The Rockies snapped their seven game losing streak with an offensive explosion tonight in a 10-4 win over the division leading Dodgers. Despite being out-hit sixteen to nine, the Rockies managed to put six more runs on the board than the boys in blue thanks largely to the Rockies doing the little things right and the Dodgers doing the little things wrong.
How's that for a surprise?
It all started in the first inning when Josh Rutledge lined a single to center field with Charlie Blackmon on first. This is when Yasiel Puig once again showed why he's one of the dumbest players in the game in terms of baseball IQ. Instead of throwing the ball back to second, he as usual decided to ignore baseball fundamentals and show off his gun with a throw to third that had about as much of a chance of getting Blackmon as Wilton Lopez does of properly landing a lunar probe on the moon. As a result, Rutledge was able to scamper to second base without a throw.
The play would prove costly. Justin Morneau put the first run on the board with an RBI ground out to first, but it should have been a double play ball to wipe the bases clean. Instead, Rutledge now stood on third with less than two outs thanks to Puig's persistent stubbornness when it comes to learning a part of the game most little league outfielders have mastered. Rutledge would later score on a wild pitch from Dan Haren.
If we're lucky, the Dodgers will be eliminated from the post season in a game where the winning run scores because Puig decided it was more important for America to see how hard he can hurl the ball to some random destination instead throwing to the right base. I have this thing in sports where I root with a burning passion for stupidity to be punished in the most painful way possible.
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One of the reasons this game was so refreshing from a Rockies perspective is that they actually did some of these little things right for once. In the second inning, they manufactured a run with only one hit. Michael McKenry, who was on base three times in this one, led off with a double. Charlie Culberson hit the ball behind the runner to move him to third, and DJ LeMahieu recorded an RBI ground out to push the Rockies' lead to 3-0. Tyler Matzek then grounded out to end the inning, but this was a textbook way to maximize a trip through the bottom of the order that usually will end up fruitless.
In the fourth inning, the Rockies returned to their more conventional approach of scoring runs. Corey Dickerson plated a pair to push the lead to 5-0 with his team leading 23rd big fly of the year that may have sailed as high as the purple mountain tops to the west of the stadium.
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This was anything but Tyler Matzek's greatest performance, but in some ways, it was just as encouraging as a dominating start, because he showed he's learning how to limit the damage when he doesn't arrive with his "A" game.
Overall, he allowed 11 hits, but he also demonstrated a knack for being able to make the right pitch at the right time to keep the Dodgers off the board for the first five innings. There were three excellent examples of this.
The first came in the third with two on and two outs and Adrian Gonzalez at the plate. Matzek finished off the at bat after falling behind 1-0 with a strike out on an 84 MPH slider that made Gonzalez look foolish. It was painted on the outside corner, and the sweet swinging lefty flailed at it like he was chasing a ghost.
Then in both the fourth and the fifth innings, Matzek worked around two on and nobody out situations without allowing a run. In the fourth, he used a Justin Turner double play ball to kill the rally, and then in the fifth he just knuckled down and got his man three times in a row, which included a strike out of Puig.
The wheels finally came off in the sixth as all five men Matzek faced reached base, but he fought off the attack long enough for his mates to build him a 5-0 advantage and gain valuable pitching experience in tight spots against a strong lineup.
He didn't have his best stuff for most of the night, but it made a few appearances when he absolutely needed it. The success of this start can also be highlighted by what Matzek didn't do, and that's walk a batter or allow an extra base hit until the last three hitters of his night. It's amazing to see after how much this guy struggled with command during his time in the minors, but he's learning quickly that it's always a good idea force your opponent to beat you in Coors Field. Sure hits will fall in, but if you don't walk anyone, there probably won't be enough hits falling in to beat the Rockies offense; and that's exactly what happened tonight.
Matzek can't pitch like this every time out if he wants to be a successful pitcher, but if this is what his bad outings are going to look like, it's a very encouraging sign. We should get to see him pitch two more times before the 2015 season if every goes according to plan. Once in the home finale against Arizona on Sunday, and again in Dodger Stadium in the final series of the year.
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Michael - The Fort - McKenry protected his ground at the plate on a double by Juan Uribe in the first real collision we've seen at home in a Rockies game since the Buster Posey rule went into effect. Justin Turner, who started the play on second, waited too long to take off on a ball that sailed over the head of Drew Stubbs and ended up getting nailed at the plate on a beautiful throw from Josh Rutledge.
The Dodgers challenged the play contesting that McKenry was blocking the plate, but it was Rutledge's throw that carried McKenry into the running lane. Since this occurred in the act of fielding the ball, the play stands even though there was contact heavy enough to briefly shake up both players.
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Two more runs came in for the Rockies on a squibber up the first base line by Charlie Culberson with the bases loaded in sixth, Drew Stubbs worked a pair of walks against a pair right handed pitchers (go figure), and Corey Dickerson shot his fifth triple of the season the other way to left center field to plate two more runs for the Rockies in the eighth to cement the victory. (Dickerson would later score on an RBI single by McKenry)
On the season, Dickerson is now hitting for extra bases in 12.2 percent of his plate appearances; way, way above the major league average of 7.3 percent. Some of that may be Coors Field, but nobody else on this team is hitting for extra bases at that clip, not even Troy Tulowitzki before he went down. This guy is just a monster at the plate, especially in Denver.
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Yasiel Puig was involved in a couple of more interesting plays as well. He was called out on strikes to end the sixth with the bases loaded and he let home plate umpire D.J. Reyburn have it about as much as a player can without being tossed from the game. In Puig's defense though, the ball did appear to be below the zone. Either way, it killed the last best chance the Dodgers had of getting back into the game.
Puig also hit a garbage time home run in the ninth inning to cut the lead to 10-4, but perhaps the most interesting fact here is that it was his first long ball since July. Surprisingly, Puig only had a .561 OPS in his last 34 games coming into tonight. Leave it to the Rockies' bullpen to find whatever it takes to cure a hitter's problems.
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Tomorrow afternoon, the Rockies will try for a series win with Jorge De La Rosa on the mound. However, if you're in Colorado and you want to see it, you're going to have to buy a ticket to the game because ROOT Sports won't be covering it.
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