Monday, April 6, 2009

4/6/09 - COL 8, @ ARI 9 - "First Impressions"

It felt like an old-school Rockies game today, one of those where unless the Rox took a 10-run lead you felt absolutely certain it wasn’t going to last. And, sure enough, it didn’t, as for every punch the Rockies threw today, the Arizona Diamondbacks had a counterpunch. The only bizarre thing about it was that it took place in Phoenix and not in Denver.

Aside from the stinkbomb from Aaron Cook and one bad pitch thrown by Jason Grilli, though, today was pretty much everything a Rockies fan could ask for. Can Troy Tulowitzki get out to a hot start? He crushed a first-pitch bomb off Brandon Webb in the fourth. Is Chris Iannetta worthy of all the hype we’re giving him? His 440-foot shot off Webb immediately following Tulo’s jack could serve to answer that question. Can Seth Smith hit in the bigs? He tied the game with a homer – off a lefty, no less – in the seventh.

There were plenty of thrills at the plate, and as many cringe-worthy moments on the mound. These are the Rockies I remember.

We’ve all got pretty high expectations for our Rox this year, mostly as a response to everyone else expecting so little. The consensus seems to be a fourth place finish and something in the neighborhood of 72 wins. This sounds preposterous to all but the most pessimistic Rockies fans. The 74 wins last season were a result of injury and underperformance, not a representation of that team’s talent level. And yes, losing Matt Holliday hurts, but if you look at all the other spots on the roster where the Rockies figured to make gains on last year’s performance, it really doesn’t seem unreasonable to figure that the team can get better.

This Rockies roster, as presently constructed, doesn’t necessarily feel like a playoff team to me. The Dodgers are probably better, and the Diamondbacks and Giants almost certainly have better starting pitching. But with a few breaks – and I’m not asking for anything more outlandish than passable performance from the rotation’s back end, a comeback season for Todd Helton, and improved outfield defense – this could be a really fun summer.

There was a lot to like today. There was also a lot not to like – first and foremost, apparently I’m blacked out of watching the Rockies in HD here in Wyoming (if any Dish Network people can explain this to me, please leave me a comment, because when I called customer support, ‘Summer’ and ‘James’ from Mumbai sure couldn’t). Also, Jeff Huson couldn’t stop gushing about how awesome it was to be broadcasting the game from down at dugout level – dude, you played in the bigs, act like you’ve been in a dugout before! (This is not the last time I’ll gripe about the Rockies TV broadcast team, believe me.) Also, I hate losing to the damn Diamondbacks and will probably wake up in a cold sweat tonight imagining Chad Tracy waiting on a hanging slider from a faceless hurler wearing purple pinstripes.

But I remember last year, winning the opener in St. Louis but looking like crap in the process, and then promptly losing the next five. So I’m not overreacting tonight, not gnashing my teeth over Tracy’s deciding homer off Grilli. Nope, I’m ready to see what Ubaldo Jimenez takes to the bump tomorrow and hoping to see more of Ian Stewart at second base.

Thanks for reading. I’ll find a groove with this thing as we go along.

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