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Pitching wins championships.
All the way back to the beginning, the Colorado Rockies were built as a hit-first, pitch-last team. Designed to outslug the competition, pitching was never the priority, it was all about the big bashers. When the club opened up Coors Field in 1995, their bashers were nicknamed the Blake Street Bombers.
Built to play at altitude, the idea was that pitchers weren’t going to be effective anyway, so the Rockies should just build a lineup that can go and out-slug the other guys on any given night.
The problem is, that formula might prove for some exciting baseball over the years, but it hasn’t produced wins. It certainly hasn’t been a cause of consistent winning throughout the course of the 23 years of Rockies baseball.
The reason is simple, it doesn’t matter if a team plays at sea level or on the highest peak, good pitching will defeat good hitting most days.
Take a look no further than the Rockies past 10 days. When the pitchers struggle to keep the other team in check, the Rockies offense goes cold. Facing pitchers who pound the strike zone and aren’t afraid to throw their best stuff usually results in even the best of hitters getting out.
The Rockies are built, once again, to try and outslug the competition. They have Jorge De La Rosa and a bunch of young guys, with Kyle Kendrick, a middle-of-the-road veteran at the back of the rotation. They aren’t ready to pitch at the big league level and are forced to learn on the job. The results often mean that the club gets blown out.
On Saturday, with the Rockies in huge need of a stopper, Chad Bettis provided what was required. After coming off of a miserable start on Monday against the Astros, one in which he gave up four runs in the 1st inning, Bettis came back and showed that his first few starts back in a Rockies uniform in 2015 were no fluke.
Bettis was phenomenal. He went 6-1/3 innings, giving up just one run on five hits. He struck out five and walked two. The right-hander threw 95 pitches, 63 of which were strikes in the Rockies 5-1 victory.
What is amazing about baseball is how a good start on the mound really sets the tone for the entire team. A pitcher who goes out there and throws strikes and gets guys out seems to inspire a team to believe that they have a chance that day, if they just score a few runs.
On Saturday, Bettis provided just that. He attacked the strike zone and didn’t back down from his off-speed pitches.
Over the past week, with the exception of Sunday in Miami when De La Rosa picked up the club record for wins, the Rockies have been terrible on the mound. The momentum shifted to the opposition in the early innings of nearly every game and the Rockies were unable to crawl out of it.
However, when the Rockies get good starts, they seem to go on long winning streaks. When they get bad starts on the mound, the offense seems to press and eventually gets shut down by the opposing starter.
The Rockies are finding out time and again how important starting pitching is. They cannot simply rely on De La Rosa, they also need some of their young pitchers to contribute. Bettis is doing just that for the team.