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The Colorado Rockies showed growth on Wednesday night (and into Thursday morning) at Coors Field.
After scoring three runs in the bottom of the 9th inning, they reversed the script on the Los Angeles Dodgers and sent the faithful Rockies fans home with a 7-6 win on a Nolan Arenado sacrifice fly with the bases loaded.
Chad Bettis gave the Rockies six solid innings of baseball, giving up just two runs, only one of which was earned, on five hits. He walked three and struck out five. He was in line for the victory when he was pinch hit for in the bottom of the 6th inning, ending his night.
On Sunday, Brooks Brown came in with the bases loaded and no outs. He struck out the side and helped the Rockies to a sweep of the Phillies. On Wednesday he looked like a completely different pitcher. After Christian Friedrich relieved Bettis and recorded only one out while allowing three hits, Brown couldn’t shut down the Dodgers. He walked the first batter he faced, then walked another, then gave up a two-run single to Andre Ethier to give the lead back to the Dodgers.
After Troy Tulowitzki had homered to give the Rockies the lead for the second consecutive night, it looked as if the Rockies were once again going to blow the game.
Instead, the Rockies showed that they aren’t going to roll over. They fought back against a Dodgers team that is certainly more talented and by all accounts should be competing for the National League pennant in 2015. They didn’t stop playing hard. They didn’t stop fighting. They played until the final out and they were rewarded for it.
The Rockies 9th inning started with Michael McKenry lacing a base hit to center field, followed by a Charlie Blackmon double, his fourth hit and second double of the night. The hit put McKenry on third base and the tying run at the plate in the form of DJ LeMahieu. The second baseman worked a walk, allowing Tulowitzki to come to the plate with the bases loaded and a chance to be the hero.
Tulowitzki, blessed with all of the talent anyone could imagine, has earned a reputation of trying too hard to be the hero in big situations. He is notoriously not good in clutch situations. He grips the bat tighter and seems to feel that he needs to lift the team onto his shoulders. It has plagued him. It was a chance to turn those fortunes around. Showing his own growth, Tulo worked a walk, not trying to win the game himself.
After a wild pitch scored the tying run, the Dodgers intentionally walked Carlos Gonzalez allowing Arenado to poke a ball deep enough into center field to score LeMahieu from third and pull the knife from their own stomach from a night ago and stick it right back into the Dodgers.
It has been said many times before. The 2015 season isn’t about miraculously competing for the Colorado Rockies. This season is about turning around a franchise bent on finding excuses for failure. This is about not letting a losing mindset prevail in the front office or in the clubhouse. Turning around a franchise that has been as bad as the Rockies won’t happen in a single season. It is going to take a few years to completely root out. The goal of 2015 should be for the Rockies to stop viewing themselves as bottom-feeders, but instead believe that they can beat anyone, on any field, any time. Then to go out and do it.
The Rockies teams from the past three years would have endured a loss like the club suffered on Tuesday night and it would have taken weeks to recover from. It could have easily spiraled out of control and cost them several victories. How the club came out and performed on Wednesday was going to be telling for what this team is made of.
After a devastating loss, after a game that was one strike away from being a game to build on, the Rockies could have lost heart. They could have allowed the effects of the disappointment to get to them.
Instead, on Wednesday night, the Rockies fought back. They didn’t accept losing. They didn’t play like the underdog who was lucky to be playing on the same field as the vaunted Dodgers. They played like they want to win. They played like they believe that they can win. For Rockies fans, that is something that has been missing in recent years. In fact, it might be the main reason why they have struggled so mightily.
A game like Wednesday has the potential to vault a team and start the turnaround process.
The Rockies showed heart and they showed fight on Wednesday. Whether they finish in first place or last place in 2015, fans should be encouraged that their team is taking steps in the right direction.