Coming back from a very long, very tedious injury against the New York Mets on Tuesday night, nobody was quite sure what to expect from Jhoulys Chacin. It was a pretty good metaphor for his entire season, really. He came in expected to pitch as a young ace for the Rox, yet ended up behind Jeremy Guthrie and Jamie Moyer in the rotation -- neither of them are on the team any more, of course -- and had what can only be described as some absolute stinkers on the mound early on in 2012.
By the time he went down with nerve damage in his right shoulder, it was almost a relief. Watching the guy who had torn up opposing offenses in 2011 and looked to be the next ace after Ubaldo Jimenez pitch so badly was one of the biggest of the early gut punches that the Rockies and their fans sustained during the mediocre months of April and May.
Enter that start against the Mets last night. It was a sight to behold. A gem. A masterpiece. Whatever adjective in that vein you want to slap onto it, it probably applied.
It wasn't the best performance that the Rockies had ever seen on the mound or anything, but heck if it didn't look like Chacin was back to his old tricks against that Mets lineup. First he allowed no hits through three innings, but gave up a quick home run in the fourth to make it 1-0 for New York.
"Oh dear." I thought to myself at that point, "This is where the meltdown begins." I assume I wasn't the only person thinking that, considering the performances Chacin had made the norm for himself back in the early months of the season. Chacin proved me wrong almost immediately, striking out the next two batters. He ended the game with a nearly spotless line, that home run being the only real blemish as he walked nobody and went the distance on his pitch count to earn the win for the Rox, his first win all year.
His start was one of the five best by a Rockies pitcher all season long, which will show you the kind of season the Rockies are having but will also show that Jhoulys is back in business. Even if he falters his next start, the start after that and the starts after those, we'll at least know that he has shown he's still got the stuff we loved from him before. That's the stuff that earned him 3.28 and 3.62 ERAs and a combined WAR of 6.0 the past two seasons, even as the team wasn't hitting as well around him.
When the 2013 season shows up, Chacin will again show up expected to be one of the rocks of the pitching staff regardless of how he ends this year. If he can finish 2012 with the same flair he showed in 2010 and 2011, there will be a lot more room for optimism around Blake Street following the worst season in the history of the Colorado Rockies.