When you're a baseball fan, and you look at your team's roster on paper before before each season starts, you can't help but imagine what it'll look like on the field if it's operating on all cylinders. Usually, that version of the team stays in your brain, and only exists in your dreams. Baseball's a sport where everything usually goes wrong, as Rockies fans know all too well from recent seasons.
But today, for one day anyway, Rockies fans were treated to a display of what this team is capable of doing if it all goes goes right, and what they saw was absolutely glorious.
This afternoon's clash, a 10-0 victory, marked only the 14th time Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, Nolan Arenado, and Corey Dickerson were all in the starting lineup together in the same game. Injuries have kept this perfect storm of boom sticks from terrorizing opposing starters together over the last couple of years, but when they're all in the starting lineup representing one big minefield, shutting the entire quartet down is like trying to stop a freight train with a fly swatter.
Unfortunately for the Brewers, not only did they run into a game with all four of these players in the starting lineup, but they did it on a day where Kyle Lohse, to put it nicely, didn't have his best stuff. The result was an onslaught that resembled baseball's version of a military air strike in both its brutality and its efficiency. The first three at bats from these four went something like this:
First time through the lineup:
Carlos Gonzalez strokes a beautiful opposite field double to collect the Rockies first hit of the day. When Cargo goes the other way, everything falls into place for him at the plate.
Troy Tulowitzki then put together one of his "thorn in the side of the pitcher" at bats. Lohse got ahead of Tulo 0-2, and then he started fouling off pitch after pitch before finally turning on an inside fastball and lining it for a double down the left field line to score the first run of the season.
After Justin Morneau looped out, Nolan Arenado continued the beating with an RBI double into the left field gap.
Corey Dickerson then capped the first inning scoring with a home run to right that doubled the lead and put the Rockies on top 4-0.
Second time through the lineup:
Carlos Gonzalez comes to the plate with runners on the corners in the top of the second inning and hits a low lining bullet that's headed down the line and ticketed for the right field corner, but it's grabbed by the first baseman and turned into a double play.
Tulo then leads off the third by crushing a ball to right center field for a double that almost leaves the park.
Then, Nolan Arenado does leave the park to put the Rockies on top 6-0.
Corey Dickerson came up and crushed another ball, but this one was right at Ryan Braun in right field and converted into an out.
Third time through the lineup:
Cargo continues the scoring with a line drive RBI single up the middle.
Tulo follows that by whacking a pitch as high as his neck into left for another hit.
Then with two outs, Arenado knocks in another run with a shot up the middle.
Corey Dickerson then finally capped the scoring with a ground rule double to the opposite field to score both Tulo and Arenado and put the Rockies on top 10-0 in the fourth inning.
* * * * *
That is insane! The big four bats, which amazingly don't even include last year's batting champion Justin Morneau (although you could make a strong case to include him in this group as well) went through the lineup three times in the first four innings of the game and hit nothing but blistering line drives to all fields. Seriously, try to find the softest hit ball in those 12 at bats listed above. I've watched batting practices that didn't feature that kind of hitting.
These four did so much damage against Kyle Lohse, he ended up with a Game Score of 9. How bad is that? Well, as bad as Colorado's pitching has been of the last four years, their starters have only recorded a Game Score lower than that four times in the 648 games they've played since the start of 2011. This display was unbelievable. 10-0 after four innings and it wasn't even that close.
In the 14 games these four have now started together, the Rockies have scored 80 runs, an average of 5.71 runs per game despite nine of them being away from Coors. These guys together are a show, made up of material pitchers have nightmares about on the darkest of nights.
Of course, the problem for the Rockies has always been getting their best players to stay on the field. As wonderful as today was to watch, it won't matter if we get to July and half these guys are on the DL. However, if the injury bug stays away for once, you will witness something special at Coors Field this season, because asking pitchers to keep all of these guys quiet at the best hitting ballpark in the majors is totally unreasonable.
Oh, I guess I should also mention how good Kyle Kendrick's seven shutout innings were today too. It's easy to forget with all that offense and the game pretty much in the bag by the middle of the fourth inning, but he also gave the Rockies exactly the kind of start they hoped they could get out of him on the road when they inked him to a one year deal this winter. It doesn't seem like much today, but even a well pitched game in a blowout is valuable.
By working through seven innings, Kendrick kept the Rockies bullpen well rested. This gives them a decisive advantage in this department as we head into the final two games of this series tomorrow and Wednesday in an opening act that doesn't include an off day for the bullpens to recover.
And in the ultimate cherry on top of a perfect game, Rafael Betancourt completed his comeback from Tommy John surgery with a scoreless eighth inning. He looks great out there, and if he keeps throwing like this, he'll be pitching in more meaningful innings soon.
They won't all be this fun, but boy did this one feel good. Soak it up, smile, and get ready for at least 161 more.
Baseball is back, baby!