Fowler, Chacin lead Rockies to sweep of Padres
DENVER -- The Rockies completed an emphatic spring cleaning Sunday, sweeping the Padres out of Coors Field while simultaneously vanquishing the demons haunting them from their 98-loss campaign in 2012. They did it with their "Sunday lineup," banishing the bugaboo of the "bench" days, and they did it with balance. They coupled timely hitting with precision pitching and web-gem fielding for a 9-1 victory that gave them a five-game winning streak and left fans clamoring for more.
"It's nice to get off to a good start," manager Walt Weiss said in understated fashion. "Last year was a tough year. It's nice to put some of those demons behind us right away. We felt all spring like we have a good club. A lot of people may not have felt the same way on the outside, but we're very confident in the fact that we have a good club.
"Confidence is very important in this game. Sometimes it's fleeting, but it's just what the doctor ordered."
Opening Day starter Jhoulys Chacin replicated his 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball for back-to-back quality starts, and walked off the mound to a standing ovation from the 31,060 fans in attendance at Coors Field.
"It was really nice," Chacin said of the crowd's reaction to his pitching. "You work really hard for those moments. You give them good reason to come here and watch you pitch."
Chacin gave up six hits and struck out two while walking none, maintaining a 1.35 ERA and improving the rotation's ERA to 2.78. Chacin's Opening Day start was the Rockies' only loss, an extra-innings affair that unraveled a bit after he left the game. He looked even sharper Sunday, relying on his sinker-changeup combination, which proved an effective tandem in stifling the free-swinging Friars.
"Today I had better location with my pitches than last time," Chacin said. "Last time I got more power with my fastball. Today I was throwing sinkers. That was the plan today, especially with those guys. They swing early in the count, they're aggressive, so [catcher] Wilin [Rosario] and I tried to get the sinker down and let them hit it on the ground."
Chacin had a phenomenal ground ball to fly ball ratio, recording 14 outs on ground balls and only three on fly balls. For the most part, his hits were scattered, with no more than one an inning with the exception of the fourth frame, when he allowed three hits and one run. He rebounded to retire nine in a row starting with the last out of the fourth, until a seventh-inning single from Alexi Amarista on his 99th and final pitch of the day.
It shouldn't be surprising to see the Rockies hitting the ball, but it was a welcome change of pace to see Weiss' Sunday lineup command a game for the second time this season. The club was 5-22 on Sunday's in 2012, and carried a 17-game Sunday losing streak into August, partly as a result of resting veteran regulars on day games following night games.
The four bench players in the lineup Sunday entered the game hitting .353, went a combined 7-for-16 with two doubles, a triple, and three RBIs, which improved the quartet to .394 for the season. Jonathan Herrera led the assault with three hits, including a run-scoring triple in the eighth.
"They're all capable of that," Weiss said. "The guys produced. It's a good roster. We killed two birds with one stone. You give some guys a break, and you keep the other guys involved. Regardless of who we throw out there, it's a tough lineup."
The Rockies staked Chacin to an early lead, as Eric Young Jr. led off the first with a double to deep right field, then scored on Dexter Fowler's drive into the Rockies' right-field bullpen. It was Fowler's fourth homer of the year, and the first of his two extra-base hits on the afternoon.
"They jumped on some pitches early," Padres manager Bud Black said of the Rockies approach to starting pitcher Edinson Volquez. "Volky hung in there and only gave up one run after the first."
Carlos Gonzalez followed in the first with a double to right, and Reid Brignac plated him with a two-out double to center, giving the Rockies a 3-0 lead and offering Chacin the breathing room he needed to be comfortably aggressive with the Padres lineup.
"It's important," Gonzalez said of the strong start to the season. "All the things you work on in Spring Training, game situations, runners on base, move runners, bring the guy home. The long balls, they're going to come. We never look for home runs. We all know we can hit homers. Everybody in this clubhouse can do damage at the plate, but right now we're just trying to play smart. Score runs and try to take the lead early and get comfortable seeing pitches."
The Padres' lone rally was sparked by a two-out single to center from Jedd Gyorko. He advanced to second on a wild pitch, then scored on a double to left off the bat of Chris Denorfia.
The Rockies added insurance runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth -- including a three-run shot from Rosario in the seventh -- employing the relentless offensive attack that hitting coach Dante Bichette has instilled in the "Blake Street Bullies," as he calls the lineup.
"We're not surprised," Gonzalez said of the Rockies resurgence as the season starts. "We understand the way people think because of the way we finished last year. Last year was one of the worst years -- everybody understands that part. But we're really excited about this season. Early in Spring Training, [we knew] when we started playing the regular season in 2013, we were going to put  in the past. Right now we're not thinking about last year, we're thinking about what's going on right now. We're doing a great job. We're winning ball games, and that's the most important thing."