A few observations from a satisfying victory:
1. I don’t have any managerial experience or anything, but I do know this: if you feel the need to pinch-hit for your cleanup hitter to lead off the ninth inning in a one-run game, then the guy you have hitting cleanup shouldn’t be hitting there. Pinch-hitting for the rotting corpse of Garrett Atkins ended up being the right move, as Ian Stewart’s double set the stage for Brad Hawpe’s game-winning two-run homer. It was the obvious move for Clint Hurdle, as Atkins had been 0-for-3 with two outs made with runners in scoring position. What should have been more obvious is that the .195 Atkins just doesn’t belong in a big league lineup right now. Hell, even the Red Sox have benched David Ortiz. It’s time for Atkins to ride some pine. And I don’t mean for a single ‘work day’ – I mean for a while.
2. If pitching coaches could hang up the pitchers they’ve worked with like paintings in a gallery, Bob Apodaca would definitely hang Jorge De La Rosa right out front. De La Rosa was in danger of not having a big league career anymore when the Rockies acquired him last year. Now, he’s arguably been the best Rockies starting pitcher for the last four months of baseball (Aug-Sept 08, Apr-May 09). He’s fanned 22 batters over the last 15 innings, while walking just one. He’s not going to pitch like Cy Young every time out, but I think it’s time to stop waiting for a shoe to drop and just enjoy De La Rosa as one of the finer lefties in the National League. (I’m not putting him on the Hamels-Santana tier, but he’s only a rung or two below that.)
3. Right now, it feels like Troy Tulowitzki is just so locked in that he’s daring opposing pitchers to throw strikes. I sure am glad I didn’t jump on the ‘Tulo is a bust’ bandwagon after a month of play this season.
4. Tonight’s win was JUSTICE. Terrible call in the 8th on that woulda-been sac fly that should have scored Seth Smith with the winning run. Just a brutal display of umpiring, and if the Rox would have lost because of it, let’s just say this blog would have been far more hostile tonight. (Kudos to Fox Sports Rocky Mountain for doing everything they could to put together a definitive replay of the play, which showed that the call had been blown.)
5. Ryan Spilborghs saved three runs with his glove tonight. Two of the best catches you’ll see all year.
6. Watching the Rockies has become kind of a laconic experience for me this year. With the team playing so poorly, I don’t get excited about good things or bummed out about bad things. I’ve become a passive viewer. But when Hawpe went deep, I think I synchronized my fist pump with his as he rounded first base. Any team can get red-hot for a day and win 12-2, like the Rockies have done. But if you’re coming from behind in the late innings to get wins, it shows fight, it shows guts, and it shows that this team hasn’t quit on itself just yet.
I might be the only person outside of the Rockies clubhouse to be bummed out about Glendon Rusch being waived today. Rusch was certainly not a very good pitcher, but his popularity in the locker room belied that. Most fans won’t miss a guy like Rusch once he’s gone. But when I watched Glendon, I saw a guy that so loved pitching that he came back from a life-threatening blood clot in his lung in 2006 to resume his career, no small feat for a guy who had only two seasons with an ERA+ over 100 at that point in his career. At only 34, with not much steam on his fastball and no great secondary pitch, we may have seen the last of Glendon Rusch in a big league uniform. That we saw him at all was a minor miracle and a testament to perseverance, as well as the value of throwing with your left hand. Put those two things together and you can play in the major leagues for a long, long time.