Posts Tagged ‘Troy Tulowitzki’

Rockies Swat Nats

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

It was a lot worse than it looked. The Washington Nationals lost their second in a row at home to the resurgent Colorado Rockies Wednesday night, but the game was not as close as the 5-4 score would indicate. That the Nats were even in the game in the 8th inning has to be accounted as a kind of miracle, particularly after Nats’ pitchers gave up a total of ten walks in the game — four of them to Colorado first baseman Todd Helton. The evening began when Nats starter Collin Balester walked the first three Colorado batters — Carlos Gonzalez, Derek Fowler and Helton — before giving up a double to Rockies’ shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. Balester then walked Brad Hawpe, before getting out of the inning: Ian Stewart and Clint Barmes flew out and Balester struck out Chris Ianetta.

Balester’s ineffectiveness led to his early departure (1.1 innings pitched, five walks, three hits and three earned runs), but the Colorado walk-a-thon continued. While Saul Rivera proved effective against a stacked Colorado line-up (he gave up one run in 3.2 innings of work), he walked two before being relieved by lefty Ron Villone (who also walked two).  Jorge Sosa entered the game and promptly walked the first batter he faced — third baseman Ian Stewart.  The Nats, meanwhile, were mounting a comeback, thanks to Colorado’s inability to drive stranded runners to the plate (they left an astounding 12 men on base for the game). The Nat’s fifth inning was key in the comeback, when the team was improbably sparked by a two out rally that featured a triple, single, double, and Adam Dunn infield single. But Washington couldn’t match the Colorado attack, nor reattach the wheels that had fallen off Balester. While the Nats mounted another attack in the seventh, the rally was cut short when Adam Dunn couldn’t replicate the clutch infield single that had brought runners home in the fifth. 

Rallies in the fifth and seventh fell short as the Nats fell to Colorado, 5-4 (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

Rallies in the 5th and 7th fell short; Nationals fell to Rockies on Wednesday(AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

After the game, interim manager Jim Riggleman praised the bullpen and the team. “I said it before, but I love working with this group. They get after it,” he said. “They are playing hard. They are playing clean baseball. They are fun to manage. They want to win that ballgame. They enjoy playing this competition which will be playoff bound.” Riggleman has it right: if this had been May or June, the Rockies would have piled on and the Nats would have faded. It’s a different team now, and the evidence is obvious on the field. Even so,  Riggleman and McCatty have to be concerned with the walks issued on Wednesday, especially to regulars who are known as free-swingers.

Like Todd Helton, with all of 58 base-on-balls all year. If the Rockies have a franchise player, it is Helton, a genuine superstar who is probably headed to the hall of fame. But at 35, Helton’s best years are behind him: his power numbers have fallen (he has only 11 homers this year) and last year he was hobbled by injuries — the first chink in his otherwise  impregnable armor. But the Nats pitched him like he was Babe Ruth, serving up 19 balls against eight strikes and walking him in the first, second, fourth and eighth innings.

Todd Helton Three

Helton provides an interesting story. The Knoxville, Tennessee high school baseball and football star was offered $450,000 by the San Diego Padres to pass up college and start a professional career, but Helton turned them down. He was a good enough football player to play for the Tennessee Vols and was slated to take over the starting QB slot for them when their regular starting quarterback got injured during his junior year. But Helton was also hobbled (by a gimpy knee), so he gave way to a bright young freshman who, Helton remembers, everyone knew was the team’s quarterback of the future — Peyton Manning.  Helton was drafted eighth overall by the Rockies in 1995 and arrived in the majors in 1997. In 1998 he was a regular. In 2000, his best year, he led the league in hits, doubles, RBIs and batting average. He flirted for a time with the triple crown — he hit 42 home runs.

Jimenez Tames Nats

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

Ubaldo

The Washington Nationals walked into a buzzsaw on Tuesday, losing the first in a three game series against the Colorado Rockies, 4-3. The buzzsaw was Rockies’ starter Ubaldo Jimenez, who pitched eight strong innings for Colorado and appeared to gain strength with each Washington batter. The 25-year-old gave up seven hits in eight innings, raising his record to 11-9 and lowering his ERA to 3.41. Jimenez, signed as an amateur free agent by the Rockies in 2001, is one of the best bargains in baseball — he throws a wicked four seam fastball from 94-97 mph, offsetting it with an effective slider (at about 83-83 mph) and off-speed change-up that tails down and in to a righthanded batter. A product of the Dominican Republic, Jimenez signed a four year $10 million contract with the Rockies in 2008;  he mixed his pitches well against the Nats on Tuesday, throwing 108 pitches, 72 for strikes. Rockies’  closer Huston Street gave up a single run in the ninth, but ended the game after getting Ryan Zimmerman to fly out to left.

For a time on Tuesday, it appeared that the Nats might be able to continue the modest three game winning streak that they had started in Cincinnati. But in the eighth inning, lefthander Sean Burnett (Washington’s second relief pitcher of the night) gave up a home run to Colorado outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. Gonzalez laid into the first offering from Burnett, which bounced off the back wall of the Nats’ bullpen in right field. The usually effective Burnett took the loss. While the Nats rapped out ten hits against the Rockies, Jimenez was effective in shutting down the worst threats: he struck out a modest five, but walked only one. Nyjer Morgan, meanwhile, added to his growing reputation as a one man wrecking crew at the top of the order, going three for four and adding a stolen base. Morgan is now hitting .310. Alberto Gonzalez rapped out two hits of his own, both line drives, as he battles a hitting slump that has seen him loft fly ball after fly ball. It could be that Tuesday was a break-out night for the young infielder, who scorched the ball nearly every time at bat.

Licey tigres

Jimenez might be one of the NL’s most underrated hurlers — a judgment belied by his near .500 record in each of his last three seasons. He is capable of throwing his fastball up in the zone at 97 mph. Jimenez is a veteran of the legendary Tigres del Licey Santo Domingo team that has been a MLB nursery for great Latin players who have been recruited by U.S. teams. Established in 1907, Licey has won 20 Domincan titles and been managed by some of the best baseball minds in the world (and in America), including Dodger great Tommy Lasorda, former MLB manager Buck Rogers and 1950s Milwaukee Braves all star Del Crandell. Manny Acta managed the team in 2003-2004.

Down On Half Street: There was near unanimous acclaim for the successful signing of Nats draft pick Stephen Strasburg among Nats players. “To get better, you have to sign your top picks. It’s nice to get it done. Hopefully, he will be all everyone thinks that he is,” Nats all star Ryan Zimmerman said. . . . The Nats plan to introduce Strasburg to their fans and the press at Nationals Park on Friday . . . Baseball Boston Red Sox Tonight Sunday night game will feature the Sawx against the Evil Empire in a match-up of peaking and fading teams. We are counting the days . . . no really, we are . . . but we’ll only watch if Baseball Tonight promises that analyst Steve Phillips will be the on air guy . . .

Giants’ ace Tim Lincecum was in line to take the loss Tuesday against the Reds in Cincinnati, but late-inning heroics by recently acquired former Indians bopper Ryan Garko (who drove in four runs), saved the day. The Giants beat the Reds with two runs in the 10th inning. The Reds, after dropping the last three to the Nats, are sinking like a stone . . .  The Florida Marlins are on fire. The Phish have now gone fourteen straight games with at least ten hits. The Marlins schooled the Astros on Tuesday, 6-2. The ‘Stros look done — they traded future hall of famer Ivan Rodriguez to the Texas Rangers on Tuesday for a minor leaguer and a player to be named . . .

Rockies beat reporter Thomas Harding notes that Troy Tulowitzki is hitting .324 in the clean-up spot. This is no secret: as “Tulo” goes, so go the Rockies. In Tulo’s rookie year, in 2007, they made their extraordinary run to the series. Last year, with Tulo injured, they looked like the pre-Tulowitzki Rockies of 2006, when they were fourth in the NL West at 76-86. The adage holds for in-season stats as well: earlier this year Tulowitzki couldn’t hit water falling out of a boat and the Rockies looked like a last place team. Now, no one can get him out, and the Rockies are leading the Wild Card race in the National League . . . in addition to Jimenez, the Rockies have front-line starter Aaron Cook. The Giants have the best post-season one-two punch in the NL with Lincecum and Matt Cain, but Cook-Jimenez has to be a close second. Actually, Cook-Jimenez might not be Colorado’s one-two punch. In the post-season the Rockies would almost certainly pitch Aaron Cook and Jason Marquis. If Jeff Francis returns from the DL for the 2010 season, the Rockies could have the best five-man rotation in baseball: Cook, Marquis, Jimenez, Francis and Jason Hammels . . . I swear, they would eat the NL West . . .