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10 Best Rockies Moments: Chatwood slays the Giants

Drew Creasman Avatar
December 26, 2017

This holiday season, Colorado Rockies fans had a lot to celebrate. They watched their team reach the postseason for the first time in eight years. The club is still littered with young and exciting talent. And, there is no shortage of endearing and indelible memories from the most recent season, keeping them warm through the cold winter months to come.

We continue our countdown of the 10 best moments from 2017 with a pair that might have flown a bit under the radar. In a season where every contribution, big and small, was pivotal to the eventual postseason appearance, a few were bound to get a bit lost. Today, we remember a role player who always seemed to make a big play when it mattered most and a pitcher, now with another team, who put up one of the absolute best performances from the mound by anyone who’s ever worn purple.

Honorable Mention: Deep Into The Valatenight, August 24

If you weren’t watching closely or getting your news from the right places, you might have missed Pat Valaika putting up one of the most valuable 0.4 rWAR seasons in recent memory. A .258 batting average and .284 on-base percentage mean nothing to the fans and teammates who watched him come through in the clutch time after time, all year long.

With the game “Late and Close” according to baseball-reference.com’s index, Valaika hit .351, smashing four of his 13 home runs. That’s a lofty number for a guy who only compiled 182 at-bats over the course of the season. Again, as any hardcore Rockies fan could tell you, his four pinch-hit home runs and his 1.017 OPS in that role proved invaluable to a team that clinched the final National League playoff spot in the last few days of the season.

His clutch play led BSN Denver to dub him Pat Valatenight.

In late August, with the Rockies in a rut, beginning to establish a trend of almost comic failure with runners in scoring position, the Kansas City Royals held a 2-1 lead in the eighth inning at their home park. With Gerardo Parra at first and two outs in the frame, Valaika strode to the plate to face Mike Minor, who had only allowed four home runs over 60 innings pitched on the season.

With one perfect swing, Valaika busted all the trends and put his team back in the win column; giving them an important reminder heading into the final month of the season about what victory tastes like.

No. 9: Tyler vs. Goliath, April 15

Way back in April, the now-Chicago Cub Tyler Chatwood pitched the second best game in Rockies history.

For those who were late in realizing the Rockies’ rise to relevance, this moment may have slipped through the cracks but for anyone who watched all 105 pitches Chatwood threw, it won’t be forgotten.

Sure, hindsight would tell us that the San Francisco Giants were in for a season of relentless disappointment and underwhelming performances. And yes, the Bay Area ballpark on a cold day is a good way to suppress offense, but anytime an MLB pitcher gets the better of an opposing lineup to this extent, it’s damned impressive.

Chatty threw a complete-game shutout, a rarity in and of itself for Colorado pitchers, allowing only three baserunners; one walk and two singles. The 31st CGSO in Rockies history was only the seventh to feature two or fewer base hits. His Game Score of 92 was good for the second-best ever for the franchise. His heavy sinking, trademark fastball led to an absurd 17 groundball outs. A weak groundball base hit from Chris Marrero broke up the second-longest perfect-game bid in club history.

It was a dazzling display of command and control. He owned every inch of every corner of the strike zone. Those who believe wholeheartedly in the premise behind BABIP and FIP, that is to say, anyone who believes that balls in play fall randomly for hits and that there is nothing a pitcher can do to “induce” weak contact, should be made to watch this game film on loop for a few days. Watching that film would also put to rest any notion that the performance could be written off because of a poor opposing lineup or a run-killing environment. Nobody was hitting what the Rockies righty was dealing on that day. Even the little bit of offense he did surrender fit firmly in the “just barely” category and might easily have been turned into outs. If they had, this game wouldn’t just be remembered by Rockies fans, but one of the most dominating pitching performances in all of baseball over the last decade.

This was Chatwood at his absolute best, something the Giants had seen a year prior when he bested them to the tune of eight innings and no runs on three hits.

Of course, if you are reading this you likely know the rest of Chatwood’s season didn’t go as either he wanted. His final 4.69 ERA isn’t terrible for a pitcher who makes half his starts at Coors Field. But he just never could get the hang of his home ballpark. At 8-15, the guy who once looked like the answer for the Rockies at altitude quickly found himself outside of the rotation with so many young and intriguing options emerging around him.

His 3.49 road ERA against a 6.01 at home suggests that the Cubs may well be getting some good value in Chatwood, but also explains why the Rockies aren’t necessarily losing something they need.

But on that day in April, the soft-spoken, hard-throwing kid from California was about as good as any pitcher in baseball.


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