David Zalubowski/Associated Press
Jhoulys Chacin kept reminding himself just to put the ball over the plate and don’t nibble too much.
Still, the Colorado Rockies’ ace-in-the-making couldn’t bring himself to follow that plan, especially after Pablo Sandoval’s towering two-run homer in the first inning.
Chacin was roughed up in the home opener Monday, allowing four runs over four innings in a 7-0 loss to the San Francisco Giants.
It’s an outing he wants to forget quickly.
Well, besides one important lesson: Don’t nibble.
“Lost my focus and rushing all my pitches,” Chacin said. “But I’m not going to lose my confidence. I’ll keep working. I have 30, 31 more starts to go. I’m not going to give it up for one start. I’ll try to do better.”
All spring, Chacin vowed to be more efficient with his pitches, even pledging to let his fielders do more of the work.
His actions Monday back those thoughts.
After Sandoval’s homer, Chacin (0-1) tried to pitch gingerly around batters and ended up walking five.
He insisted he wasn’t intentionally being too fine, only pulling his head. When he does that, Chacin misses all over the place.
“When you rush a pitch, you move your head, and you make bad pitches,” Chacin said. “You have to be good about mechanics and how to make a pitch. I’m going to keep working and try to get at the point I can do that consistently.”
To see the value of that, all Chacin had to do was watch his counterpart Barry Zito (1-0). The veteran lefty put on a clinic as he surrendered just four hits to earn his first complete-game shutout since April 18, 2003, against Texas.
“Barry really did good,” Chacin said. “That’s pretty much what you want to do: Don’t worry about contact, make your pitch and let the hitter swing at it.”
But the Rockies have been struggling at the plate this season, scoring 10 runs in four games.
Not that they’re ready to panic just yet.
“That’s baseball,” Michael Cuddyer said with a shrug. “There’s not one thing you can do. You’re not going to burn bats to get things started. Throughout the course of the game, throughout the course of a season, maybe one hit here or there can spark it.”
Manager Jim Tracy felt the same way.
“We’re probably not the only club in baseball that right now is trying to find its way a little bit offensively,” Tracy said. “I think the cure for that is to keep allowing a bunch of professional hitters to go up there and take at-bats. At some point and time, I guarantee you we’ll get that squared away.”
Part of the reason for the offensive funk Monday may have been because of the festivities. It was the home opener, and the Mile High City rolled out the red carpet for the Rockies. There were jets flying overhead, balloons being released, purple-and-silver tape flying through the sky and plenty of fireworks.
Only the fireworks didn’t carry over to the field.
“For the fans in the stands, it would be nice to put together a better game,” Todd Helton said.
Zito saw to it that the fans went home unsatisfied.
“He pitched a good game,” Helton said. “He got a lot of weak pop flies, kept us off balance. But we’ve got to put together better at-bats. I think we will. I think nerves were a little involved. Hopefully, next game we’ll come out relaxed and swing the bats better.”
There was a scary moment early in the game when a woman apparently was struck on the right side of her head by a foul ball off the bat of Cuddyer. The game briefly was delayed in the top of the fifth inning while medical personnel attended to the fan, who was eventually carted off through the left-field tunnel.
Kara Jackson, a registered nurse from Broomfield, was sitting a few rows behind the woman near the third-base dugout when the incident occurred. Jackson said she held the injured woman’s head until paramedics arrived.
“The ball came too fast, and nobody could respond,” Jackson said.
It shook up Cuddyer.
“I saw the ball off my bat, saw the stands part ways and boom – saw it hit the head,” Cuddyer said. “I hope (she) is all right and everything is well. It’s tough. That’s the scary part of this.”