April 16, 2011
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The Colorado Rockies knew going into the season that their rotation was going to be better than the experts gave them credit for.
Part of the reason the club knew that they would be better is because they knew how good Jhoulys Chacin could be. The 23-year old broke out in his rookie season, securing a spot in the rotation and posting a 3.28 ERA in 28 appearances.
After Friday's performance, a few more people outside of Denver might be aware of who Chacin is.
The Venezuelan led the Rockies to a 5-0 victory over the Cubs, throwing a complete-game shutout. He gave up just six hits, striking out seven while walking just two.
Chacin is just another Rockies prospect who is coming up through the system who seems unfazed by pitching at Coors Field.
His breaking pitches move more than they should at elevation, and his confidence in his changeup, throwing it to right-handed hitters this season, may have pushed him over the edge from being just a good pitcher, to a top-of-the-rotation kind of guy.
The Rockies won in a different way on Friday. Instead of letting the opponent take the early lead as they did in all four games at Citi Field in New York, the Rockies lit up the scoreboard early.
With the bases loaded, Chris Iannetta smoked a ball to straight away center field. The ball went past the outstretched arms of Cubs center fielder Marlon Byrd and rolled to the wall.
All three runs scored easily, and when the relay throw from Starlin Castro went wildly into the Cubs dugout, Iannetta trotted home, giving the Rockies a four-run lead.
After their best road trip in years, the Rockies returned to Coors Field and easily could have suffered from a hangover. They played two games on Thursday, arrived back in Denver after midnight and quickly got back to work.
After a six-game winning streak, it would have been forgivable if the Rockies played a little flat on Friday. The Rockies had other thoughts, though.
Chacin's complete game was more than a boost for a tired team. If there could be any negatives on a 7-1 road trip, it would be that the bullpen had been extremely taxed. A day to get their legs back under them and rest their arms will go a long way down the road.
On Friday night, the Rockies bullpen sat empty after Chacin trotted to the mound to start the game.
One thing that has been lost in the Rockies unbelievable start has been the play of Todd Helton. When he originally went down with tightness in his back, it seemed like the cycle was continuing itself once again.
Instead, Helton got some rest and has shown that he is completely healthy. On Friday, he went 2-for-4 with a classic Helton hit, driving the ball hard to the left-center gap.
It is easy to tell when Helton is on. When he is keeping his weight back and driving the ball to the opposite field, he is feeling great. If he can stay healthy and protect the big two in the Rockies lineup, it will contribute to the team's success.
The Rockies head into Saturday night on a seven-game winning streak. They send Jason Hammel to the hill to oppose Triple-A call-up Casey Coleman.
A win on Saturday will give the Rockies some breathing room, as they send their own Triple-A call-up, Alan Johnson, to the mound for a spot start on Sunday.
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