Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Hitting Is No Longer the Problem

Rockies 1, Dodgers 7

Being a Rockies fan right now is just maddening. That's the only word for it. Because at this point, the time for excuses as past. We know we have the talent, maybe not to be the best team in baseball, but certainly to be competitive in our division this season. And yet, after sitting comfortably in first place for almost all of April, our team is now thisclose to slipping all the way into the basement. And not because the other teams in the division are playing great baseball. One could argue that the Diamondbacks sort of are, but no one whose opinion I respect really thinks that will last. If the Rockies were playing up to their potential, the Dbacks would not be a problem.

The Rockies need to go back to spring training. They seem to have completely lost their ability to do fundamental things like bunt, run the bases, and NOT hit into double plays. And then there was that absolute disaster of a play in left center last night, when Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler actually collided, turning an easy flyout into an RBI single. If you missed the game and just read the box score, you wouldn't know that had happened because for some reason the official scorer decided to rule it as a sac fly. That's what it would have been if somebody whose head is in the game had been playing in the outfield. Both of them should have been charged with an error.

The really tough thing about this game was that the Rox had no trouble putting the bat on the ball. But they were so unfocused in how they did it. It was the kind of game that made me wish I was a gambling woman, because I would have made a lot of money betting that the Rockies would strand every single runner who got on base in the game. They scored just one run on 14 hits. The Dodgers scored 7 runs on 11 hits. That is so painful I am simply at a loss for how to express it.

Of course, bad luck was on our side in many cases as well. I typically don't pay attention to which umpires are which, because they all look the same to me and in general they don't distinguish themselves enough for me to remember who they are. Joe West is in a class all by himself, though. I did know who he was going into this game, because he's so notorious for making up his own set of rules when he's officiating. Unfortunately for the Rockies, he was behind home plate last night, and his strike zone was probably the most fluid I have ever seen. Ty Wigginton struck out looking more than once on pitches he nearly had to jump out of the way of. Granted, as we learned from Ian Stewart, backing away from a pitch doesn't mean it's unhittable. But in this case, many of them were. The worst West offense, however, was in the Dodgers' 3rd. To be fair, Jason Hammel gave up 3 straight singles to load the bases with nobody out, so he's not completely exonerated. And I also partially blame Eric Young, who is really having trouble figuring out how to play 2nd base. But West called at least 2 balls with Andre Ethier batting that were just unquestionably strikes. Hammel had no choice but to pitch Ethier right down the pipe, and of course a 2-run single resulted.

Like I said before, though, the time for excuses has past. Yes, West is a disgrace to his profession, but even without his help the Rockies would have lost this game handily. They were cursed from the very first inning, when Cargo singled with 2 out and Troy Tulowitzki actually managed a clutch hit. Cargo, who had stolen 2nd, neglected to recall the strength of Matt Kemp's arm, and was thrown out at home. After that, the only Rockie who would move from 3rd to home was Wiggy, who hit a solo home run in the 4th. This followed a Todd Helton walk and a Seth Smith double play. If Smith had reached base, it would have been a 3-run home run. But this game was inning after inning of multiple baserunners who were stranded because the hits were so poorly timed. The teamwork right now is appalling. No wonder everyone is getting so anxious; if you can't trust the man behind you to move you over, of course you're going to try to swing for the fence every time. Tulo is the worst by far. I love him, he's my favorite Rockie, but he's slipping big time right now. He's the de facto captain of the team, but he's also the one most likely to lose it when he's struggling. His anxiety is clearly contagious, and it's bleeding out in the clubhouse right now.

Chad Billingsley gave up a career high 11 hits and got the W. This is the first time in Rockies history that they have gotten 14 hits and only scored 1 run. Things are getting worse, not better. It's feeling like summer 2009 all over again. It's time for a change, and I'm not just talking about a roster move.

Tweet of the Game: @303beautho: "The #Rockies just don't know how to play baseball very well." No, they certainly do not.

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