A solid win for the Rockies yesterday, though it was marred a bit by injuries to the Dodgers’ starting pitcher (Jason Schmidt) and right fielder (Matt Kemp.) Of course, I’m not completely sure that either of those injuries had a direct effect on the outcome of the game. Schmidt was okay but the Rockies still scored a few runs off him before he left the game. Kemp’s injury while running into the wall on a fly ball to right may have given Jeff Baker an extra base, but I don’t think he would have come up with the catch either way. Anyways, both of them seem to be okay from all reports and should only be out for a few days at most.
The offense didn’t put on the kind of show Rockies fans have become used to seeing (before the past couple of years or so, anyway) but they did score six runs. There were some positives. The Rockies showed the ability to manufacture runs when they aren’t hitting the longball; Atkins had a solo shot off Schmidt in the first, but the other runs came in small-ball fashion. Willy Taveras finally showed some spark with two hits, including a line-shot double that just missed being a home run by a couple of feet. Jeff Baker, starting in place of Todd Helton, had three hits and showed that the Rockies probably should give him more playing time than they’re giving him. And the pitching? Jeff Francis only made it six quality starts in a row for Rockies pitchers. The bullpen still concerns me a little bit, however. Ramon Ramirez and Manny Corpas have been lights out, but the back end is giving me a little bit of heartburn. Everybody over at Purple Row is harping on LaTroy Hawkins, but few have noticed that Brian Fuentes has an equivalent 9.00 ERA. The only difference is that Fuentes has given up basically meaningless runs while Hawkins has blown a lead and also given up a run in the tenth inning on Sunday, when giving a run obviously meant losing. The main counterargument is that Fuentes has proven himself a solid closer over two seasons, while Hawkins was a failure as a closer. But let’s not forget that Hawkins was also a lights-out setup man in Minnesota for two seasons. Yeah, Clint Hurdle should certainly not have any ideas about using him in the ninth. And while you can pin the Opening Day loss on LaTroy, the loss Sunday has more to do with a lack of offensive punch (and, just maybe, leaving Aaron Cook in there too long) than anything LaTroy did. The other point is that we shouldn’t draw conclusions in the first week of the season.
On to tonight. Rodrigo Lopez takes the hill for the Rockies. I’ll admit that as recently as, well, last Wednesday morning I was not at all sold on Rodrigo being our #3 starter. One seven-inning shutdown of the Diamondbacks later, and I’m, well, a bit more sold. (Easy, Tom, no conclusions from one week of the season.) It’s pretty clear that last Wednesday was a showing by Good Rodrigo. Good Rodrigo pitched in Baltimore in both 2002 and 2004, going 29-18 with a 3.59 ERA. Bad Rodrigo, his alter ego, was certainly what I expected after he haunted Baltimore last season with a 9-18 record and a 5.90 ERA. Now, I’m not big on sabermetrics, but one thing I do know is that a pitcher’s performance is usually closely correlated with his peripherals — that is, strikeouts and walks, the two statistics that a pitcher has direct control over. Bad Rodrigo (2006 Rodrigo) in that respect was little different from Good Rodrigo. So I’m guessing that a lot of Rodrigo’s trouble in 2006 had to do with luck (or bad defense, depending on your perspective.) Orioles fans will probably tell you differently, though, but I’m of the opinion that if Rodrigo has more starts like his first one, or at the very least close enough, then we’ve got a steal on our hands.
Or he reverts to Bad Rodrigo tonight. We’ll see. But I am hoping to continue this string of quality starts; the fact that we’re 4-2 in that stretch has to do with the offense, the bullpen, and, to a lesser extent, luck. I wanted to throw something at my TV (er… computer screen) with all the softly-hit balls that dropped in for hits by opposing batters in the first week of the season. The Rockies, on the other hand, were mostly hitting well-struck balls directly at opposing fielders.
The Dodgers’ starter tonight, Brett Tomko, will be making his first start of the season — and, for that matter, his first start since June 23 of last season. I never have quite understood the rationale behind sitting your fifth starter until the second week of the season. Sure, you get an extra start from your purported ace, but this also means that Brett will be pitching for the first time since spring training. That can’t be good. We’ll see how that affects him. Since Brett’s spent four of the last five years playing for our divisional rivals (first the Padres, then the Giants and now the Dodgers) the Rockies are pretty familiar with him. In his career he’s 6-8 with a 4.05 ERA against us. That doesn’t necessarily sound great, but we are talking about a pitcher with a career 4.54 ERA. Tomko’s been around a while and, well, he’s not all that good. Usually he’s just a guy you send out there every fifth day and hope for the best. 2005 was the last time he was a starter for basically the entire season, and he went just 8-15. He’s generally pretty hittable but I assume there are stretches when he’s a decent starter. He averaged a little under six innings per start in 2005. In short, he’s the Dodgers’ version of Josh Fogg.
This will only be Rodrigo’s second career start (and third appearance) against the Dodgers. His lone career start against the Dodgers was a gem he pitched in 2002, going 8.2 innings and giving up just two runs on six hits. Predictably, few current Dodgers have seen much of Rodrigo, though Nomar’s had success against him with the Red Sox (10-for-27 with two homers). Other than that, no Dodger who’s expected to play tonight has so much as a hit against him.
I think this matchup bodes well for us tonight, and I’m predicting a win. Go Rockies!