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Rocky Mountain Cy 05/04/2010

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Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez

In the bizarro world that is Major League Baseball, perhaps the oddest event of all is that a pitching star has emerged in Colorado. The rarified air of Coors Field is the home of Ubaldo Jimenez. The home of the Blake Street Bombers and 15-13 games hosts one of the best pitchers in the game. You can’t pitch at altitude, right? I can hear the cries of unfair humidor advantage already! Jimenez threw the season’s first, and so far only, no-hitter at Atlanta on April 17th.

Just a fluke, right? Wrong. In his 3 starts since the no-hitter, he has gone 3-0, allowing only one run on 11 hits and 6 walks in 20 1/3 innings pitched. Oh, and he has struck out 24 batters over that stretch. He is 6-0 so far this season with an astonishing 0.87 ERA. He is a workhorse. In his no-hitter, he threw 128 pitches. He seemed to have lost nothing, however, as his last pitch was a 97 mph fastball. He has thrown 115 or more pitches in 4 of his six starts this season. The concern among the talking heads is that he is being used too much, but he topped that count 10 times last season, with an additional 11 starts of pitch counts between 105-114. He was 15-12 last season. Something clicked during the all-star break, however, because he went 9-3 after July 17th. He is 15-3 in his last 18 decisions. His current 6 game winning streak is the second such streak in this run.

The Rockies have ridden the right arm to a 6-0 record in games he has staarted this season. They are 7-13 in the other games so far this season.

[The guy is filthy right now. He topped the 100 mph mark several times last night while setting his game career high of 13 strike outs. The only time he got in trouble, and had his 26 inning scoreless streak come to an end was when he went to the curveball too much. His sinker was simply untouchable again last night. He shows no signs of stopping any time soon. While he will not finish with an ERA under one, he is only the fifth pitcher in recent times to start 5-0 with a sub one ERA. Each of the other 4 won the Cy Young award. While it is too early to talk that award, especially with the likes of Tim Lincecum and Roy Halladay in the National League, it is not to early to say that the NL pitcher of the month for April is off to an early lead. Rocky Mountain High may just become Rocky Mountain Cy.

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Ubal-NO 04/18/2010

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Jimenez throws a pitch Saturday

Like most things human, the game pitched by Colorado Rockies pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez was far from perfect. Still, it was a masterpiece. Jimenez’s gem was only the 264th no-hitter in MLB history. 264 sounds like a lot. No big deal, really, untill you realize that there have been over 190,000 games played in MLB history.

Complain all you want about the 6 walks allowed, as if that somehow diminishes the accomplishment. Sure, the control was not there at the beginning. Still, this 26-year-old did something most pictures never do. Not one batter reached base safely via a batted ball. None. Nada. Center fielder Dexter Fowler made a tremendous catch in the 7th inning to save the feat. We have all seen that catch on highlight shows many times by now. If you didn’t actually watch the game, you may not know that Fowler also made a merely spectacular catch in the same inning. That will not diminish the feat. Almost all no-hitters have a key play or two that define the event. What many do not talk about is how Jimenez contributed to the game offensively. In the 4th inning, he came to the plate with two outs and two runners on. The Rockies were leading 1-0 at the time. He singled to center, driving in a run and advancing Ian Stewart from first to third, then took 2nd on the throw. That heads up base running play allowed him to score on Carlos Gonzalez’s double Instead of a 1-0 lead had he made an out, the Rockies finished the 4th, and the game for that matter, with a 4-0 lead. This game showed the ability of Jimenez.

Jiminez is mobbed by his teammmates after the final out

The thing is that the no-hitter came as no surprise to his teammates. Jimenez played a big role late in the 2007 season as the Rockies went on their mad run to the World Series. He won 15 games last season. To a man last night, including Manager Jim Tracey and long time Rockies first baseman Todd Helton, two old vets that are hard to impress, the Rockies talked about how they knew it would happen sooner or later for this guy. Some have been saying it since ’07. He has crazy good stuff. He consistently goes deep into games. He was in the top 5 in innings and pitches thrown in the NL last season. He makes it look effortless. In fact, his fastball was constantly hitting the speed gun at over 95 mph all night. The final pitch he threw was clocked at 98 mph. It was his 128th pitch of the evening! His teammates say he is a great guy. A real class act. One of the hardest workers on the team. As if to prove the point, did this guy rest on a job well done? Nope. There he was early Sunday morning, finishing his 6 mile run, just like he does after every start.

Congrats, Ubaldo! Keep that work ethic and this highlight is just a beginning for you. One thing is for sure. Ubaldo Jimenez is no longer one of the best pitchers that no one has heard of.

The Turner Field score board tells the story

Fresh Blood 10/21/2009

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It was a tough spring for Denver sports fans.  With in the span of a few short weeks, 3 of the 4 major sports franchises that call the Mile High City their home fired their head coaches.  The local sports scene seemed to be a mess.  Now, not so much.

The NFL Broncos fired long time head coach Mike Shanahan and hired New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to lead this storied franchise.  All McDaniels, a

McDaniels has them fired up in Denver

McDaniels has them fired up in Denver

first time head coach and one of the youngest NFL head coaches ever, had to do was to replace the only Super Bowl winning coach in Bronco History.  Though 10 years removed, Shanahan had led Denver to 2 titles in 1998 and ’99.  Replacing a popular head coach is never easy, and the tumultuous off season that greeted McDaniels is well chronicled.  All seems forgiven now, as the Broncos head into their bye week with a 6-0 record and a strangle hold on the AFC West title.   Those 6 wins double the season win total predicted by many pundits.  Fans that were calling for McDaniel’s head before he even coached a game seem to now embrace him.  All is well in Bronco Nation.

The axe fell on baseball’s Clint Hurdle after a rough beginning to the ’09 campaign.  The Rockies were 10 games

Tracy turned the Rockies around and led them to the post season

Tracy turned the Rockies around and led them to the post season

under the .500 mark and going no where fast.  Hurdle had struggled as the Rockies manager but did lead Colorado to the World Series in 2007, Colorado’s  only appearance in the Fall Classic so far.  A scant 19 months later he was gone, replaced on an interim basis by bench coach Jim Tracy.  Tracy had previously been a MLB manager, most notably in Los Angeles with the Dodgers.  The Rockies took off shortly after Tracy took over the reigns and were in the NL West race right up to the last series of the season.  While the Rockies failed to win the West, the improved Rockies played better than 30 games over .500 for Tracy and won the Wild Card playoff spot.  The team finished with a franchise record 92 wins and finished with more wins than losses on the road for the first time ever.  They made their third post season appearance in their short history, bowing to Philadelphia 3 games to one in the NLDS.  The Rockies are attempting to sign Tracy to a long term contract at this time.  The future looks bright for Rockies fans.

Colorado Avalanche coach Tony Granato’s second stint as the Avs head coach was a short one, just one season.  After leading the

Sacco has the young Avs off to an amazing start

Sacco has the young Avs off to an amazing start

Avs to their worst record since the move to Denver in 1995, Granato was let go just a week after finishing a 32-45-5 campaign.  Joe Sacco was promoted from the Av’s Lake Erie AHL affiliate to take over the Avalanche.  Many predict a dismal season for the Avs, projecting them to again miss the playoffs.  With a new goaltender and 2, yes 2, 18-year-old centers playing, this young team may have a long season ahead.  But the start has been simply brilliant.  The Avalanche enter their game in Minnesota as the top team in the Western Conference.  The 6-1-1 start is all the more impressive when you factor in the fact that all but 2 of the games have been played on the road.  It is too early to tell what will happen with this young team, but the fans are back and there is an excited buzz among Colorado hockey faithful.

What a difference a few months can make.  Three head coaching changes and all 3 seemed to have worked out.  Throw in the fact that the NBA Nuggets made the Western Conference finals last season and it seems that winning teams abound in Denver.

Rocky Bottom 10/08/2009

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Cliff Lee dominated the Colorado Rockies in game 1 of their best of 5 NLDS playoff series.  Mr everything for the Phillies even singled and stole a

Cliff Lee shut down the Rockies in game 1 of the NLDS

Cliff Lee shut down the Rockies in game 1 of the NLDS

 base in the third inning.

The Rockies had chances to score in the first and second innings, but failed to come up with a timely hit.  Lee then settled in and was tossed a six hitter en route to the 5-1 win.  The Rockies must now put this game behind them quickly if they wish to have a shot at this series.  While game two is not a must win situation,  with Aaron Cook on the mound for game 2 and Jorge De La Rosa left off the roster because of a groin pull, the Rockies must find a way to win this game.  The Phillies are starting another left hander in Cole Hammels.   Colorado needs to get into the Phillies suspect bullpen. 

The Rockies looked tentative and overmatched in game 1

The Rockies looked tentative and overmatched in game 1

The Rockies looked lost in the wind blown sixth inning.  They looked lost at the plate all day.  They need to make some changes in todays line up.  The Rockies took off after Jim Tracy became their manager.  He made 2 changes that ignited the team.  One was to make Clint Barmes the every day second baseman.  The other was to place Ian Stewart at third base.  Garrett Atkins had struggled there and at the plate.  I understand the lefty-righty platoon that had Atkins at third yesterday, but the spark is needed from Stewart.  He needs to start today despite the lefty on the mound today from Philadelphia.  In addition, Ian Stewart needs to be behind the plate.  And watch for Mr late night, Seth Smith, to make an appearance in the outfield if Dexter Fowler looks lost in the moment again in the outfield.  Fowler is a good outfielder, and his speed is a plus, but the guy started the season in AA ball and looked tentative yesterday.  Expect him to start today, but watch for a mid inning substitution if a spark is needed. 

Speaking of replacement, I was surprised that yesterday’s starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez came back out to the mound for the 6th inning.  Jimenez had lost it in the 5th, but the Rocks were still in the game, down 2-0.  With a bullpen that had performed admirably down the stretch, and with the importance of each game magnified by the short series, it was not the time to work on pitcher confidence.  And the Phillies pounced in the sixth inning to put the game away.  All 5 runs were charged to Jimenez.  Tracy needed to give his team a better chance at that point.  so look for changes in the line up this afternoon for the Rockies.  The biggest tell will be the rested right arm of Cook.  If he keeps the ball down and the sinker is working, the Rockies will square this series at a game each, and head back to Colorado with their swagger back.

Wild 09/16/2009

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It’s not time to panic…. yet!

The Colorado Rockies entered their final 3 game series in San Francisco  4 1/2 games ahead of the Giants in the NL Wild Card race with 18 games

Rockies Troy tulowitzki flips his bat away in frustration after a strike out, reflecting the Rockies recent offensive woes

Rockies Troy tulowitzki flips his bat away in frustration after a strike out, reflecting the Rockies recent offensive woes

 left to play.  In their last trip to San Fran two weeks ago, the Giants swept the 3 game series.  It would be to Colorado’s benefit to avoid that same fate this time.  So here we are heading into the third and final game of the series with the Rockies trying to avoid the sweep.  Their lead is down to 2 1/2 games.  The 2 game swing in tonights game could make a world of difference.  Obviously, the Rockies will leave the City by the Bay in the lead regardless of the outcome of the game this evening.  Last time, San Fran sent the Rockies packing tied in the Wild Card.  But the Rockies, primarily due to a 9-1 home stand, opened up a good sized lead during the intervening 2 weeks.  But a 3 1/2 game lead, which the Rockies would have with a win tonight , would feel much better than a 1 1/2 game lead. 

The Rockies road trip continues with a 3 game set at Arizona after tonight.  The Giants head up

The Rockies normaly solid defense has been a step slow in this series, demonstrated in Bengie Molina's slide into the plate beating the tag to score another Giants run

The Rockies normaly solid defense has been a step slow in this series, demonstrated in Bengie Molina's slide into the plate beating the tag to score another Giants run

the coast to Division leading LA for a 3 game set after the game.  The Rockies then head back to Coors Field in Denver for their final 9 home games of the season.  It would be helpful if the Rockies take care of business over the next 13 games, because they close the season with 3 games at LA.  Including tonights game, the Giants have 9 of their final 17 games on the road.  They also close the season with their final 3 games away from home, visiting San Diego.  This is significant because the Giants have the best home record in the NL with a 48-25 mark.  They are 10 games below .500 on the road.  That is why tonights game is so important.  With a win, the Rockies will give themselves some breathing room.  Win tonight, and then go 8-7 for the remainder of the season, and the Rockies will force the Giants into needing to finish 12- 4 to end the season.  Not much margin for error there.  Drop tonights game, and finish 8-7, then San Fran needs just a 10-6 mark to force game 163.  A game that would be played by the Bay.

The good news is that Colorado entered the series needing 1 win to put the pressure squarely on the Giants.  They still have a chance to make that happen.  If they don’t, they will still be in the drivers seat, but the margin for error will be razor thin.  Tonights starting pitcher Jorge De La Rosa must shut down the Giants who suddenly are feasting on Rockies pitching.  And the bats must come alive against Matt Cain, who is 2-1 in 4 starts against the Rockies this season, allowing 10 earned runs in 25 innings pitched. Colorado has amassed 19 hits (including 5 home runs) and 15 walks against 23 strike outs against Cain this season. For his part, De La Rosa is 2-0, allowing 8 earned runs on 15 hits (2 HR) in 13 1/3 innings.  He has 12 strike outs and issued just 1 walk in his 2 starts against SF.

The Rockies have answered the bell all season long.  In the last 2 games, they have been sluggish in the field, anemic at the plate and allowed the Giants to score at will.  When the bell sounds tonight, look for the return of the Rockies of the last 3 months.  The Wild Card race ends tonight.

Intensity 08/26/2009

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You’ve heard of Christmas in July?  How about Roctober in August!

Playoff style baseball has come to the Mile High City a bit early this season.  Last Friday the Rockies returned home

Ryan Spillborghs connects in the 14th inning for the game winner against the Giants

Ryan Spillborghs connects in the 14th inning for the game winner against the Giants

 for an important seven game home stand.  They were 2 games ahead of the San Francisco Giants in the National League wild card race.  Colorado also had pulled to with in 4 games of the Los Angeles Dodgers for the NL West lead.  First came the Giants for 4 games.  The series stood at 2 games to 1 for the Rockies heading into the Monday finale.  The crowds had been large and electric.  The baseball had been better than good.  But nothing could prepare the Rockies faithful for what was in store. 

The final game of that series was quite a contest.  The Giants

Tulo reacts to his game winning single in the 10th against the Dodgers

Tulo reacts to his game winning single in the 10th against the Dodgers

scored first, taking a 1-0 lead.  In the bottom of the fifth, the Rockies knotted the score at one each courtesy of a bases loaded walk.  The score remained that way until the 14th inning.  San Fran scored 3 times in the top of the inning, thanks mainly to a Giants triple.  Game over, right?  Not with these Rockies.  In the bottom of the 14th, a bases loaded walk to the pitcher brought Colorado back to with in 2 runs.  That brought Ryan Spillborghs to the plate.  Spilly had come to bat in the 10th with runners on first and third and one out.  He grounded into an inning ending double play, and he wanted a chance at redemption.  He did not waste that chance.  Spilly drove an 0-1 pitch over the right field wall for a walk off grand slam home run.  The first walk off granny in Rockies history.  He raced around the bases and touched off a mob scene at home plate with his teammates.  The Rocks had taken care of the Giants, and had taken the series 3 games to one.  When that home run cleared the wall, the Rockies next game loomed a scant 19 hours into the future.  And with that game came the hated Dodgers.  

The division leading Dodgers were off on Monday.  They would be the well rested team.  Surely that would be all the advantage they would need.  The Rockies came into the bottom of the 4th inning hit less and trailing 2-0.  A Todd Helton double and Brad Hawpe homer later, and the game was knotted 2-2.  The Rockies took a 4-2 lead into the ninth.  Closer Huston Street (33 saves in 34 opportunities) was unavailable, getting a off night after a heavy recent work load, and the bullpen faltered, allowing LA to tie the score at 4.  Extra innings for the second straight night.  The Rockies loaded the bases in the bottom of the 10th, and it was Troy Tulowitzki’s turn to be the hero.  His single to left center plated the winning run and set off another mob scene at Coors Field.   Two very large games at Coors Field in just over 24 hours, and two extra inning walkoff  victories by the Rockies.

While nothing is won in August, these games loom large because of the roll the Rockies have been on.  On June 3rd, the Rockies sat in last place in the NL West with a 20-32 record, 15 1/2 games behind the Dodgers, who were 37-18 at the time.  Since that point, the Rockies have gone 52-22 while the Dodgers have gone 37-34.  That 15 1/2 game lead is down to 2 games.  In addition, the Rockies have opened a 4 game lead in the NL wild card race.  The playoff momentum is building in Denver.  The Rockies believe.  They play hard and with heart every night.  They bring an excitement to the game that is refreshing.  They have good starting pitching, good relievers, excellent defense and potent offense.  They have been the best team in the National League for the past 2 1/2 months.  They go out each and every night expecting to win.  Keep this up and they will win the first division title in their history.  And Roctober will return to the playoffs.

Two nights. . . .two walk off celebrations

Two nights. . . .two walk off celebrations

TU-LO! 08/11/2009

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Colorado Rockies short stop Troy Tulowitzki hit for the cycle against the Chicago Cubs Monday night.  He became the fifth Rockie to

Troy Tulowitzki connects for his 21st home run during the first inning

Troy Tulowitzki connects for his 21st home run during the first inning

 accomplish the feat for the franchise since its inception in 1993.  Tulo went 5-5 for the game and collected a career high 7 rbi.  The 11-5 victory for the Rockies was their third win in the 4 game series.  The victory moved the Rockies 1 game ahead of the San Francisco Giants and into sole possession of first place in the National League Wild Card race.  They remain in 2nd place in the NL West, 5 1/2 games behind the LA Dodgers.  The loss drops the Cubs to 3 games behind the St Louis Cardinals, winners over Cincinnati 4-1, In the NL Central.  The Cubs also trail the Rockies by 3 games in the Wild Card race. 

Tulo’s  night began with a 2 run home run in the bottom of the

Tulo's 7th inning triple completes the cycle

Tulo's 7th inning triple completes the cycle

first to give the Rockies a 2-0 lead.  Tulo’s bid for the cycle almost ended in the second inning.  Coming to bat with the bases loaded, he took a big swing at the first pitch and drove it deep into the Colorado twilight.  The drive landed on the left field concourse after flying high above the left field foul pole.  Tulo and the Rockies thought he had just hit a grand slam, but the drive was ruled to be foul.  Rockies manager Jim Tracy came out of the dug out to argue, and called for the first replay in Coors Field history.  The call was upheld, and Tulo lost his slam, but promptly singled to left , driving in 2 runs.  In the forth, Tulo doubled to center, driving in Todd Helton for his fifth rbi of the game.  He came to bat in the seventh only a triple short of the cycle.  He stroked a 3-2 pitch down the left field line.  On most nights that hit would have been a double, but Tulo pressed on and dove head first into third base before Cub 3rd baseman Jake Fox could catch a poor throw and apply the tag.  The cycle was his.  Tulo added a 2 rbi single to center in the eighth inning.  Tulowitzki became only the second player ever in the modern era (post 1903) to hit for a cycle and perform an unassisted triple play, two rare baseball events.  John Valentin got the triple play on 7/8/1994 and the cycle on 6/6/1996, both while with the Red Sox.  Tulo got his triple play on 4/29/2007.

Rockies notes:  Tulo’s home run was his 21st of the season while Clint Barmes hit his 16th in the second inning.  Todd Helton singled twice during the game to extend his hitting streak to 15 games.  Pitcher Jorge De La Rosa improved his record to 10-8.

Monday mish mash 08/03/2009

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A little bit about a lot of things.  Today is update day, revisiting several topics we have discussed in the past few weeks.

The Denver Broncos have begun training camp, and the saga continues with disgruntled wide out Brandon Marshall.  Marshall left practice during the morning session on Sunday.  He missed the afternoon session, and the morning

Josh McDaniels and Kyle Orton (8), the Broncos new head coach and quarterback.

Josh McDaniels and Kyle Orton (8), the Broncos new head coach and quarterback.

 session today.  As I write this, there has been no definitive word from Denver as to the nature or severity of the injury.  Marshall limped off of the practice field, and some speculate it is either a hamstring or hip issue.  Marshall, who has demanded to be traded,  is recovering from off season hip surgery, and had, from all reports, looked good during the early camp sessions.  As you will recall, it was a tumultuous off season for the Broncos and new head coach Josh McDaniels.  He was the subject of a segment of ESPNs Outside the lines.  It is an interesting piece.  Watch it here: http://sports.espn.go.com/videohub/video/video?id=4369078

University of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz stated last week that running back Jewel Hampton is expected to be fine and at 100%

Quarterback Ricky Stanzi returns to lead the Hawkeyes in 2009

Quarterback Ricky Stanzi returns to lead the Hawkeyes in 2009

for the Hawkeyes training camp.  That is good news for Iowa, but still watch for significant contributions from red shirt freshman Jeff Brinson and perhaps even true freshman Brandon Wegher at the position.  During the Big Ten Media Days in Chicago, the Hawkeyes were picked to finish forth in the Big Ten this season.  The Hawkeyes face a brutal away schedule within the conference.  The Hawkeyes face Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State, all on the road.  My thoughts are that the Hawks will be better than the Media experts predict.  On defense,  they have a solid linebacking corps, lead by seniors A. J. Edds and Pat Angerer, solid defensive backs including returning starters Tyler Sash and Amari Spivey, and there is experience up front.  Offensively, the Hawks have a returning starter at quarterback in Ricki Stanzi.  Besides the before mentioned running backs, Stanzi has experienced wide outs led by Darrell Johnson-Koulianos and Trey Stross, and tight end Tony Moeaki.  Place kicker Daniel Murray, who hit the last second, game winning field goal against Penn State last season, also returns.  Look for a 9-3 or 10-2 regular season, and another January bowl for the Hawkeyes this season.

In Baseball, the Cubs remain within 1/2 game of the Cardinals in the NL Central, and the Rockies have pulled within 7 games of the Dodgers in the NL West  and are tied with San Francisco for the wild card lead.  Chicago visits Colorado for a 4 game set beginning Friday.  Look for both the Cubs and Rockies to be in the post season.

The Rockies and Cubs meet again this weekend for 4 games in Denver

The Rockies and Cubs meet again this weekend for 4 games in Denver

Contending 07/20/2009

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There is life.  Ok, so it was the lowly Nationals, but in case you haven’t noticed, the Chicago Cubs have come to life.  They swept a 4 game series from the Washington Nationals, baseball’s worst team, over the weekend in the first series

The Cubs are celebrating victories more often these days

The Cubs are celebrating victories more often these days

 since the all star break.  The encouraging thing about the series, however, is not that they won, but how.  In the 4 games they did it in every conceivable way.  They won with timely hitting, they won with clutch hitting, they came from behind and won.  They won close games.  They won going away. And they did it on the road.  This team has been struggling all season.   Perhaps now they have found a groove.

Even more important, they won 2 of the last 3 games before the break from the division leading Cardinals.  In the tightly packed NL Central Division, the Cubs find themselves in 2nd place, 2 games behind St Louis.  during the week before the break they had fallen to 5th and 5 games back.  This team should be the class of the division.  They have won the Central each of the past 2 years.  But there has been no consistency in their play so far this season.  They would get good pitching but struggle at the plate.  They would score runs, but give up the lead in the late innings.  They have fought through injuries and player suspensions.  But perhaps that frustrating, seemingly fruitless first half is now behind them.  The Cubs have won 7 of their last 8 ball games.  If this team has the second half they are capable of, they will again be the Central champs.

The Rockies have been the best team in baseball over the past 40 games.

The Rockies have been the best team in baseball over the past 40 games.

Speaking of teams on a roll, the Colorado Rockies show no signs of slowing down.  On June 4th, this team was a dismal 20 – 32 and in a free fall.  All they have done since that date is go 30 – 10.  They are 8 games behind the LA Dodgers in the NL West, but they trail the San Francisco Giants by only 1/2 game in the NL Wild Card race.  They are in the Wild Card Race, and do not count them out of the division race because as good as LA is, their pitching is suspect and may not hold up all season long.  Many pundents believe the Rockies  are one or two middle relievers away from being the best team in the National League.  Watch for a move with the trade deadline fast approaching.  The starting pitching has been spectacular since early June, lead by Jason Marquis who became the first 12 game winner in the Major Leagues last night.  This team has seen consistent hitting and great fielding during this stretch.  They are one of a small number of teams that have a winning record on the road.  They approach each game expecting to win, and have played .750 ball for the last 6 weeks. 

Look for the Rockies to join the Cubs as participants in the National League playoffs at the end of the season.

Rockies Marquis became the Major League's first 12 game winner

Rockies Marquis became the Major League's first 12 game winner

Rockie(s) Road 06/19/2009

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The Colorado Rockies are currently the hottest team in baseball having won 13 of their last 14 games.  The Rocks were 10 games under the .500 mark when Clint Hurdle was dismissed as their manager.  Jim Tracy was named as the

Jason Marquis was a key off season addition to the Rockies pitching staff

Jason Marquis was a key off season addition to the Rockies pitching staff

interim manager, and the Rockies are 15-5 since he took the reins.  Their 4-3 victory over Tampa Bay yesterday evened their over all mark at 33-33.  It marks the first time Colorado has been at .500 since April 15.  The 11 game winning streak the Rockies compiled tied the team record first set during the magical end of the season run in 2007, where the team won 21 of 22 games, including a wild card playoff game win and sweeps of the NLDS and NLCS to land in the World Series.  With 94 games left in the season, it is hard to get that excited, but this club has shown what it is capable of.

The key to the current streak, as in most baseball streaks, has been pitching.  The starters have amassed a 12-1 record during this stretch, and that means that not only are the starters pitching well, but the bullpen, when called upon, is also doing their job.  Two key off season acquisitions have led the way in the pitching department.  Jason Marquis was acquired from the Cubs, and he has been a rock solid starter with an 8-4 record to lead the club in wins so far.  Closer Houston Street, acquired in the Matt Holliday trade with Oakland is 15 out of 16 in save opportunities.  In addition, Aaron Cook is 6-3 and Ubaldo Jimenez is 6-6, but has pitched well as of late, giving the Rocks 3 solid starters.  As long as the pitching continues, the Rockies will become a force in the NL playoff picture.  Who would have thought that 4 weeks ago?

While the Rockies are no threat to catch the Los Angeles Dodgers (probably the best team in the National League),

The Rockies are 15-5 with Jim Tracey as manager

The Rockies are 15-5 with Jim Tracy as manager

they have gotten back into the Wild Card picture.  The recent 4 game sweep at St Louis and 3 game sweep at Milwaukee (both teams above .500)  prove that they can play with the other teams in the NL.  It all depends on the pitching, because the Rockies have a very good offense.  They rank in the top 5  teams in the NL in slugging percentage,  on base percentage, doubbles, runs scored and home runs.  Lead by a resurgent Todd Helton, healthy for the first time in 3 years, Troy Tulowitzki, Brad Hawpe and Clint Barmes, the Rockies have a solid line up.  Dexter Fowler’s speed has paid dividends both offensively (11 stolen bases and a .400 slugging percentage) and defensively, helping to patrol the expansive outfield in Coors Field.  Ian Stewart leads the powerful line up in home runs with 12, and Hawpe (.355 avg,  9 hr,47 rbi) is giving Helton (.307 avg, , 8 hr,  46 rbi) a run for his money as the best all around hitter on the team.

When June began, the question was who were the Rockies going to trade to dump salary before the trade deadline.  A managerial change and a good, solid few weeks later, It looks like the Colorado may be looking to add a the deadline, not subtract.  Keep an eye on Colorado;  We may revisit Roctober after all.