Very rarely does the most important sequence of a baseball game occur in the first inning, but I think that happened tonight.
Just four batters into the San Diego side of the opening frame, the Padres had Juan Nicasio on the ropes with two runs on the board and two more men on first and second with nobody out and Chase Headley at the plate. The Rockies were probably one ball in the gap away from having a very long night at the office.
Instead, the game turned on a dime. Nicasio struck out Headley for the first out of the night before Drew Stubbs made the best play we've seen from him so far in a Rockies uniform. Yonder Alonso lined the ninth pitch of his at bat to center field, and at first glance it looked sure to plate another run for the Padres; but the ball hung up just enough, and Drew Stubbs runs like a gazelle in a meadow. The play was so smooth it almost looked somewhat routine, but after watching it a couple of times, there was nothing routine about the ground Stubbs covered here.
By the time the play was over, Stubbs had the ball standing up, and with the runners in motion, an easy toss back into second base doubled off Seth Smith to end what could have been a major inning for San Diego.
Charlie Blackmon has been hitting the stuffing out of the ball, but I'm not sure he makes this play, and if this play is not made, I'm not sure the Rockies win this game. Little things make big differences, and while Blackmon's the guy you want in center most of the time right now since he's swinging a magic wand at the plate, Drew Stubbs was the right guy for this moment, an luckily for the Rockies, he was the guy out there.
The momentum had shifted, and the Rockies immediately capitalized. Troy Tulowitzki led off the second inning with a hot shot single up the middle, and Wilin Rosario followed by dunking a base hit the other way into right field. Then, after two strike outs nearly got San Diego out of the inning, DJ LeMahieu hit a sharp ground ball down the right field line to put the Rockies on the board. A game that looked like it was about to become a blowout just ten minutes earlier was suddenly a one run contest.
The Rockies would get their second run of the game in similar fashion in the fourth. Tulo also led off this inning and this time he hit a double to left. Rosario once again followed with a single moving Tulo to third before Nolan Arenado hit a sac fly to score the tying run.
The eventual winning run came across the plate an inning later on a bit of a gift as the Rockies only hit one ball out of the infield (a Michael Cuddyer single), but walks to Cargo and Tulo and an infield hit from Wilin Rosario that Tim Stauffer couldn't handle was enough the gives the Rockies all the runs they would need in this one.
Following his first inning struggles, Nicasio settled down and took advantage of San Diego's frustration with a little help from his defense. Tulo made a pair of web gems to end the second and keep the momentum on Colorado's side, and the outfield made a couple of rangy plays on balls that were struck well.
Nicasio didn't have his best stuff in this game (it's looking more and more like the slider he displayed in the home opener was an anomaly), but he stayed away from handing out free passes (he only walked one) and trusted the defense behind. The end result was six innings of two run baseball, which is an absolutely glorious result after the way this game started. Nicasio may not have many great weapons to work with beyond his fastball, but he showed you something tonight with the way he righted the ship in stormy seas.
From there the Rockies used four relievers with varying degrees of success to hold the Padres scoreless over the final three innings. Chad Bettis came in first and looked very shaky, but Petco Park saved him as the marine layer murdered the progress of any seemingly well hit ball in the air. This was particularly true on the ball hit to left center field by Nick Hundley with a man on which Carlos Gonzalez caught just in front of the wall. If it had gone out, the Padres would have taken a 4-3 lead.
After Bettis walked the next batter, he was pulled in favor of Boone Logan with two on and two outs. Logan then proceeded to walk Xavier Nady to load the bases, giving fans flash backs to Monday night's disaster. However, Logan then got Alexi Amarista to ground out to DJ LeMahieu to end the Padres last great scoring chance of the night. The final two innings were pitched by a combination of Logan, Adam Ottavino, and LaTroy Hawkins who needed only 18 pitches combined to finish off the game.
The series continues Wednesday night with the most unfavorable pitching match up of the series for the Rockies as they send Jorge De La Rosa to the hill against San Diego's ace Andrew Cashner. If the game is decided by one run, it will be the sixth in a row of that variety for the Rockies.
Games behind: 3.0
Games left: 147
Total comments: 1,603
Total commenters: 40
Asauce, BikeChess, BubbaFan, Chrysicat, DAWNMARIE01, Drew Creasman, ES46NE10, Goeldfinger, JaySantos, Jordan Freemyer, Junction Rox, Nephelimdream, NoDo Joe, Oldfoagie, PurpleToPurple, RhodeIslandRoxfan, Rockies7935, RockyMountainWay91, Roxman4ever, SDcat09, Sjamb, The Ghost of Marv Throneberry, The Lodo Magic Man, TheBulgarian, Thnikkaman, WalkInRight, WhiskeyDrinkingMan, Yokel, bearpigman, bix783783, butterfly2, dmoneyrox, dyzz, evers44, goldenInGolden, holly96, idj2, papality, rockiesfan4ever, vtmn_D