BY DAVID MARTIN
These Colorado Rockies are looking more like a good team than a team that was on a collision course with 100 loses less than two weeks ago.
On Thursday afternoon in New York, the Rockies completed a four-game sweep of the Mets, their second in as many years. They won in a different fashion to complete the sweep, winning 1-0 in a rare pitchers dual.
The Rockies win spoiled a phenomenal Major League debut from Mets starter Collin McHugh. The rookie baffled Rockies batters for seven innings. He gave up just two hits, walking one and striking out nine. It would have been a more memorable debut, however, if the Rockies pitching hadn’t have been just as tough.
Starter Tyler Chatwood, despite not giving up a run, was lifted after three innings. Adam Ottavino, Rex Brothers, Will Harris, and Matt Belisle combined for six shutout innings in relief, giving up one hit apiece.
Despite the success of McHugh, the Rockies pitching staff kept the team in the game long enough to scratch a run across. That run came in the 8th inning, when Tyler Colvin drilled a triple to center field, barely getting over the glove of Jordany Valdespin. Immediately following, Chris Nelson trickled a grounder past a drawn-in infield for the game’s only run.
The Rockies got their sweep, making them winners of 11-of their last-16 games, including winning 7-of-10 on the road. Suddenly, with the team playing much better the thoughts are moving to how quickly the Rockies can return to contention. Is this a team that can return from the depths of despair that they have experienced in 2012 and suddenly be a contender in 2013? That remains to be seen.
The news of the day, besides the Rockies sweep, came from the dugout before the game. Rockies manager Jim Tracy announced before the game that the club will return to the conventional 5-man rotation. It sounded like the first step toward rationality that anyone had heard from the Rockies since they announced the hair-brained idea. However, the happy news was quickly squelched when Tracy announced the next part.
A four-man rotation is done, but the starting pitchers will still be limited to 75 pitches. The logic makes no sense. The idea behind the pitch limit previously was that if the starters were going to be going every fourth day, they would need to not throw as many pitches so that they would be fresh for their next time out.
Suddenly with a five-man rotation, the pitch count is still in effect. What that says is that the Rockies are more convinced of their theory that a pitcher gives up more runs and hits the third time through the order than they are that a pitcher needs to not be worn out to pitch.
However, the bigger message that the Rockies are sending their starting pitchers is that they have to attack the strike zone. The message is a punitive one. It is a statement that there will be consequences for walking batters and that the starting pitchers cannot be lackadaisical about the way they throw their pitches.
The problem is that these are mostly young pitchers. The idea that these pitchers are walking batters because they don’t want to throw strikes is simply ridiculous. The young pitchers are doing everything that they can to be successful in this league. The Rockies starting pitchers are also dealing with the fact the their front office continually tells them that not only is pitching in their home park next to impossible, but also that it will eventually hurt their arm.
These are the types of actions that hurt the team more than any other. The young pitchers need to be building confidence. It is difficult enough to pitch at the big league level. There is enough that a young pitcher has to focus on. The last thing that they need to think about is whether or not their manager is going to come yank them out of the game for walking a few batters or giving up a few hits. They need to be given the room to grow up at the big league level and figure out how to win.
The Rockies are playing well. However, the dark rain cloud that hangs over the teams success is that the guys pulling the puppet strings are not putting this team in a position to win. That must change in order for the team to have success.