Maybe there is life left in the Rockies after all. In the two games since the All-Star break, Colorado has played with an edge that was rarely seen over the first half. For the second time in his last three starts, Juan Nicasio was completely dominant. Dexter Fowler returned to the lineup and immediately made his presence felt. Suddenly, they look like the team we expected to see at the start of the season. Of course, all of this must be taken with a grain of salt, as it’s coming against the worst road team in the NL. Still, the wins are encouraging.
More than likely, the Rockies will hit over the second half. That shouldn’t be a problem. But, if they really want to get back in the race, they’ll have to get more consistency from their starting pitchers. At some point, the Rox were in the market for another arm and perhaps they still are, but there has been a lot more talk of them trading a starting pitcher than acquiring one. As I alluded to yesterday, the most likely outcome is no deal of any kind.
However, even if the Rockies don’t make any changes to the current rotation, they still have a quick fix. The easiest way to improve the entire pitching staff is to improve the defense. Based on what’s happened over the last week, this appears to be exactly what Dan O’Dowd and company have in mind. Too bad that it took this long to figure it out.
When the Rockies had Ty Wigginton at third, the Nelson, Jr., and Herrera trio at second, and Dexter in the minors, they were fielding a sub-par defense. In Coors Field, that just won’t get it done. Since the introduction of the humidor, they’ve found a way to control the home runs, but it’s still a hitters park, making it imperative that the Rox back up their staff with solid defense. The 2007 team probably didn’t pitch as well as this one, but they played unworldly defense to somewhat neutralize the offensive advantages of Coors. For whatever reason, the team has gotten away from that.
With Cargo returning to the lineup today, the Rockies have a chance to put their best defensive team on the field and it’s been a long, long time since that could last be said. Nothing would make this lover of the leather more happy than to see a lineup that includes Dexter Fowler in center, Seth Smith in right, Cargo in left, and Ian Stewart at third. With Greinke going for the Brewers, the focus tonight needs to be on giving Chacin every chance to succeed. They can do that by leaving Ty Wigginton on the bench.
By putting a plus defender at every position, the Rox can turn something that has mostly been a weakness over the first half into a major advantage. If they are going to get hot, it’s going to take pitching and defense. Take the Rangers’ current nine game win streak for example. Right now, Texas — a team that also plays in a hitters’ park — is in the middle of a twenty-nine inning scoreless streak. Certainly, their pitchers have been terrific, but the Rangers also play pretty good defense. The days of PEDs and sixty home run seasons are over. Winning in today’s climate requires the ability to save runs. It is about time this group got back to the basics.
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