Tulo, CarGo healthy, and with that, Rockies on tear
Sluggers have combined for eight RBIs as Colorado opens season at 4-0
DENVER -- This is fun, right now, for the Rockies. Troy Tulowitzki is healthy. Carlos Gonzalez is healthy. And the Rockies are winning.
Nothing like opening the season with a 4-0 record -- something that Colorado has done only once before, back in 1995 -- to create that feel-good feeling.
"We are a good team," said Gonzalez. "We just have to keep reminding ourselves of that."
That's easy when Tulowitzki and Gonzalez are in the lineup. When one or both is missing, however, it's a different story. At least, it has been a different story. That, Tulowitzki said, needs to change.
"In years past, we have let that be an excuse," said Tulowitzki. "It shouldn't be an excuse. Look at other teams. Guys get hurt and they rally around it. I think this team is different. We're more together as a team right now than we have been in the past."
Maybe. Time will tell.
Memories do linger.
Two years ago, the Rockies were just a half game out of first place in the National League West on June 17. They lost 54 of their final 91 games and finished 18 games back in fourth place. A year ago, they were two games out on May 20. They lost 76 of the final 116 games and finished 28 games out of first, again in fourth place.
Both times Colorado was hit with a slew of in-season injuries, not the least of which was an extended absence from Tulowitzki and Gonzalez. Gonzalez is coming back from hand and knee surgeries that are expected to eliminate the problems that limited him to 180 games combined the past two seasons.
Tulowitzki underwent hip surgery last August, the latest medical effort to help him overcome problems stemming from tearing his left rectus femoris quadriceps, which flexes the left hip and knee, in 2008. That injury has never completely healed, which has added to the strain on other muscles and tendons.
Tulowitzki has been limited to 264 games the past three seasons. When he has been healthy, he has been good. Tulowitzki has hit .316 with 54 home runs and 161 RBIs in 942 at-bats.
"When you see that guy running around the bases and make the plays at shortstop, it is a lot different," said Gonzalez. "He makes such an impact on our team. It is fun to play with Tulo. He makes things happen."
Tulowitzki has done it in the Rockies' season-opening four-game winning streak, that's for sure. He's 8-for-18 with five doubles, four RBIs and four runs scored, and the production has been key to Colorado's success.
In the home-opening victory against the Cubs on Friday, it was Tulowitzki who delivered the two-run double in the fifth that gave the Rockies a 3-1 lead.
"One pitch to Tulo pretty much erased everything," said Cubs left-hander Travis Wood. "I threw a cutter up and in, and somehow he kept it fair. That's why he is who he is."
Tulowitzki was who he is in that season-opening sweep in Milwaukee. He wasn't just 3-for-5 with an RBI and three runs scored in a 10-0 season-opening victory against the Brewers. Tulowitzki doubled to drive in the game's first run and then scored himself on a Nolan Arenado double in a four-run first inning. He led off the third with a double and scored on an Arenado single. And Tulowitzki singled and scored in the four-run fourth.
Tulowitzki came back with a 2-for-5 effort that included an RBI and run in a 5-2 victory in Game 2, doubling and scoring the game's first on an Arenado double in the fourth, and then singled home another run in the fifth.
And then Tulowitzki came up with that game-changing double in the fifth in front of a sellout crowd at Coors Field in the home opener, following up a one-out single by DJ LeMahieu and a walk to Corey Dickerson by yanking the double down the left-field line.
"He and Cargo look great," manager Walt Weiss said. "They came to Spring Training in great shape and way ahead of schedule [for their rehab]. They are two great players."
They, however, are not enough to give the Rockies a chance to be a factor in the NL West, and nobody knows that better than Gonzalez and Tulowitzki. They have suffered from the outside, watching, the past three seasons when injuries sidelined them.
"It's not just Tulo and me," said Gonzalez, who is 6-for-17 with a home run, four RBIs and four runs scored in four games. "It's Arenado and Dickerson and Charlie [Blackmon] and [Justin] Morneau and LeMahieu. We have really good players."
And right now, Tulowitzki is as healthy and as good as he's been in a long time.