Usually when April is over, the Colorado Rockies take a deep breath and look at how much work they have to do to climb back into the race.
Not in 2011. The Colorado Rockies finished April 17-8, by far their best record in the opening month in their 18-year history.
On Saturday, the Rockies won behind a strong performance on the mound by Jason Hammel. The right hander went seven innings, giving up just one run on six hits. He struck out four Pirates and walked two. With the win, he improved his record to 3-1 and his ERA to just 3.23.
The game was tied at one in the second inning when Chris Iannetta deposited his third home run of the season into the Rockies bullpen in right field. The three-run homer gave the Rockies all the runs that they would need.
The Rockies have been in first place for 25 days so far in 2011. That is more time in first place than they have ever had combined in their history. To say that it has been a surprising April for the Rockies is a huge understatement.
With a 17-8 April, it would seem as if every aspect of the team is playing well. The fact is, that is further from the truth than the opposite.
Every Rockies fan would have been thrilled with a 17-8 record. If they were told that Ubaldo Jimenez would have been on the mound in three of those eight losses, and that Carlos Gonzalez would finish the month with a .228 batting average and just one home run, it wouldn't have been believed.
The offense is sputtering at the plate. They are having a tough time scoring runs, both at home and on the road. The difference is that the club is getting hits when they need to. However, more importantly, they are getting pitching that allows them to sputter at the plate and still win games.
The starting pitchers have been good enough to keep the Rockies within striking distance, and the bullpen has been nothing short of phenomenal. The pen may be the best in the big leagues. With Huston Street pitching well, picking up his 10th save on Saturday, the Rockies are in good hands. It allows them to use Rafael Betancourt in the eighth inning and Matt Lindstrom, a capable closer, in the seventh inning. With those three pitchers, plus Matt Belisle and Matt Reynolds being extremely effective, it is tough for the opposition to score add-on runs.
The Rockies have to be excited about their April. They are finding ways to win games, and they are in a good position.
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