Well, of course, I could have told you that. All the Rockies needed was to get away from the mean ol' rally-killing confines of Coors Field and its simply unfair (to hitters) dimensions and every Tom, Dick, and Jason Smith would start slamming homers like gangbusters. Voila. The Rockies looked real bad in the early innings Friday, but they still play nine in these here parts, and what happened in the second half of this game defies easy explanation.
First of all, a tip of the cap to Eli Marrero, promoted from "best hitter...on the bench" to starting left fielder in the event of a sickly Matt Holliday. Luis Gonzalez was scratched as well (right wrist inflammation), so the Rockies were left with a short(er) bench. Didn't seem to matter. After Josh Fogg (by the way, early fan returns are unanimous: the Roman-column sideburns have got to go) was victimized by spotty Colorado defense in the first, substitutes Marrero and Smith connected for long balls of off Padres starter Chris Young. This sudden power production, doubling the Rockies' home run count for the three-game opening series at Coors, went a long way towards stablizing the Colorado offense and defense alike. Fogg looked like he wasn't long for the rotation or even the 40-man as he coughed up two more runs in the bottom of the second but surprisingly he settled down, posting a respectable final line of six innings pitched, three earned runs allowed, five hits, one walk, and three strikeouts. Hey, tell me you weren't expecting a total meltdown from the getgo when Fogg strode out to the mound wearing Joe Kennedy's number from last year.
In the sixth, a parade of Colorado doubles knocked out Young and sent reliever Clay Hensley (four batters faced, four hits allowed) scurrying to collect signatures in the San Diego bullpen for a petition to move the walls at PetCoors back out. That left the score 6-4 in the Rockies' favor, but the team's hitters kindly kept the pressure off of the bullpen by another run in the eighth on a Garrett Atkins smash and three more in the ninth thanks to a Cory Sullivan triple, another Todd Helton intentional walk (Barry who?), and RBI safeties from Atkins and Marrero. Since I'm feeling expansive due to the win, I will say one nice thing about the Padres: the World Baseball Classic might have presented the key to a Chan Ho Park career revival. He was very effective in a multi-inning relief appearance.
The Rockies tied San Diego in total walks (three to three), but the strikeout numbers are scary: 11 for our side, three for theirs. Well, a win's a win. The box score holds a lot of good news: Atkins, Smith, Marrero, and Cory Sullivan (who was due) all had multi-hit games. Brad Hawpe had an off-night (1 for 5, three K's) but I can't be the only one impressed with his continued approach at the plate. About the only guys in the lineup who aren't hitting are Clint Barmes (who may be miscast as a #2 hitter, call me crazy, but I'd like to see the count-controlling Hawpe moved higher in the lineup) and the absent Holliday and "N.R." Gonzalez. And on the road, too. Well, it's just one game, but how often did Colorado score in double digits away from home last season? Three games that I can find. Three games in eighty-one. In 2006, we're one for one!
In the news: Diamondbacks hitters, notably the O.G. Luis Gonzalez, were overheard complaining about the new humidor practices at Coors Field. Oh, c'mon. You don't like it when there's too much offense, now you don't like it when there's too little. And you were an extra-inning game from sweeping the first series there. Cry me a river. I watched the Reds-Pirates game this morning, as winless Pittsburgh is shaping up to be a bottom feeder par excellence for 2006. Cincinnati won in a slugfest, but one has to ask: How did this team go from having hulking first base/corner outfield sluggers coming out of their ears to having Rich Aurilia starting at first and hitting cleanup in a single offseason? Well, yeah, Aurilia hit a big early homer and the Reds won, but that seems weird to me.