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It doesn’t always have to be pretty. Sometimes, in fact, it can be ugly.
The Colorado Rockies were within an out of winning their first home series of the 2015 season on Sunday before LaTroy Hawkins gave up a walk, a base hit and a 2-run home run to Dexter Fowler to give the game away.
While it is extremely early in the season, Monday gave Rockies fans a chance to see what their team is made of. With the heartbreak of Sunday’s loss fresh, the Rockies could have allowed a bad day to snowball into a losing streak. They could have felt the hangover at the wrong time and started a tough road trip with a loss. Instead, the Rockies showed resiliency and spoiled the San Francisco Giants World Series celebration with a 2-0 win.
Leaning on the young arm of Eddie Butler, the Rockies were in their first pivotal game of the 2015 season. The Rockies have always struggled on the road, but West Coast road trips have had the reputation of de-railing their seasons. Following Sunday’s loss, a six-game West Coast swing could have easily smashed the momentum that the Rockies created in the first four games.
Butler was far from good. He battled command issues from the very first pitch of the game. If someone would have said before the game that Butler would walk six Giants batters, most would have guessed that the Rockies would lose. Instead, Butler walked six Giants batters, but not a single one of them crossed the plate. In addition to the six free passes, Butler also hit Brandon Belt with a pitch.
Despite Butler struggling to find the strike zone, he was able to wiggle out of trouble in every inning. He walked off of the mound after pitching 5-1/3 innings unscathed. In all he gave up five hits with the six walks and only struck out one San Francisco batter. Despite that, Butler was still effective.
Make no mistake, winning the way the Rockies won on Monday is unsustainable. Their starting pitchers must go more than 5-1/3 innings, and more importantly, they have to limit the number of walks. They cannot depend on what is shaping up to be a phenomenal bullpen.
Butler was successful because he was able to induce groundball outs. He recorded 10 outs on the ground while only two came in the air. One of those groundballs was a double play that got the Rockies out of trouble.
There are two ways to look at the Rockies victory on Monday. One way is to see the negatives. While Butler was good at working out of trouble, every pitcher knows that playing with fire usually ends in being burned. At some point, Butler has to control his pitches better or he will be knocked out of games in the early innings and will tax the bullpen.
The other way to look at the Rockies win is to see a young pitcher, one making his fifth big league start, was able to keep his emotions under control. Even when he didn’t have his best stuff, or even good stuff, he was able to not only limit the damage, but in fact, he was able to keep the Giants off of the board entirely. The Rockies might have finally found a talented pitcher that they were able to develop through their farm system. Butler certainly isn’t a polished product, but the fact that he has the capability to withstand the pressure that came with Monday is a great sign.
The other side of the story is the strength of the Rockies bullpen. Besides two hiccups from LaTroy Hawkins, the bullpen has been literally perfect. What was one of the biggest weaknesses of the club a year ago seems to be a postive for them in the early-going of 2015.
With Rafael Betancourt back in the fold, John Axford in the mix and Adam Ottavino looking lights out, the Rockies have three relievers that are very capable of closing games. Christian Friedrich looks like he has found a home in the bullpen and Brooks Brown has taken a step forward as well. It was easy to rip the Rockies for picking up Boone Logan and overpaying him to be a Rockie, but now that his elbow is healthy, the lefty looks like a solid pickup.
Make no mistake, the Rockies have plenty of issues. However, they rebounded from a momentum-killing loss on Sunday with a shutout victory on Monday. They sit at 5-2 and their ace has yet to take the mound. The Rockies have done well in April in recent history, but if the club can hold it together, they certainly have the talent to surprise some people.