BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
Last night proved Yankees radio announcer John Sterling’s point about how no one can predict baseball.
Not only did the Rockies score runs against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, but they received a great pitching performance from Juan Nicasio last night in their 3-0 victory over the Dodgers.
It was something no one expected. Not even the Rockies thought this would happen if one puts a truth serum on them.
Nicasio was the only one that expected to pitch a great performance.
Obviously, something clicked when he made his two starts for Triple-A Colorado Springs. He figured out how to throw strikes by hitting the corners, and that’s why he knew he was going to pitch well when he made his start against the Dodgers.
Nicasio applied what he learned from the minors in last night’s game. He was ahead of the count, and that helped him avoid being in jams and minimize his pitch count. It was good enough for him to pitch seven innings of shutout baseball while giving up three hits against the Dodgers.
From watching the game, it was like watching a different pitcher.
Nicasio pitched with a purpose, and he gave a good feeling that he was going to put on a great performance after watching him in the third inning.
To say this was his best performance of his career is an understatement.
If nothing else, Nicasio gave the Rockies something to think about.
There’s no question he is going to make his next start with Roy Oswalt being on the 15-day disabled list.
If Nicasio does well in his next three starts, he is going to be in the rotation. There is no question about it.
For all intents and purposes, this is an audition.
The Rockies should hope Nicasio keeps this up. He is an upgrade over Oswalt and Drew Pomeranz.
The Rockies thought Oswalt would make the starting rotation better, but that hasn’t been the case. He is 0-4 with a 7.64 ERA in four starts. He gave up 29 hits, and he has only gone past the fifth inning only once. He basically has nothing when he is pitching on the mound.
It is hard to be optimistic about Oswalt pitching well when he hasn’t showed he could.
It was too much to ask for Oswalt to do well. He is not the pitcher he was in his prime during his Astros days. His fastball has no bite anymore, and he has been hittable. He has been on a decline for the last two years.
The Rockies can’t trot Oswalt as they move forward.
Pomeranz has been underwhelming in his three starts since he was called up from Triple-A Colorado Springs. He is 0-3, and he has given up 12 runs and 19 hits. He continues to display command problems on the mound. He has not gone past the fourth inning at all.
He is so bad that Nicasio is an upgrade over him. That speaks volumes when one realizes Nicasio has not been good prior to last night’s start.
Fortunately for Pomeranz, the Rockies will have him start, so that they can see if he gets better as the season progresses. They have to find out if he is in their long-term plans.
For Nicasio, he feels he is better than Oswalt and Pomeranz. He should feel that way considering his fastball is much better than anything Oswalt and Pomeranz throw.
One thing about Nicasio is he will battle. He has the moxie to get out of jams when he has to. What he has to do is find a way to go deep in games. That has been his problem as he is done once the fifth inning starts.
Last night should be encouraging for Nicasio. He can build from this performance. Pitching is all about confidence, so if he continues to apply what he did in the minors, he is going to be in good shape.
If he reinvents himself, the Rockies have another reliable starter.
The Rockies are going to have a hard time getting a starter in the trade market. They have nothing to offer from their farm system, and they are not willing to pick up a salary of an expensive pitcher.
That’s why the Rockies are hoping for Nicasio to finally figure it out. That’s why they hope last night is a start of something good.
If Tyler Chatwood, Jhoulys Chacin and Nicasio continue to throw quality starts, the Rockies have themselves a legitimate starting rotation with Jorge De La Rosa being a sure thing. That would be good enough to help them be a factor in the mediocre NL West race.
This is why what Nicasio did last night has the Rockies feeling giddy. But he has to show he can sustain this.
Throwing a quality start is nice, but it’s going to mean nothing if he can’t do it several times.
Nicasio is getting a second chance to show he should stay in the starting rotation. He knows he has to make the most of it with the idea he can stick around.
Time will tell if last night was a harbinger of what he can do.
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