On Friday night in Pittsburgh, the Colorado Rockies embarked on a 10-game road trip that, in mid-May, would define whether or not they still had a chance at winning the National League West in 2009.
A familiar scene was taking place as Jorge De La Rosa continued his excellent season, pitching seven innings, striking out 10, and giving up only one run. That was the good side of things.
The opposite side was the fact that it seemed like the offense goes to the plate without a bat in their hands when De La Rosa is pitching his heart out.
As the Rockies rolled into the ninth inning without a run, it appeared as if they would be shut out for the fifth time in the young campaign. However, Brad Hawpe had a different idea.
After a pinch-hit double by Ian Stewart, Hawpe unloaded on a 1-2 pitch from Matt Capps. He deposited the ball over the center field wall, giving the Rox a 2-1 lead. Then, after a Matt Murton pinch-hit RBI, Colorado had a 3-1 lead.
Huston Street pitched a perfect ninth, striking out the side and earning his fifth save.
In a disappointing season, it seems easy to point out the failures of this Colorado squad. Garrett Atkins has struggled beyond a typical slump, and it looks like the Rockies have found a new way to play horribly every single day.
But the season that Brad Hawpe is having needs to be noticed. After hitting the game-winning home run last night in Pitt, Hawpe is hitting .363. He has six home runs and 30 RBI so far.
When most of his teammates are struggling to find their stroke, Hawpe is quietly hitting the ball like he never has before. He is carrying this team in a time when finding someone to be a hero is like pulling teeth.
It would be misleading to say that the Rockies have "rolled over" when they got in trouble. The offense has actually shown quite a bit of fight, but unfortunatley, the results just have not been there. The Rockies have only won one game in which they did not score first this season; that is a stat that will have to change if the group plans on contending.
Things were different on Friday when Hawpe smacked the pitch out of the park, giving the struggling Rockies a win. At this rate, Hawpe, who less than two years ago was riding the bench against lefties, deserves to be the Colorado representative in the All-Star Game. In my mind, if the game was held today, he and Todd Helton would be locks for an appearance.
Hawpe's performance should not be taken for granted. His demeanor has been quite a bit different so far in 2009. While he is still a quiet leader, he seems to have more confidence in his swing. He's never defeated at the plate these days.
In the past, Hawpe has always been seen as a streaky hitter who would go through prolonged slumps. This season, though, his confidence may have reached a point where he may not go through thaose doldrums that bring his average back down to the .280 range. The way he looks at the plate at the moment, it would not be inconceivable to think that he could finish the year well above .300.
Brad Hawpe is one player on the Colorado roster this season that has really stepped up and been a leader on the field. If he is not an All-Star, something needs to be changed with the selection process.