There in no more polarizing figure in the Rockies clubhouse than Clint Barmes.
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He is a great defensive player. No one argues that. He plays second base as good as almost anyone in the league. His offense, however, has been a point of contention among Rockies fans.
Barmes entered Tuesday night's game at AT&T Park in San Francisco with a .212 batting average and just a .265 on-base percentage. Those numbers do not generally keep a second baseman in the lineup on an everyday basis.
Look around and try to find a Clint Barmes critic on Wednesday and one will not be found. The second baseman came through huge in the clutch on Tuesday, driving in both Rockies runs in the club's 2-1, 11-inning victory over the Giants.
In the eighth inning with the Rockies down 1-0, Barmes came to the plate with one out and runners at second and third base after Melvin Mora was robbed of an RBI due to a fan touching his ball down the third-base line.
Barmes, who could not get down a bunt to move the tying run into scoring position on Friday night, got down 0-2, but worked himself back into the at-bat and ended up sending a deep fly ball to center field.
Miguel Olivo tagged up at third base and scored, but Mora was caught trying to advance to third base. Luckily for the Rockies, Mora hesitated before sliding, allowing Olivo to cross the plate, tying the game.
Barmes once again came up leading off the ninth inning with Giants closer Brian Wilson on the mound. Barmes roped a single back up the middle.
Jason Giambi then took a professional at-bat and lined a base hit to right field, allowing Barmes to get to go first-to-third. However, with no one out and a runner at third, the Rockies failed to score a run.
The second baseman would get another chance in the 11th inning, and he took full advantage of the opportunity. After Miguel Olivo and Melvin Mora reached base, Barmes took a great two-out at bat, hitting the chalk of the left field line, scoring Olivo and giving the Rockies a lead. With Colorado's bullpen, the club would not relinquish the lead.
Three weeks ago, games like Tuesday night's were games that the Rockies lost. Missing a golden opportunity like what the Rockies had in the ninth inning would have resulted in the club folding and hoping for better results the next night.
For all of Barmes' clutch play, a tip of the hat must go to fifth starter Jason Hammel. Hammel matched Barry Zito pitch-for-pitch. Besides missing on one pitch to Soloman Torres that was deposited into the bay, Hammel was flawless.
Through 6 2/3 innings, the righty from Washington gave up just one run on seven hits. He struck out five and did not walk a batter. His pitching was the only reason the Rockies had a chance to win the game late.
It may be a sign of the the shift in the Rockies season. The Rockies still struggled with runners in scoring position at just 1-for-11. Their big name hitters did not necessarily have great nights, as evidenced by Carlos Gonzalez's 1-for-6 night with five runners left on base.
The team failed in situations that usually shift momentum to the opposition and cause the team to lose. Yet the Rockies hung in the game and got the win.
Watching the Rockies in April and most of May, something seemed off. The struggles they were having did not seem like the real club showing up.
The talent was there, but the swagger was missing. Perhaps they were focused too much on being hit by the injury bug. Perhaps they were pressing due to the expectations put on them.
Whatever the reason, Rockies fans have reason to be very excited. As exciting as it is for fans to see the offense break out and score 11 or 12 runs in a game, it may be more exciting to see the Rockies rise to the challenge of facing a pitcher who has had their number like Barry Zito and find a way to scratch out a win, even after blowing opportunities that they had earlier in the game.
Keep in mind that despite the Rockies' early struggles, this is still the best start to a season that the club has had since 2006. They were 12 games out of first place in the National League West a year ago and found themselves batting for the division title on the final weekend of the season.
The way that the Rockies are playing now is very similar to the way that they began to play when Jim Tracy took over and led them to their second wild-card playoff berth in three seasons.
With Barmes hitting well, the bullpen looking as solid as any bullpen in club history, Ubaldo Jimenez on record pace, and the defense looking like they are ready to gobble up ground balls again, the Rockies could be a very scary team to play.
On Wednesday night, Colorado goes for the sweep in San Francisco. The fact is, almost no one would have picked the Rockies to win the three-game series, let alone have a chance for the sweep.
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