It's too bad this Rockies team lacks the depth and talent needed in the rotation to keep pace with the heavyweights of the National League. Because, unlike recent Rockies rosters often trumpeted for their "high character" guys in the clubhouse, this club actually shows character on the field. Specifically, it knows how to bounce back from what should be devastating loses.
Thursday afternoon's victory over the Diamondbacks marks the eighth time this year the Rockies have pulled the trick, adding to this already impressive list:
The first sign of this team's ability to brush off a tough defeat came one week into the season. One strike away from a 5-1 start to the 2015 campaign and a home series win that ultimately wouldn't come for two months, LaTroy Hawkins served up a three-run homer to Dexter Fowler, propelling the Cubs to a 6-5 win. Instead of allowing this loss to spiral, the Rockies got on a plane, marched into AT&T Park, and swept the defending World Series champions.
After Rafael Betancourt and Boone Logan turned a 5-3 eighth-inning lead into an eventual 7-6 loss, the Rockies responded the next night with a comeback of their own. Down 4-3 in the eighth, Corey Dickerson hit a game-tying home run. An inning later, Daniel Descalso walked off the Padres.
After the Rockies dropped a tough seesaw battle to the Giants in a game they actually came back to tie in the ninth, Mother Nature rained out the game the following day to prevent them from getting revenge on San Francisco. However, the Rockies would win the next game they played, which was in Arizona two nights later. This one included a 13-pitch Troy Tulowitzki walk and a three-run homer from Justin Morneau in the first inning.
The Rockies broke out of their losing streak in style. You might think a team circling the drain 30 games into the season would pack it in down 4-2 against the two-time defending NL West champions, but the Rockies didn't do that. They got two men on, got Carlos Gonzalez to the plate, and watched him break out of his personal slump with a three-run bomb into the right field bleachers.
Here, the Rockies burned a tremendous outing from Chris Rusin and lost on a walk-off double in the bottom of the ninth, but the next day, they exploded for five runs in the first two innings and won a game that wasn't as close as the scored indicated.
This is perhaps the best example of this team's resilience. The 9-8 "grand slam up three" loss was the most soul-crushing defeat of the season, yet the Rockies didn't bow to the kings of the division. Instead, they came up in the ninth the very next night down 6-4 (having also lost a 4-2 lead in this game) and mounted a three-run rally to beat the Dodgers and earn a series split.
Later that home stand, the Rockies responded to a game they gave away with lousy managing in the seventh and a home run allowed by Logan in the tenth with a drubbing of St. Louis. John Lackey has been great most of this year, but the Rockies managed to score 10 runs off him in just four innings when he came to Coors Field earlier this month.
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So after coming unraveled against the D-backs on Wednesday, maybe we shouldn't be surprised the Rockies mounted a late-inning comeback the following game. This is becoming the norm for this team. Get knocked down, get back up again.
Walt Weiss talked about this after the game:
"Several times this year, we've had a tough loss and then found a way to get up off the canvas and win the game. We had a lot of people make contributions today. We had some big hits, including Tulo's homer. Ben Paulsen made a big defensive play and had a big hit as well."
This was a key to the win. The Rockies got contributions from several different guys, showing that the team as a whole, and not just certain individuals are able to rebound off tough losses.
It started with five shutout innings from Jorge De La Rosa. Last time out, he was hammered for six runs against Milwaukee. This time, he had things working until that annoying finger injury jumped up and bit him again.
"The cut opened up pretty good on him. His status is to be determined. There's some concern because it's been a chronic injury but we'll see how he does."
Another nice bounce back story within the game was Nolan Arenado's sixth inning. After running into Michael McKenry and knocking the wind out of himself trying to catch a pop up in the top of the frame, Arenado stayed in and smashed his 20th home run of the season to tie it in the bottom of the inning.
More from Weiss:
"Nolan called the ball but sometimes it's hard to hear with the crowd noise. He got hit in the throat and collarbone and had the wind knocked out of him. Then he comes up in the next half of the inning and hits the homer. He has a flair for the dramatic."
Speaking of dramatic, check out this play from Ben Paulsen to rob Chris Owings of a home run in the top of the eighth and keep the deficit at just one run.
His name is Ben Paulsen. pic.twitter.com/ywneIW2kqx— #VoteRox (@Rockies) June 25, 2015
"That's probably the best play I've ever made, and it's definitely the best play I've ever made in the outfield. It was a very cool experience.
I knew the ball was in my glove. I thought I caught it at the wall and didn't see I had gone over the wall to get it until I saw the replay. After I caught it, the umpire was giving me a look so I showed it to him. That was a very cool feeling."
Oh, and Paulsen also knocked in the go-ahead run in the bottom of eighth inning.
"Yeah, that was a huge at-bat for me. The hole was open and I knew if I could get it through there that it would break the game open. I couldn't but we scored the run and that was big for us at the time."
In between Paulsen's dramatics, Troy Tulowitzki stole the show on what was supposed to be an off day.
It was Tulo's first pinch-hit home run of his career. He talked about that after the game:
"I haven't had that many chances. I was just trying to put together a good at-bat. It's difficult to pinch hit. I have a lot of respect for those who do it so often. I'd much rather be out there playing every day and be in the flow of the game when I come up to bat."
The list of impressive bounce-back performances continued into the ninth, where John Axford followed his 32-pitch blown save Wednesday with a 25-pitch successful one after Logan failed to retire each of the two batters he faced. Axford on his rebound effort:
"It felt good to be back out there. It was a great team win. You have to have a short memory when you're a relief pitcher. After last night, I wanted to get back out there sooner than later. The opportunity was there and I wanted to take advantage of it."
"At first, I wasn't sure of my status today, but when I was playing catch, I felt really good and felt strong. I usually seem to feel good on the day after I pitch. I told Walt I was available if he needed me."
Again, it's too bad the Rockies don't have the depth they need to contend with this roster, because it's a likable bunch with a tremendous amount of fight.
That's not enough to win consistently in baseball, though. They just don't have enough high-impact pieces coming in from the farm yet (especially with the sudden declines of Eddie Butler and Tyler Matzek) and they're thoroughly outmatched in too many games.
However, the club is trending in the right direction in this department, and these victories are providing a nice glimpse into who is worth keeping and who is worth dealing going forward. The Rockies may not be a winning team, but they certainly have components that can be part of a winning team in the future, and maybe, just maybe, you're witnessing the seed of something grand being planted for the future with wins like the on we saw on Thursday.