Jim Tracy took over as manager for Clint Hurdle on May 29th. On that day he admitted that his style is not that much different than Hurdle’s and that he would not make too many different moves than Hurdle did in the early going.
Tracy was telling the truth, the only changes that he has made have been extremely subtle.
One of those changes, however, has made a huge difference for the Rockies.
On Tracy’s first night as manager he put second baseman Clint Barmes in the two-spot in the batting order. It seemed like a simple move, but it has paid off in a huge way for the squad.
After Monday’s 5-2 victory in which Barmes went 2-for-4, his batting average sits at .290. In the last 11 games he has raised his average .56 points. That is the kind of number that is usually only seen in April, not four weeks before the All-Star break.
The move makes sense because Barmes is an aggressive hitter who rarely walks and struggles with the breaking pitch. Putting him in the two-hole ensures that he will see a maximum number of fastballs because even if Dexter Fowler is not on first base, the opposition knows that they have to throw strikes to Barmes because of Todd Helton hitting behind him.
In the fifth inning with the Rockies tied at one, Barmes delivered a huge base hit, scoring Jason Marquis to give the Rockies the lead that they would never relinquish.
While Barmes provided much of the offensive pop for the Rockies, the credit for the win goes to the Rockies biggest offseason pickup in recent history, Jason Marquis.
Marquis who with the win is tied for the lead in the National League with eight, has been nothing short of phenomenal for the club this season. He pitched 6-2/3 innings, giving up six hits and two earned runs, while striking out four and walking one.
The biggest strikeout came with Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols at the plate and two runners aboard in the fourth inning. Marquis was able to strike Pujols out and end the inning and the threat.
If Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd is nervous about receiving an extension in the final year of his contract, he needs to point directly at Marquis to show why he deserves to be in charge of this squad.
O’Dowd acquired Marquis in late January, just weeks before Spring Training, for embattled and overpaid reliever Luis Vizcaino. Vizcaino had a terrible season in 2008, with lefties hitting over .350 off of him. O’Dowd worked a deal to swap the two pitchers and for the Cubs to pick up nearly three quarters of a million dollars of Vizcaino’s salary. The Cubs designated Vizcaino for assignment before the middle of May.
Marquis’ importance to the Rockies cannot be overstated. He now has eight wins. The Rockies overall have 25 wins. However, the eight wins are only part of the story.
Marquis has brought leadership to a fairly young team, bringing the same approach to every single game, regardless of what his previous outing looked like, regardless of how the team had played the night before. He is a model of consistency that is required for success in Major League Baseball. It is an attitude that the 2007 Rockies had that led them to their first ever World Series appearance.
The 30 year-old right-hander does not have a single pitch that would be considered over powering. He does not have tremendous movement, and there are pitchers in the game that have better control than he does. What Marquis does have is a winning attitude that seeps from his skin while he is on the mound. He believes that he is going to get every single batter out, no matter what the situation. It is an attitude that the Rockies can only hope is contagious.
While the record does not suggest that Colorado is a good team, or even average, the thought of where the club would be without Marquis may have the front office looking for the top talent available in the 2010 draft.
With the sweep the Rockies created a little bit of history. This was the first time in franchise history that the Rockies had swept the Cardinals in St. Louis. It was also Colorado’s first sweep of the Cards since 1994 at Mile High Stadium.
The team looks to extend the winning streak to six games on Tuesday in Milwaukee. First pitch is at 6:05 Mountain Time with Jason Hammel taking the ball.