After what proved to be a tumultuous offseason for the Coors Field Faithful, including the trade of Jason Jennings, the acquisition of Rodrigo Lopez, and the eventual retention of Todd Helton, the Rockies have jumped up to a 2-1 start.
A quick breakdown of the first 3 games:
Opening day was sunny and breezy. The lineup for CO looked as such:
1. CF Willy Taveras
2. 2B Kazuo Matsui
3. 3B Garrett Atkins
4. 1B Todd Helton
5. LF Matt Holliday
6. RF Brad Hawpe
7. SS Troy Tulowitzki
8. C Chris Ianetta
SP Aaron Cook
The score was 3-2 after the 1st, 5-5 after the 6th when Cook finally got the hook. Pinch hitter Jeff Baker pounded one to deadaway center to give the Rockies a 6-5 lead. After a scoreless 7th from righty Manny Corpas, the Rockies handed a 1-run lead to offseason acquisition LaTroy Hawkins. Hawkins surrendered 3 runs to the Dbacks on a handful of base hits and a double to perennial Rockies killer Eric Byrnes. A fierce battle between Byrnes and Hawkins had taken place, ending with Byrnes pounding a poorly positioned fastball to the wall for Willy Taveras to chase. No production in the 8th, with Ramon Ramirez holding the defecit in the top if the 9th. Despite a 0-out double for Helton in the bottom of the 9th, Snakes closer Jose Valverde proceeded to strike the next 3 batters out to end Opening Day at Coors, 6-8 Diamondbacks.
Game 2 showed the same lineup with Jeff Francis (still in the appeal process of his 5 game suspsension) facing off against Livan Hernandez. Bench Coach Jamey Quirk took the helm for the Rockies, as Clint Hurdle was serving his 1-game suspension (from the same incident Francis was appealing). Both pitchers carried a 2-2 game through the 6th. Rockies relievers held that 2-2 game until the 11th inning(including a 3-groundout inning from LaTroy Hawkins and the first Brian Fuentes sighting of the season), when newly-demoted Byung-Hyun Kim took the mound for his first relief appearance since entering the rotation in 2005 after Shawn Chacon's hamstring injury. Kim worked himself to 2 outs before walking Chad Snyder and hitting Alberto Callaspo. Facing Stephen Drew with 2 on, 2 outs, Kim sent a low fastball in, which Drew bounced between the chasing gloves of Matsui and Helton to bring in the go-ahead run. In the Rockies turn, Helton (later PR for by Jamey Carroll) was driven in on a RF double by Troy Tulowitzki, who was then driven in on a seeing-eye grounder up 3rd from Chris Ianetta. Final score 4-3 Rockies.
Game 3 featured the premiere of inning-eating RHP Rodrigo Lopez. Steve Finley got the start in CF, and Jamey Carroll made his first start at 2B. Through 7 innings of fine work, Lopez allowed 6 hits, 2 runs through only 76 pitches, yielding a 4-2 margin going into the 8th. Earning a chance for redemption, Hurdle turned to LaTroy Hawkins for a 3rd straight game. And as Hollywood-esque as it may seem, Hawkins found himself with 2 outs and Eric Byrnes at the plate. Hawkins effectively worked Byrnes to swing on a late slider to get a very satisfying K. In the bottom of the 8th, the Rockies proceeded to tee off on Snakes RHP JD Durbin, notching 7 runs in the inning. Regular closer Fuentes was sat in favor of Jeremy Affeldt for one out, and then making his Coors Field debut, Taylor Buchholz. Buccholz allowed 2 runs before notching the final out, making the final tally Rockies 11, Dbacks 4.
The Ups of this series: Troy Tulowtizki and Chris Ianetta seem to be fitting in well thus far. Kaz Matsui has produced in the 2 games he has played, and Todd Helton looks like the clutch machine we all know and love. Additonally, Francis and Lopez are displaying what appear to be the signs of solid seasons. And despite Cook's 5ER in 6IP on opening day, he showed the familiar capacity to induce countless grounballs as a point of success. Hawpe hit well all 3 games, even against lefties! Holliday tallied himself a single, 2 doubles, and a solo shot to straightaway center on Wednesday, and is showing the signs of the power we've come to expect from him.
The Downs: Willy Taveras misplayed a couple of balls in 2 games he played, and after a leadoff walk, SB, and eventual run, earned the Golden Sombrero (4 strikeouts) on opening day, and did nothing to excite on tuesday. Tulowitzki also earned himself that same Sombrero on Wednesday, fanning 4 times. Atkins has more or less struggled at the place this first series, and his glove has been nothing to write home about either (notched errors in his first chance in game 1).
MAJOR Downs (Double entendre?): Dan O'Dowd and Clint Hurdle both received 2-year extensions. Why? Well, I'm pretty sure the general state of the minor-league system saved O'Dowd's job, as it really is one of the stronger systems in baseball. And honestly, I have trouble blaming O'Dowd for the team's general failure in the past 3 years (except for him not keeping Eric Byrnes...I mean, look at the damage that guy does here in Coors!), but I can't stand Clint Hurdle. The guy just doesn't have the fire it takes to be a winning manger. He hasn't had a winning season as the Rockies' manager, and has taken the team to two straight last-place finishes in the division, despite relatively good play earlier in the season. I frankly don't see this Rockies team doing anything meaningful under the uninspiring leadership of Clint Hurdle. But O'Dowd made it clear that if he's gonna stay, Hurdle's staying with him.
I say let Quirk be the manager. Let Hurdle go interview.
But in the meantime, we're going to get our first look at Jennings' replacement, Jason Hirsch, who squares off against Greg Maddux for the beginning of our road trip, the first stop being a 3-game series in SD. Then, it's off to LA to ruin their home opener. Then, down to Phoenix for the Diamondbacks to attempt to claim revenge.
But in the meantime, keep checking back, and we'll try and keep posting and keep you knee deep in Rockies information. Until next time!