For the Rockies, everything was working Thursday as a multitude of pitchers and a barrage of batters led Colorado to a dominant 8-2 win and the team’s first sweep of the 2010 season.
Jason Hammel started the game and pitched well despite not having his best stuff. Through five innings Hammel didn’t give up a run and tallied a career-high tying eight Ks against the D-Backs.
But the sixth inning was his undoing.
With the Rockies up 3-0, Hammel walked Stephen Drew and Adam LaRoche. Mark Reynolds then singled to load the bases and Chris Young singled to score Drew. Then Hammel hit Chris Snyder to walk home Arizona’s second run of the game.
Hammel left the game after five and one third innings giving up seven hits and two earned runs while striking out eight.
After Hammel went to the dugout, Colorado’s bullpen was air tight and didn’t allow a single hit while striking out six more batters.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Rockies’ bats were cracking and created fireworks at one point.
Colorado jumped on Arizona’s ace Dan Haren early, scoring three runs in the first inning.
Carlos Gonzalez stayed hot and hit a leadoff single that he legged into a double, only to be knocked home by Ryan Spilborghs a few minutes later. Then, after a Jason Giambi strikeout, Troy Tulowitzki homered to stretch Colorado’s lead to three.
For Tulo, it was his fifth home run in seven games and he continued to grow his 11-game hitting streak.
But it was what the Rockies did after Hammel’s meltdown in the sixth that showed they were not going to lose this game.
After a Clint Barmes single in the seventh, Colorado made Coors look like the ballpark of old with big blasts. Seth Smith (8), Gonzalez (6), and Spilborghs (3) hit back-to-back-to-back home runs off of Haren, the first time the Rockies had done so since April 27, 2004.
The seventh inning fireworks secured Colorado’s 8-2 win and capped off an electrifying series against Arizona.
In a way, the game was a microcosm of the Rockies on this current win streak.
Since May 20, Colorado is 6-1 and averaging 5.4 runs per contest while only allowing 3.3 runs per.
Despite missing starter Jorge De La Rosa and closer Huston Street, the Rockies pitching has been special and led them through games.
Ubaldo Jimenez was Ubaldominent in wins eight and nine versus Houston (4-0) and Arizona Wednesday (7-3), allowing zero runs in each. Likewise, Jeff Francis was stellar in his second start versus Kansas City on May 22, going six and a third innings allowing five hits, two walks and striking out three.
And when starters come out, Colorado’s bullpen has held together lately.
In the last seven games Matt Belisle has pitched on four occasions for a combined four innings, allowing two hits and sitting down seven on strikes. Similarly, Joe Beimel has been throwing well as his ERA has dropped to 0.52 and Manuel Corpas is up to four saves in relief of the ailing Street.
And while pitching has been hot, the Rox’ bats have been hotter.
Tulo“hit”zki’s 11-game hitting streak has ballooned his average to .314, just edging out Gonzalez (.313) for the team lead. Tulo also leads the team in runs (34), hits (54), and doubles (15) as he’s leading by example as the Rockies’ biggest current star.
Colorado’s fifth outfielder, Seth Smith, had three homers in the Rockies’ last two games even though he’s been sick with the flu, and their sixth outfielder Spilborghs went 3-4 with a double and a home run as he was the player of the game Thursday.
So, everything is coming together for the Rockies, and it couldn’t be happening at a better time. After sweeping Arizona, Colorado plays Los Angeles (26-21) for three games at home starting Friday, then flies to San Francisco (24-22) Monday as Tim Lincecum and Jimenez get set to see who is the best pitcher in the NL. The Rockies finish this 12-game divisional stretch with three games (June 4-6) in Arizona against the Diamondbacks.
So as they sit now, the Rockies are third in the NL West and three and a half games back of West leader San Diego and one back of LA. Come Monday, if Colorado can continue playing these winning ways, they could be sitting solely in second place at the one-third point of the season.
The Rockies have already battled tough through injuries and slumping bats for most of the season. Now they are hitting their stride as a run to the playoffs for the third time in four years seems possible if not probable at this point.
In the grueling 162-game MLB season there’s still lots of baseball to be played, but Colorado is starting to look like a contender as we approach Memorial Day.
So Denver, get out and support your Rockies—especially when Ubaldo “Cy Young” Jimenez is out on the mound (he only had around 25,000 fans on Wednesday)—because your Rockies are a special baseball team.
Rich Kurtzman is a Colorado State University Alumnus and freelance sports journalist. Along with being the Denver Nuggets Featured Columnist here on B/R, Kurtzman is the Denver Broncos FC for NFLTouchdown.com, the CSU Rams Examiner for examiner.com and the Colorado/Utah Regional Correspondent for stadiumjourney.com.
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