Friday, June 19, 2009

6/19/09 - COL 7, PIT 3 - "Confidence"

Back in 2007, 14 out of 15 was where it ended, when Matt Holliday dove across home plate and Coors Field erupted with its loudest roar ever as the Rockies closed out their regular season with a win in Game 163.

In 2009, 14 out of 15 feels like just the beginning. I’ve now officially reached the point where I turn on the Rockies game expecting them to win, and win handily. I expect the starters to pitch deep into the game, the offense to get a lead early and pad it late, and the handshake line to form afterwards.

Any hyperbole I’d want to apply to this hot streak was used up for good during Rocktober 2007, so I have none left for descriptive purposes. But the thing is that I’m not sure any hyperbole is necessary. 2007 was like watching a Disney movie unfold. 2009 is a different feeling. This feels more like a talented team that finally has all its ducks in a row and is starting to play the kind of kick-ass baseball we thought they were capable of from the beginning. To paraphrase Dennis Green, the Rockies are who we thought they were, and I’m comfortable crowning their asses as playoff contenders.

The part I’m having the most fun watching is the pitching. That’s the part of the game that’s nearest to my heart, the part I think I understand the best and therefore appreciate the most. And I can’t remember a Rockies starting rotation ever pitching as well as this current one has. Jim Tracy has shown a tremendous amount of confidence in his starters, and they have repaid him by working deep into games.
Ubaldo Jimenez’s last two starts, and Jason Marquis’ start tonight, have featured some high pitch counts. There’s always some wringing of the hands when pitch counts run into the 120s, like Jimenez against Seattle last Friday and Marquis tonight, and
I’ll admit to not being totally comfortable with it myself, but frankly, I like the fact that Tracy’s going to go with his guys until they lose effectiveness and grow tired, not until some pre-determined pitch count says they need to come out. I think it gives the pitchers more confidence and more toughness, physically and mentally. One thing’s for sure, the rotation members look like a different bunch, from Jimenez (throwing more strikes) to Jason Hammel (throwing the changeup more) to Marquis (throwing a heavier sinker). Add them to the rock-steady Aaron Cook and the epitome of fifth starter-hood, Jorge de la Rosa… and you’ve got a staff where you never feel like you don’t have a chance to win a game at the very start, and that has to be a confidence boost in turn to the lineup, as they don’t feel like they have to score 8 runs every night out.

The pitchers are also gaining confidence from the defense, which is as good as it’s been since 2007 thanks to Ian Stewart taking over at third and Carlos Gonzalez taking starts in left. The defense is gaining confidence from the pitchers, who are throwing more strikes and keeping them more involved. It all adds up, and snowballs, and just keeps rolling on towards .500 and beyond.

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