following the big inning. The key for him, as well as many of the other young Rockies starters, is to mature beyond that big inning. They need to figure out a way to keep their composure until they figure out how to limit the big inning. It is all part of the maturation process. It is important to take the good out of these starts.
For Friedrich, the impressive stat continues to come from the walk column. A stat that drives managers, pitching coaches, defenses, and fans crazy is when the guy on the mound gives up the big inning because he isn’t throwing strikes. Free passes kill a pitcher. On Wednesday, Friedrich walked only one. In his five starts he has walked only eight batters while striking out 32. That is a good sign for a pitcher who only spent six weeks above the Double-A level before making his debut.
The outburst of offense has come in large part because of the sudden onslaught from both Gonzalez and Fowler. At some point, it was expected that Gonzalez would go through a hot streak. However, Fowler was the question mark. His up-and-down career had even his greatest supporters teetering on the idea that he may never reach that potential. Suddenly he has figured it out. The most baffling part, however, is the power. He is on pace to hit close to 20 home runs. Coming into 2012, he had a grand total of 15 career homers.
If there is a team that is capable of pulling the bandwagon fans back on before they hit the dirt from jumping off, it is the Rockies. The U-turn that they seem to take annually is maddening. The talent is there, but they always seem to go through a rough stretch that buries them, only to play well enough to make people believe that they have it figured out.
The reality is, the offense would have to keep up a torrid pace for a significant amount of time before this team could claim to be back in the race. In the meantime, watching baseball that resembles the Blake Street Bomber days might be fun for fans.