Colorado Rockies Surprise in Opening Series, Take 2 of 3 from Brewers
Behind his matter-of-fact approach and determined gaze, Walt Weiss ceded he always gets butterflies before games.
As a player?
“My whole career, to the last game I played in the big leagues, I was always nervous before the game.”
While coaching the high school level?
“I was nervous for those games because it's competition.”
How about your big league debut? You’re the manager of an underachieving franchise and your credentials have been ridiculed on a national level?
“To an extent, sure.”
There was certainly a loud thumping noise coming from Colorado’s side of the diamond in Miller Park, but it wasn’t the heartbeat of the new skipper. Instead, the source was the cracking of Rockies bats and the crashing of balls against the outfield seats.
Last season, the road-rogue Rox averaged less than a home run per away game. In the season opening series against Milwaukee, the visitors smashed 8(!) and racked up 19 runs over a three game span. The 8-4 and 7-3 victories, respectively, are especially impressive since the club hasn’t scored more than 7 runs in consecutive road games since September 18, 2010.
"All I know is that if we play like this, we are going to win our share of games," Todd Helton said Wednesday, after making his 16th appearance in an opening day lineup. "I am not saying we are going to the playoffs, but we are competing."
Standout performances from starting pitchers instilled promise in the first act of Colorado’s 2013 campaign. Juan Nicasio and Jhoulys Chacin both delivered quality starts and the bullpen, with the exception of Wilton Lopez getting dusted up in the opener, was reliable once again. Excluding the newcomer’s forgettable inning, the pen gave up only one run and five hits in 6 2/3 innings.
Closer Rafael Betancourt was an unneeded luxury, only being called upon for a single out. The club entered Milwaukee as an afterthought in the MLB, but left with a sense of accomplishment and encouragement.
Plenty of things went right for the Rox in the series, but biggest headline is all about the long ball. The top half of Colorado’s lineup inflicted extensive damage: Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, and Dexter Fowler each blasted a pair of homers and combined for 16 hits and 9 RBI. Are these the new Blake Street Bombers? That may be a bit of a reach, even though Dante Bichette, the new hitting coach and former Bomber staple, would chuckle at such a comment.
Bichette can also simply smile at his short-term impact on the team. His contact-based approach to two-strike and scoring situations (which he has tabbed the “bulletproof system”) has paid dividends thus far, even though his players are currently making a living smacking homers.
"It's evident that guys have embraced it," manager Walt Weiss said. "Guys are not going to be able to come through every time, but that was exactly what you want your hitter to do in that situation -- be in the big part of the field and find a way to score that run."
Either way, the fearsome batting order warrants respect. Perhaps the Coors Field production crew can scrap Tulo’s newest bubble gum walk-up song and instead blast the theme from Inception. Actually, they should try letting it run for the duration of the first inning to strike fear into the opposition.
The first visitors to potentially hear the bass-heavy theme are the San Diego Padres, fresh off of getting trounced by the Mets in each of its first two contests. The divisional foe is also strapped with a difficult road schedule, and likely won’t arrive in Denver until late Thursday evening. Shortly after, they’ll have to face the rejuvenated Rockies in what is sure to be a boisterous sell-out crowd at Coors Field.
A road series victory and 2-1 record may not be a significant achievement for some clubs, but some clubs don’t struggle as mightily as Colorado away from its home park. Therefore, the success in Milwaukee is of added moral significance.
They’ll look to win their third straight on Friday afternoon. The past has told us to curb our expectations with the Rox, no matter how minor the dream. But as we’ve seen previously, this team’s best years have come when they are not considered a threat. If Colorado’s starting staff can somehow wrangle the beasts of the NL West, the Rox could be relevant well past July.
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