BY DAVID MARTIN
Talk about drama.
Jason Giambi delivered a 3-run walk-off home run to straight away center field to give the Colorado Rockies a 8-5 win and a series victory over the first place Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday afternoon at Coors Field.
The home run came after the Rockies had clawed their way to an early lead behind home runs from Carlos Gonzalez and Wilin Rosario. The home runs came off of reigning National League Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, who had given up just one home run all year.
Giambi’s walk-off came after the bullpen gave up the lead not once, but twice after Drew Pomeranz showed the afternoon crowd at Coors Field why the Rockies thought he was so special. The lefty went 6-2/3 innings, giving up just one run on four hits. He struck out five while walking four.
With the way the Rockies starters have been struggling, Pomeranz’s performance was just what the team needed.
The start gave the rest of the team some flexibility. Instead of having a large hole to crawl out of, the way they did on Tuesday night, the offense could afford to scratch and claw to get at Kershaw, instead of needing big innings.
The start also gave the bullpen some flexibility. While no one likes to see the relief corps give up two leads, the fact that the Dodgers weren’t spotted four or five runs by the starting pitcher meant that when the bullpen failed to do their job, the Rockies offense was still close enough to get back into the game.
Throughout the game there were several opportunities to question manager Jim Tracy’s in-game decisions. In the 8th inning, after Matt Belisle had given up a base hit to Matt Kemp, then got Juan Rivera to pop out in the infield, Tracy went to the mound and called on Rex Brothers.
The hard-throwing lefty has struggled lately. Despite a huge strikeout on Monday night, Brothers has had a hard time getting his outs. Brothers promptly gave up a single to Andre Ethier and a double to Jerry Hairston, giving the Dodgers a 3-2 lead.
Although Belisle had given up a hit to Kemp, he looked sharp. Yet, Tracy chose to go with Brothers to face the lefty Ethier.
The mistake was easy to forget as CarGo launched his 2nd home run of the day off of Kershaw in the bottom of the 8th, the first time Kershaw has allowed the same hitter to homer off of him twice in a game.
Tracy tried again in the 9th, deciding to walk Matt Kemp with a runner on first, opting to put the tying run on base with light-hitting Dee Gordon on deck. The move backfired as Gordon split the outfielders in center and right and plated both runs, tying the game.
It all went out the window when Eric Young Jr. walked to lead off the 9th, then Marco Scutaro followed with a walk of his own. After a successful Jonathan Herrera sacrifice bunt, Giambi came to the plate and launched the home run to give the Rockies the huge win.
The Rockies have certainly taken their fair share of criticism this season. Much of it deserved. However, this team is proving that they are going to be fun to watch in 2012. They have a lineup that has shown it won’t quit.
Wednesday was a perfect example of how players having a role on the team works out. The ability to use Young as a pinch hitter who can get on base at any time, with Giambi in a role where he can break out a big bat at a moments notice provides the club with several options.
When players fall into their roles, they can prep correctly. They can mentally be ready for their chance, whether that comes in the first eight innings, or in the 9th inning.
Although the starting pitchers have struggled, one thing is certain. This Rockies team doesn’t pack it in the way the team did in 2011. It seemed that the team that was picked by many to win it all had no idea how to come from behind, whether they were down by one run of seven runs. This team doesn’t quit until the final out.
For Rockies fans, it means fun times at Coors Field all summer long. It also means that if the winning attitude continues, and the starting pitching matches what it is capable of, the Rockies could find themselves playing meaningful games down the stretch in September.