April 14, 2011
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People who follow the Colorado Rockies expected them to be good—but not this good.
After yet another impressive victory at Citi Field on Wednesday night, the Rockies sit at 8-2, one victory from completing their first road trip of the season with a winning record. How important is winning a road trip? Considering that the Rockies did that just once in all of 2010 tells a big story.
The Rockies, coming into this series, had won just five of their previous 27 games in New York against the Mets. Securing even a series split with the Mets with that history is remarkable. Now, however, with a split of a doubleheader on Thursday, the Rockies have a chance to win a four series against a club that has given them fits over the years.
The key to the Rockies strong start? There are a number of reasons, but the impact of Troy Tulowitzki cannot be overstated.
No one will complain about how the Rockies shortstop plays the game. However, much like the team, Tulo has been known for his slow starts. In his rookie season on 2007, he admitted that he was pressing to prove that he belonged in the big leagues. In 2008, he started slow after trying to justify the contract that he had signed after his rookie season. In 2009, he hit just .200 with three home runs and five RBI. 2010 was much of the same, when Tulo hit for average better in April, checking in at .304, but he hit just one home run.
There is no way to deny it. The mentality in the Rockies dugout is a 180-degree difference from 2010. They scratch, scrape and crawl their way back into games. Much of that comes from the leadership of Tulowitzki.
On Monday, in the opener of the four game series, Tulowitzki had a runner on third base and did a good job of taking an outside pitch and driving it to right field, scoring the run. Then, in the eighth inning, he launched a two-run homer into the left-field stands.
On Wednesday, again with the Rockies down, Tulowitzki took an outside pitch and extended his arms, drilling it through the cold air and into the right-field seats for a three-run home run. That gave the Rockies a 5-4 lead, and they never looked back.
In 2010, games like the Rockies have been winning in the first 10 games of this season, would have gone down in the books as losses. They would have been frustrated with a one or two-run deficit, and instead of methodically finding ways to score a few runs here and there, they would have played with a panic and tried to win the game every inning at the plate.
Esmil Rogers was on the mound for the Rockies. He did everything that is asked of a fifth starter. He didn't have the same stuff that he had on Thursday in Pittsburgh, but he was able to keep his team in the ball game. A testament to his maturity, in the fourth inning, with two outs, Rogers loaded the bases, then got behind Willie Harris 2-0. Instead of breaking down, Rogers worked himself back into the count and got a flyball to centerfield to end the threat.
The Rockies are off to their best start in club history. On top of that, however, they have had their best start ever, while playing six of those games on the road.
Starting out hot is not just about taking an early lead in the standings, it is about not having to dig themselves out of a hole in the later months and giving themselves breathing room down the stretch.
The Rockies may have several different reasons for their quick start, but one of the main reasons they have been this good is due to the fact that Troy Tulowitzki is not allowing them to fall into the same patterns as years in the past.
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