Astros 3, Rockies 2 (boxscore)
What Went Wrong: Same as last night. Same as practically every Sunday from the 2011 season. Colorado's offense mounted few relevant threats against Bud Norris and the Astros bullpen. They were awful with runners in scoring position — 0-for-5 (3-for-17 in the series). And they backed that up with defensive letdowns at the absolute worst possible time.
That's the formula we've grown accustomed to. That's the formula Dan O'Dowd desperately tried to destroy with his string of offseason changes. It's not off to a promising start.
Of course Jim Tracy is going to catch a lot of flack for his usual Sunday lineup antics. Understandably so. But I have to admit I understood his thinking today (scary I know) initially, and didn't hate it, either. Of course my 20/20 hindsight vision hates it now, but five hours ago I was willing to give him a pass.
Yes, it would be ideal to spread the off days out. (Hopefully he does from now on) But the opening weekend congest things a bit. I think Tracy wanted to show consistency starting the same lineup on both Friday and Saturday, which is fine. You're obviously not going to bench regulars in the home opener. And he didn't want those bench players — most of whom were swinging hot bats at the end of spring — sitting idle for an entire week.
It's a tough thing to balance. For all his faults, I won't go after him for his thought process or the actual lineup. His late game strategy is much easier for me to target.
He made the call to bring in Dexter Fowler for defense with a one run lead in the eighth. That was a good start. Colvin shifted to right, upgrading that position as well. Cuddyer moved to first leaving Todd Helton on the bench. That proved costly. But the biggest move was the one he didn't make, leaving Jordan Pacheco to man third while Chris Nelson stayed glued to the bench.
As it often does, the baseball found Pacheco at the most important time of the game. Carlos Lee grounded one to his backhand with two outs and two runners on. Pacheco fielded it and came up firing low to first. Cuddyer doesn't handle it and suddenly you're tied.
Tough play? Sure. Does Chris Nelson make it smoothly? Maybe not. But Pacheco's shortcomings over there have been obvious all spring.
One batter later, Brian Bogusevic finds the hole on the right side and a game you had in your pocket becomes your first devastating loss of 2012.
Just. That. Quick.
Rex Brothers was far from solid in that inning as well. In fact, the entire mess could have been avoided had he handled a soft liner right back to his glove side. But I never had a problem with Tracy sticking with him. It was a grow up fast outing for him. He experienced it. Now he can learn from it.
Turning Point: The eighth inning is where the game changed, but I go back a couple innings for the turning point.
Wilin Rosario provided the Rockies offense with a two-run homer in the fourth, but he was a part of a failed rally in the sixth that could have given the Rockies the insurance runs necessary to win this series in Houston.
The Rockies had runners at first and second in the inning with one out. The red hot Michael Cuddyer stepped up first, but could only manage a dribbler back to the mound for a fielder's choice. That left it up to Rosario, who unfortunately completely gave the at-bat away after starting 2-0 by losing his discipline and chasing three straight sliders. None of them were relatively close to being strikes, let alone something he could drive, but I guess that's all a part of an unpolished future stud learning at the big league level.
All about the adjustments.
Also all about the wasted opportunity to create separation.
Juan Nicasio's line: 7 IP, ER, 5 H, BB, 4 K, 82 pitches (53 strikes)
Nicasio's performance was brilliant under any circumstances. When you consider where he was eight months ago, it's beyond a description I'm capable of giving.
All I can really say is his fastball was overpowering, bordering on dominant. His slider was inconsistent, but he was able to work around that just fine against a less than intimidating Astros lineup. He'll need it to be better on most days, but for today, who cares? It was just fun to watch.
One of the most amazing stories you'll ever see in the game of baseball got even better on this day.
Just a damn shame he wasn't rewarded with the win he deserved.
A DAMN shame.
Screengrab of the Game
|Juan Nicasio. Enough said.|
Highlight of the Afternoon: Tyler Colvin a had rough day at the plate (1-for-5), but he also made a catch in the wacky as hell Minute Maid Park center field that looked like a potential game saver.
What's next: The Rockies return to Denver for their home opener on Monday afternoon. Jhoulys Chacin gets the nod on the mound as they battle their division rival San Francisco Giants led by their starter Barry Zito. First pitch is slated for 2:10 MT. The weather forecast looks outstanding. Should be a fun day in LoDo.