Dave Krieger has been a guest-host on 850 KOA since 2005. Now, Dave is heard every weekday afternoon on The Dave Logan Show.
"I've had a blast as a guest host on 850 KOA over the past several years and I'm grateful for the opportunity to join their team on a full-time basis," Krieger said. "I look forward to partnering with Dave Logan, a friend for more than 25 years, in the competitive landscape of PM drive. As I've recently discovered, thanks to the web, 850 KOA's reach now includes the entire country."
Since 2009, Dave was a popular columnist with The Denver Post. Before that, he spent 27 years with the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News as a cityside reporter, Broncos and Nuggets beat writer and longtime sports columnist. He won various state and national awards during a newspaper career that spanned 36 years.
Dave was named the 2011 Colorado sportswriter of the year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. He also won the award in 2010 and 2009 and shared it in 2008 with former Rocky Mountain News colleague Tracy Ringolsby.
There are baseball games that appear to tell a larger story than a 1/162nd slice of a languorous season, and last Thursday's looked like one of those for the Rockies.
They were facing a Giants team that swept them early in the season and had beaten them nine straight times dating to last year. Seven of their next 10 were going to be against San Francisco, sort of a lie detector test for a Rockies team that had roared out of the gate. If the Giants did what they did last year, winning 14 of 18, or the year before that, winning 13 of 18, the Rocks' early-season pretensions to contention would do what they did in 2011 -- crash and burn in May.
So they rocked Matt Cain for three home runs in the first three innings, including back-to-back jacks from the past and the future -- 39-year-old first baseman Todd Helton and 22-year-old third baseman Nolan Arenado -- handing Opening Day starter Jhoulys Chacin a 6-0 lead.
Chacin promptly gave it all back, surrendering five runs in the fourth and leaving in the sixth with the score tied and the eventual winning runs on base. Following its early explosion, the Rockies' offense shut down, collecting one hit after the third inning against Cain, Jeremy Affeldt and Sergio Romo.
It was the most discouraging loss of the year. Not only had the Rocks seemed to prove they couldn't beat the Giants on a bet, they had confirmed the worst suspicions about their character as a team -- frontrunners who fold when the going gets sticky. After winning 13 of their first 17 games and spending 16 days in first place, the 8-6 defeat dropped them to 21-20 and third place.
So how did they respond to this soul-sapping loss? They swept the next three from the Giants, battering Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito for 20 runs and getting a six-inning shutout of their own from Juan Nicasio, who, prior to that start, had been flirting with re-education camp.
"I think our team showed who they were early on," said first-year manager Walt Weiss. "Had some opportunities to overcome some things and they did that. That's why I don't get too down when we struggle, because I know that that's part of the deal up here. You're going to get beat up a little bit in this league, but I have confidence that our guys will do what they did in the last three days. When it looks like they start to slide, they turn it around. They've done it a handful of times already this year. That's a great trait to have."
Many fans still base their expectations on the larger sample size of the past two seasons, but the Rocks' weekend bounce-back against their nemesis over that span was the best sign so far that things actually might be different this year.
"I really think this bunch is extremely competitive and we're sick of losing," said reliever Matt Belisle, part of the four-man shutout in Sunday's 5-0 series finale. "And these Giants have beat up on us quite a bit and we want to turn the tables."
With the additions of Arenado and catcher Wilin Rosario to the core of Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler, Michael Cuddyer and Helton, the middle of the Rocks' order has grown truly prodigious. They lead the National League in runs (221 in 44 games, an average of five per game), home runs (58), batting average (.272) and slugging percentage (.445).
Individually, Tulowitzki leads the league in runs batted in (37) and ranks third in batting average (.336). Gonzalez is tied for fourth in home runs (10) and is fifteenth in batting (.308). Rosario has nine homers, Fowler and Tulo have eight apiece and the disabled Cuddyer has seven.
So, yeah, they can rake. But the big story so far is on the mound, where the Rocks have cut more than a run off their worst-in-baseball staff earned-run average of a year ago. After posting a 5.22 staff ERA and earning laughingstock honors with rotation and pitch count experiments in 2012, the Rocks rank in the middle of the pack so far this year with a staff ERA of 3.85. That includes a 3.04 mark out of the bullpen, fifth-best in the NL.
Any team that plays half its games at Coors Field is going to be challenged to be competitive nationally in pitching statistics, and the Rocks have never finished a season with a staff ERA lower than 4.00 in their 20-year history. Still, injuries were a big part of the story last year. Chacin, Nicasio and Jorge De La Rosa were all out most of last season, and their return has made a huge difference, as has replacing Jeremy Guthrie with Jon Garland as the veteran free agent. A team that had 27 quality starts all last year has 18 less than two months into the season.
It also presents them with exactly the opposite of last year's problem. They have too many starters. Tyler Chatwood, called up for a third spot start when Jeff Francis suffered a pulled groin, deserves to be in the rotation. Not only is he 2-0 with a 2.55 ERA, he's done damage with the bat (he's a former shortstop) and demonstrated a competitive grittiness that shows up well among the Rockies' many nice guys.
But whose spot does he take? A week ago you might have said either Francis or Nicasio, who were struggling. But Francis gave up one run in six innings in his last start before going on the DL and Nicasio gave up none in six Sunday against the Giants.
Of the five starters, only De La Rosa has an ERA below 4.00, so the rotation is not exactly impenetrable. And Drew Pomeranz, the prize of the Ubaldo Jimenez trade, will be knocking on the door soon enough. He's 6-0 with a 3.22 ERA for Triple-A Colorado Springs.
Nicasio remains the most enigmatic of the existing starters. There are those who think he's better suited to the bullpen considering he's basically a one-pitch pitcher. But when Nicasio's fastball is electric and down, he doesn't need much variety. Lately, he had been building up vast pitch counts early in games trying to be too fine. So Weiss paired him Sunday with veteran catcher Yorvit Torrealba.
"I just say, 'Whatever I put down, you throw it,'" Torrealba explained when asked about his pre-game instructions for Nicasio.
"I mean, I don't try to take any credit or anything, but I told him I just want him to go out there and have fun. I don't want him to think at all. Just go ahead and throw it and execute down. And then, whatever happens, happens. If you get killed, blame it on me, I don't care. I just want him to throw strikes and see what happens. And he did."
Considering what they went through last year, deploying starters who clearly weren't ready because everybody else was hurt, it's a nice problem to have.
Things can change in a heartbeat, of course. The Rocks conclude the current homestand with three against the Diamondbacks, who are now in first place, leading both the Rocks and Giants by a game, and then travel to San Francisco for three more with the Giants. Those first couple of days at sea level after a homestand are still a challenge for them. The last time they hit the road, the Cardinals threw consecutive complete-game shutouts at them.
Still, the weekend demonstrated something about this year's Rocks that wasn't all that clear before: They can take a punch.
An oft-quoted truism of baseball says good pitching beats good hitting, although the practical reality may be closer to the remark attributed to Bob Veale, the 6-foot-6-inch left-hander who pitched for the Pirates and Red Sox in the 1960s and '70s:
"Good pitching will beat good hitting anytime, and vice versa."
In other words, as Roseanne Roseannadanna would say, it's always something. If it ain't one thing, it's another.
The Rockies went into their weekend series in St. Louis leading the National League in batting and runs, but there were signs of trouble. They had lost three of their previous four games, scoring a total of eight runs.
After the first two games against the Cardinals -- a one-hit, complete-game shutout by Shelby Miller and a two-hit, complete-game shutout by Adam Wainwright -- they have lost four in a row, scoring a total of three runs in 36 innings. The last time they scored was the first inning of their final game against the Yankees, meaning they take a 26-inning scoreless streak into Sunday's series finale in St. Louis.
"Wainwright commanded everything," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said of Saturday's second consecutive 3-0 defeat. "I think it was a combination of things -- us going a little cold and at the same time running into a couple pitchers that aren't missing."
Everybody likes to beat up on Rockies pitching, but it has surrendered just three runs in each of the last four games -- and the club is 0-4 over that span. Troy Tulowitzki, their leading hitter, missed two of the four with tightness in his groin. Michael Cuddyer, their second-leading hitter, missed the last three with a bulging disc in his neck that sent him to the disabled list Saturday.
Between Eric Young's first-inning single off Miller on Friday night and Todd Helton's fifth-inning base on balls from Wainwright on Saturday afternoon, 40 consecutive Rockies batters were retired, tying a major league record.
Between Young's hit and Nolan Arenado's eighth-inning single Saturday, which broke up Wainwright's no-hit bid, the Rocks went 0-for-49 at the plate. Fifty consecutive batters, counting Helton's walk, went hitless.
Dexter Fowler is 1-for-21 over the past six games -- he broke an 0-for-20 skein in his final at-bat against Wainwright -- his batting average falling from .310 to .264.
Carlos Gonzalez is 0-for-15 since homering against the Yankees on Tuesday, accounting for both runs in a 2-0 victory, the last time the Rocks won. His average has slipped from .322 to .288.
In the space of ten days, the Rocks have gone from first place with a record of 17-11 to third place at 19-17. The first of the bandwagon fans are already looking for landing spots. After all, we've seen this before, right?
In 2011, the Rocks were in first place from April 6 through May 10. By the end of May, they were below .500 and in third. After going 17-8 in April, they went 8-21 in May to give it all back. They ended up 73-89.
This year, they went 16-11 in April. In May so far, they are 3-6.
They are off to an excellent start on the mound, where they had the best bullpen earned-run average in the National League before Josh Outman gave up a single run to the Cards on Saturday. A team that had 27 quality starts all last year has 15 already.
They were off to an excellent start offensively before this last week, when they faced good Yankees pitching and great Cardinals pitching.
"Both guys we've faced these first two games have pitched on the edges of the strike zone with all their stuff, which makes it very difficult," Weiss said.
So now comes the test. Are the Rocks tougher than they've been the last couple of years? Will they shrink from adversity and fold up their tent or will they fight back?
"These guys do their work every day," Weiss said. "They prepare for the game. Everyone gets beat up a little bit in this game at some point. But our guys will keep grinding and will come out and try to turn it around tomorrow."
They get another good Cardinals starter, Jaime Garcia (2.25 ERA), on Sunday. Then they move on to Wrigley Field, where the Cubs are struggling but will deploy three starters who are pitching pretty well -- Travis Wood (2.33), Carlos Villanueva (3.02) and Jeff Samardzija (3.70).
Baseball may seem understandable merely by swimming through its ocean of numbers, but at times like these numbers are not that helpful. The numbers say the Rocks are pretty good. They have hit well and they have pitched well in the season's early going. But it is not yet enough of a sample size to tell you much.
Now they face some adversity. Cuddyer, one of their best hitters in the early going, is on the shelf.
"You feel like you're leaving your teammates, but it is what it is," said Cuddyer, who has had issues with his neck twice before during his career. "Injuries happen and you can't do anything about it. You just try and get healthy and get back on the field."
Helton, their other veteran leader, is no longer capable of leading the team offensively. So the weight falls on the younger stars -- Tulowitzki, Gonzalez and Fowler.
Can they carry it? Is this the fragile team of the past couple of seasons or has it grown up enough to bring a little fight to the party?
We'll know soon enough.
Let's give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he was playing to the three guys who will suit up as referees for Game 6 in Oakland on Thursday night. Otherwise, Mark Jackson's whine about the dirty, dastardly Nuggets following the Warriors' 107-100 loss in Game 5 sounded like the indignation of a schoolyard bully who finally got his.
For their part, the Nuggets should take it as a compliment. It's the first time in history they've been mistaken for the Bad Boys.
"They were the more physical team," Jackson said. "They were the aggressor. They hurt us in the first half scoring the basketball, points in the paint. Made us pay for our turnovers. They tried to send hit men on Steph. But give them credit. It wasn't cocky basketball. They outplayed us. It wasn't magic. They outplayed us."
Uh, hold on, you sort of buried the lead there, Mark. Hit men?
"You know, some dirty plays early," he said. "It's playoff basketball. That's all right. We own it. But make no mistake about it: We went up 3-1 playing hard, physical, clean basketball, not trying to hurt anybody."
Self-righteousness has always been a Jackson trait , but this was a dizzying passive-aggressive two-step in which every allegation of malfeasance was accompanied by an assurance that it was fine; to be expected, in fact, in playoff basketball. Thus his assessment of Kenneth Faried's performance:
"He set some great screens, and some great illegal ones, too. He did his job. Hey, I played with guys like that. You're paid to do that. Dale Davis, Anthony Davis, Charles Oakley. You're paid to do it. So give 'em credit. But, as an opposing coach, I see it, and I'm trying to protect my guys."
It is not clear, exactly, how whining in public about one of the softer teams in the NBA protects his guys, unless it's an attempt to influence the next officiating crew, in which case it might be delivered more effectively the day before Game 6 so it's all over the media during the 24 hours those referees are in town preparing to do the game.
Jackson takes many things personally and this was one of them. That line about how the Nuggets' win wasn't magic? That had been simmering 48 hours. Nuggets coach George Karl used the word after Game 4 to describe the Warriors' incredible shooting -- .530 through the first four games, .576 in their three wins.
"The next 48 hours is going to be difficult, to say the least," Karl said then. "They've found some magic and we got to somehow take it away from them."
Apparently, this qualifies as disrespect these days. I don't know who described the Warriors as "cocky," but Jackson got back at him, too.
The Nuggets were by turns perplexed and amused.
"They play dirty every night," said Faried, who was shoved to the floor beyond the baseline by Warriors center Andrew Bogut in perhaps the most replayed scene of the series so far. "And they target me. Every rebound, they try to hit me and try to hurt me. It's basketball."
Faried, like Steph Curry, the Warriors guard Jackson said was targeted by hit men, is recovering from a sprained ankle.
"I think I've taken the hardest hit throughout the series," said Andre Iguodala, the star of the Nuggets' Game 5 victory. "I think it was Game 1 or 2. Bogut leaned into me. Fullcourt screen. And I didn't remember what happened the rest of the game. So I think they kind of brought the physicality to the series and we've just stopped being the receivers and we're starting to hit back a little bit."
The only specific play Jackson cited was a glancing collision between Faried and Curry at the free throw line that sent Curry sprawling. From my vantage point, I couldn't tell if Faried tripped him or gave him a little hip or knee check on the way by. Either way, it was a message that Curry no longer had a letter of transit through Denver's defense.
This is pretty mild stuff by NBA playoff standards, as Charles Barkley, Shaquille O'Neal and Kenny Smith confirmed in their conversation on TNT later that night. They agreed nothing particularly heinous had occurred in the Nuggets-Warriors game and that Jackson's remarks were ill-advised. Then they showed video of truly dirty playoff fouls.
Jackson's fusillade did manage to divert the Game 5 storyline from the fact that his marvelous shooters did, for one night anyway, lose their magic touch. The Warriors shot a rather mortal .432 and Curry, the star of the series so far, made just one of seven three-point attempts.
Superficially, at least, the difference was that Karl went back to a standard NBA lineup. He had abandoned it first when Faried sprained his ankle just before the end of the regular season and then because center Kosta Koufos was such a stiff in the first two games of the series, especially the second, when the Warriors became just the fourth visitor all season to win on Denver's home floor.
After Jackson lost power forward David Lee to a torn hip flexor in Game 1, he moved small forward Harrison Barnes to power forward and added guard Jarrett Jack, making it a three-guard lineup. In Games 3 and 4, Karl followed suit, keeping small forward Wilson Chandler at power forward, a position he'd assumed during Faried's absence. Faried moved from power forward to center and Koufos moved to the bench. With Faried still hampered by the ankle, this lineup was so small that it was obliterated on the boards, usually a Nuggets strength.
Jackson got a lot of credit for this tactical move, which was shrouded in a strangely transparent ruse. In each of the Warriors' wins, he offered for pre-game introductions a lineup in which a traditional power forward, Carl Landry, was in Lee's place. Then, when it was time to actually start the game, he deployed the one with Jack in Lee's place and Landry on the bench. If Karl took offense as easily as Jackson does, he might have viewed this odd gamesmanship as an attempt to deceive him.
In any case, Karl went back to a standard lineup for Game 5, but substituted JaVale McGee, his erratic but athletically sensational backup center, for Koufos. The Nuggets led 36-22 after one and 66-46 at intermission.
When I asked Jackson about this tactical move, he declared it irrelevant.
"We lost the game because they scored in the paint, we turned the basketball over, they got it going in transition and we made mistakes," he said. "No matter who's on the floor, when we play our brand of basketball, we'll be just fine. We put together a run with small guys on the floor, so it has nothing to do with size. We have to stay true to who we are."
When Jackson went small in the second half, Karl matched up and the Nuggets' big lead -- 22 at its height -- melted away. The Warriors got within five three times in the final minutes. I asked Karl why he thought that happened.
"We can go to switching more of their pick-and-rolls and play smaller or we can go bigger and try to rotate," he said. "That's a game-time decision for us most of the time. I think we actually slowed down more in the second half. We only scored 41 points in the second half. We somehow got to get enough energy on the court to keep the tempo and pace fast."
As if anticipating Jackson's allegations, which came minutes later, Karl closed his interview session with a joke, an unprompted rhetorical question:
"Did Draymond Green play football or basketball at Michigan State?"
Green is the Warriors' 6-foot-7, 230-pound, rookie defensive specialist. He managed four personal fouls in 14 minutes of action.
The Nuggets desperately needed a big game from somebody other than Ty Lawson and they got it from Iguodala, who put up 25 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. The last Nugget to post 25 and 12 in a playoff game was LaPhonso Ellis. Throw in the assists and you have to go back to Fat Lever.
"Honestly, I didn't really change anything from the last two or three games," Iguodala said. "I felt like Game 2, the shot felt really well. Same with the two games in Oakland. I feel really good in that arena. So I didn't change too much. I just tried to be a little more assertive once I got the ball because either I'm going to make a play for someone else or I can make a play for myself. So the guys relied on me to do that tonight."
In fact, Iguodala has been shooting well in the series -- he was at .512 from the field and .400 from long distance going into Game 5; those numbers are .534 and .429 now -- but not to nearly as much effect. He was averaging 14.8 points a game before his 25-point explosion.
The Nuggets also got a big first half from Chandler, who struggled through the first four games, shooting .356. Chandler's splits alone may account for the big first half lead and the disappearing second half lead. He had 16 before halftime, three after.
Still, the big story heading into Game 6 will be the allegations of dirty play, even if Jackson's coach on the floor, Jack, didn't seem to share the perception.
"It was good defense and we welcome good defense," he said of the Nuggets. "It felt like good defense. We liked it. There is nothing further to it. We're a close-knit bunch, a battle-tested bunch; nothing can get us out of our character. I don't even know what you're talking about."
Iguodala knew, and he was pretty sure it went both ways.
"Are the Warriors taking cheap shots?" he asked, repeating a question. "I think it's just part of the big game of basketball. I've been hit a few times and I've wondered who it was or how they caught me. I had to go back on tape because I've been hit with some shots and it wasn't a ghost hitting me."