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.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Half-Clutch

Rockies 3, Cardinals 4

The Diamondbacks now sit atop the National League West, if that gives you any idea what kind of day this has been. I must congratulate them for taking advantage of the vacuum the Giants and Rockies have left. But ick.

I prefer that the Rockies not rally in the 9th anymore. Just don't do it. It's so much worse for us when they start a comeback and can't finish it. I would honestly rather they go quietly. I would also rather they not score 21 runs in 3 games and only win one of them. Just some simple requests.

They were so close today it really was physically painful. This game was harder to watch than the 10-3 loss on Friday, because at least the team fell out of that one early and never climbed back in. This time, they started to climb, but lost their grip at the last minute.

Is it too much to ask that the Rockies FINALLY have a walk-off win? It's starting to seem like perhaps they are not allowed to win in the final inning, although I cannot come up with a reason for why that would be. I need them to have one soon. I keep picturing Ryan Spilborghs running down the line and throwing his helmet in the air after hitting that grand slam in August 2009. What a spark that seemed to light. We could really use a spark like that again.

Okay, I've gone on long enough without giving you actual details about the game. I promise not to make that a habit. Here's what happened: Jhoulys Chacin had a weird outing. He gave up 6 hits but also struck out 7. And two of those hits drove in 3 runs in the 1st inning, which would give the Cardinals a lead they would not lose. The 4th run was a lead-off home run by Colby Rasmus in the 4th. Matt Reynolds, Matt Lindstrom, and Rafael Betancourt each pitched a hitless inning. Good effort, guys.

Once again, the Rockies often couldn't seem to get each other home. They did put together a nice 3rd inning: Chris Iannetta doubled, Chacin bunted him over to 3rd, and Eric Young Jr.'s sac fly brought him home. But in the 5th they had 2 on with 1 out and didn't score. In the 7th, things started out well with a Todd Helton double and a Ty Wigginton RBI single. Spilly singled and Iannetta walked to load the bases with NO out. Jason Giambi came in to pinch hit and struck out. There were still 2 outs to burn when EY came to the plate, but he drove the ball right into the glove of second baseman Tyler Greene, who stepped on the bag and doubled off Spilly. That is the absolute worst way that inning could have gone following the walk. The worst. Good teams do not load the bases with nobody out and fail to score. Period.

It was the 9th inning that hurt real bad though. Spilly walked and then advanced to 2nd on defensive indifference. EY came to the plate with 2 out and delivered with an RBI single. Dexter Fowler followed that with a single that moved EY to 3rd. (I can't help thinking, IF ONLY he had stolen 2nd he could have scored on Fowler's hit ...) All Carlos Gonzalez had to do was hit through a hole in the infield. Anything other than an out would have scored EY. But he grounded into a force out, and that was the game. It's that much harder to see them start to come back, start to come through in the clutch, and then fall short still. The Brewers walked off against the Giants on Saturday with a brilliant suicide squeeze. Those are the kinds of plays we need to start seeing, bold, strategic moves that may or may not win the game but will at least get the guys fired up and feeling lucky. Their next chance for a walk-off will be June 9th, but maybe they can find a way to win in extra innings during their upcoming road trip.

Tweet of the Game is also one of the best tweets of the season thus far. Some people just have the right words to describe how we're all feeling, as did our friend @chrischrisman: "Bases loaded ... Nobody out ... Zero runs. I feel like Ralph Parker after he decoded the Little Orphan Annie message."

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Good Hitting AND Good Pitching?!

Rockies 15, Cardinals 4

I want so so much to just be thrilled and ecstatic over this win, but I can't help thinking of how the Rockies scored 12 runs in the first half of their doubleheader Tuesday and then scored only 2 in the second half. Indeed, I refuse to make grand pronouncements about the Return of the Rockies' Offense. They are too inconsistent for anyone to be sure of that right now. But that's all the negative you're going to get out of me tonight. On to the happiness!

The Rockies haven't scored 15 runs yet this season, so to see them do it at the end of a month during which their bats have been so impotent, and against a team that was potentially unbeatable, was perfect. Their 6-run 1st inning may have been the best inning they've put together all season. Not only did they bat around, but everybody contributed something except the pitcher and Ty Wigginton. It was also quite satisfying to see just how they plated those 6 runs. No grandiose attempts at heroism were made. Everyone just got in there and took pitches and put their bats on the ball when the right one came along. The inning included 2 walks, 6 hits (all singles) and one stolen base by the irrepressible Eric Young Jr. The Cardinals' Jaime Garcia came into the game with a 1.93 ERA and left with a 3.28. It's unreal the way the Rockies were able to get to him considering how they have been dominated by lesser pitchers this season. But, a win is a win.

I'm not going to list every offensive accomplishment, because that could get tedious, but I will say that everybody in the starting lineup had at least one hit, and Young and Ryan Spilborghs had 3 apiece. Spilly also had 4 RBIs in the game. The proud owner of SIX RBIs is long-baller Chris Iannetta. He was the only Rockie to go deep in the game, and he did it twice. I wish he hit in more games, specifically the ones in which no one else is hitting, but I appreciate his run production either way.

Juan Nicasio made his major league debut with the Rockies tonight, and he is as advertised. His fastball topped out around 97 mph, and he did a great job stranding runners. He allowed 6 hits in 7 innings pitched, but only one of those runners crossed the plate. In the 5th, Tony Cruz doubled and then moved to 3rd on Iannetta's passed ball. He scored on Ryan Theriot's groundout. The run was unearned because of Iannetta's error, so Nicasio's ERA stands at 0.00. Pretty great considering he went so deep into the game. If I have concerns about him at this point, it's that he doesn't keep the ball on the ground all that well. That could prove to be a problem at Coors in the future. But this was only one outing, so who knows what kind of pitcher he'll turn out to be in the long-term. Considering the offense he was facing, this was a spectacular debut. And he now has one more win than Ubaldo.

Greg Reynolds, who was initially supposed to get the start tonight, pitched the 8th inning and gave up 3 runs on 3 hits. I don't know what to say about that except that it's a good thing he didn't start. And that Nicasio's outing looks that much better by comparison. Huston Street closed the game, allowing 2 baserunners but no runs. He had an 11-run lead, so I was breathing much more easily than I do when he comes on in a save situation.

Well? I hope this Rockies offense is here to stay. I don't know if they are or not. One thing I will say for them is that they go out every time and, if the pitcher didn't bring his A game, they take advantage of him. They did it to Tim Lincecum a few weeks ago, to Josh Collmenter earlier this week, and to Jaime Garcia tonight. If they can find a way to hit mediocre pitchers who did bring their A game, just every so often, they might be able to climb out of the hole they dug this month.

Tweet of the Game: @PoseidonsFist can always be counted on to give you the downside. But he's also usually right, as was the case with this tweet: "Wonder how many people tuned in to Fox around the country and thought "stupid Coors Field. Always so much offense."

Friday, May 27, 2011

Rockies = Slump Killers

Rockies 3, Cardinals 10

Here's a theory: what if the Rockies, after doing so well in April, realized that they were denying their fans the opportunity to see them win 21 of 22 games in September and come from behind to take the division? What if they thought, hey. This isn't how we operate. We're supposed to suck in the spring so that at the end of the season, we can go on a tear and give our fans another September to remember. Let's start losing in really embarrassing ways.

Well. It's a theory anyway. Here are a few confirmed facts: 1) Brandon Crawford, the minor-leaguer the Giants called up to replace Buster Posey in the lineup, hit a grand slam in just his third major league at-bat in Milwaukee yesterday. It was the difference in the game, because the Giants won 5-4. 2) The Cardinals' Colby Rasmus, prior to arriving at Coors Field yesterday, was 1-for-25. Last night, he went 4-for-5 with a pair of triples, off two different pitchers, and he drove in 3 of the Cards' runs. 3) Felipe Paulino, of whom the Rockies community was so happy to be rid, made his debut for the Royals last night. He pitched 4 1/3 innings and gave up 1 hit and no runs. I'll let you draw your own conclusions from those three pieces of information.

I want Ubaldo Jimenez to win a game so bad I feel actual pain in my chest when I see him start to lose. Cold comfort is the fact that he actually did deserve to lose this game, as opposed to his last couple of starts. In 6 innings pitched, he gave up 6 runs on 12 hits. For once he only walked 2, but if you give up 12 hits, the number of walks you allow is irrelevant. His ERA leaped to 5.86. I want to give him a big giant hug. Then I want to send him to Asheville for the rest of the season.

Of course, the game was lost long before the bullpen got involved, but they weren't that great either. Matt Daley, whose previous 4 appearances were better than good, pitched 1 inning and gave up 3 runs on 2 hits (one of which was the second Rasmus triple). Bruce Billings, in his major league debut, got both Rasmus and Albert Pujols to ground into double plays, but he also gave up a run on 5 hits in 2 innings pitched. I saw one inning last night that was acceptably pitched, and that was Ubaldo's 5th.

Offensively, at first it looked as though the Rox might actually keep pace with the very very hot-hitting Cardinals. Matt Holliday's quad injury seemed like it might give us a fighting chance, since the combination of Pujols, Holliday, and Lance Berkman spells doom for just about any pitcher right now. But Pujols and Berkman did plenty in Holliday's absence, and the Rockies stopped hitting after the 3rd inning.

After a scoreless 1st, Troy Tulowitzki drew a lead-off walk in the 2nd. Todd Helton grounded out and moved Tulo to 2nd. Ty Wigginton singled Tulo home. Ryan Spilborghs grounded out and moved Wiggy to 2nd. And Chris Iannetta doubled Wiggy home. It was a very good inning because the outs were actually productive. In both cases, they moved a runner into scoring position and allowed that runner to cross the plate on the next batter's hit. And after this inning, the Rockies were actually leading 2-1. That felt nice.

In the 3rd, with the Cards now leading 3-2, the Rockies struck again. Eric Young Jr. is finally back from Colorado Springs, and Lord knows we need his energy and his hustle. He hit a single to lead off the 3rd. Jonathan Herrera bunted him over. And Cargo's single allowed him to score. I'm so glad that he was able to score a run in his 2011 debut with the Rockies. I just wish it wasn't the last run the team scored in the game. After EY crossed the plate, things started to look a little more familiar. Tulo singled and Helton walked to load the bases with 1 out. Wiggy struck out and Spilly grounded into a force out. And they would not hit again.

The bright spot, besides the fact that the Rox were able to manufacture a few runs, was the defense. Spilly made a killer throw from right to prevent Daniel Descalso from scoring. The infield turned 3 double plays. And Ubaldo picked Berkman off 2nd base. Nobody made an error in this game. That's something.

Drew Goodman: "This was a 3-3 game, George. It's turned into an old-fashioned you-know-what." Certain words can no longer even be spoken aloud.

This is going to be a tough series. If the Rockies can't beat the Dbacks, they're not going to beat the Cardinals right now. As a team, the Cards are batting .285 (compared to the Rockies' .239). I think the best we can hope for is to get out of the series without giving up 19 hits per game. I hate to set the bar so low, but I'm tired of feeling sad, and I would like to have something to celebrate.

Tweet of the Game: @hitbyapitch offered a solution to this Rockies problem that I, and I'm sure you, had not yet considered: "Let's replace the Rockies pitching staff with dubstep DJs and see what happens." I'm in.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

This Was a Sweep, Folks

Rockies 3, Diamondbacks 6

I realize that the Rockies played four games against the Dbacks in this series, and that they won one of them. But that one they won was a makeup from opening weekend when they were snowed out. As far as I'm concerned, they now have yet another winning series in April, and yet another sweep in May. This sweep hurts more than the others because it was at home, and it was against the DIAMONDBACKS. Not a good team. Not good pitchers. The Rockies have made them look like superstars.

What can be said at this point? I confess I'm at a loss for words. I keep suggesting solutions, and many of them have occurred to Jim Tracy and Dan O'Dowd as well, but none of them have worked. I was sure that last night's lineup, which finally featured every good hitter we have and none of the awful ones, could score runs. And they did score a few. But it wasn't enough. I'm almost glad Huston Street gave up that dinger in the 9th, because otherwise we would have lost yet another one-run game. At least that home run made the loss as much the pitchers' fault. I was starting to get really tired of blaming the offense, even though they were to blame.

Let's give the offense this much: they put together a couple of good innings last night. In fact, only Seth Smith failed to reach base, which is ironic considering a) he is the one I would think most likely to reach base and b) he was batting lead-off. The 4th inning featured something we've hardly seen at all this season but should have been seeing nearly every game: Carlos Gonzalez led off with a single and then advanced to 2nd on a wild pitch. Troy Tulowitzki singled him home. Hats off to Tulo for going the opposite way, too. That's what those two are supposed to do; it's why we pay them the big bucks. It was nice to see them earning it for once. And Todd Helton came up behind Tulo and hit a single. There was still nobody out. But Ty Wigginton couldn't stop himself from hitting into a double play. Even with none of the awful hitters in the lineup, we still don't have a perfect 1-8 yet.

The 7th inning also went quite well. Helton walked, Wigginton singled, and Fowler walked, to load the bases with 1 out. Jason Giambi hit a sacrifice fly that scored Helton. And Ryan Spilborghs, not so good in the clutch lately, came through with a 2-out single that scored Wiggy. Jonathan Herrera, unfortunately, killed the rally by grounding out, but up till then everyone had done the right things. I'm heartened every time I see good situational hitting at work. That, not another Tulo home run tear, is what will ultimately pull us out of this abyss.

Clayton Mortensen again showed that he's not easily rattled by baserunners. A double, a lousy defensive play by Wigginton, and an intentional walk loaded the bases with 1 out in the 2nd. Morty struck out the next two batters to end the inning. I love watching him do that. Unfortunately, the long ball is always a possibility at Coors, and after walking two batters in the 4th, Morty gave up a home run to Miguel Montero. That put the Dbacks up 3-0. They got another run on a Melvin Mora RBI single that was made possible by a single, a steal, and a throwing error that moved Chris Young to 3rd. All 4 runs were earned because Morty gave up the hits that allowed the runners on, but that error was costly. We can't afford that right now. Overall, not a bad outing for Mortensen. If he hadn't given up the home run, he might have gotten the win.

Bullpen notes: I love Matt Daley and Matt Lindstrom. We Rockies fans have an embarrassment of riches in the Matt department. Huston: no more home runs. Just stop it.

By now we all know that Buster Posey, the Giants' catcher, is out for the summer and possibly the season. Let me make it clear that I do not like injuries. To any player, under any circumstances. A baseball player's job is to play baseball, and when he isn't able to do that, we should all feel the injustice of that. However, if ever there was a good time for an injury to a key Giants' player, it's now. The Rockies failed this week to take advantage of the Marlins' sweep of the Giants, but in theory San Francisco is going to have a lot of trouble winning in the coming weeks. Based on what the Rockies' offense SHOULD be doing, we run away with this division in the end. But they aren't doing what they should be doing, and I don't know why. They better start, though, because after the Cardinals at Coors this weekend, they've got a fun little road trip through Cali during which the runs certainly aren't going to manufacture themselves.

Tweet of the Game: @rafaelrojasc summed it up nicely: "The curious case of the #Rockies offense. Still missing." Yep.

Look on the Bright Side

Rockies 1, Diamondbacks 2

So yesterday I was told by a Twitter follower that he was tired of the thoughts I write and I needed to look for more silver linings. And also that he liked my blog. Well, I'm getting tired of my thoughts as well, and flattery will get you everywhere, so this post is dedicated to him, and I'm determined to find as many silver linings from yesterday as I possibly can.

1) Jason Hammel technically shut out the Diamondbacks yesterday. In 7 innings pitched, he gave up 2 runs, but neither was earned. Both came in the 6th inning, which began with a throwing error by non-shortstop Alfredo Amezaga that allowed Ryan Roberts to reach base. He scored on Kelly Johnson's double, who then scored on Chris Young's single. Hammel walked 2 and struck out 5 in his outing. Aside from that 6th inning, he was pretty perfect. As much as we're all bumming at losing DLR, the truth is that our rotation is strong right now. Ubaldo Jimenez is the weakest link of the four who still have spots in the rotation, and he's one game of decent run support away from not being so weak anymore.

2) The Rockies are still hitting the ball well. There have been more line drives smacked right into somebody's glove this week than I care to count. Last night, Todd Helton hit a screamer into the second deck that was foul by a shadow. Ty Wigginton hit another to straightaway center that Chris Young reached over the wall and caught. It was the Play of the Day on MLB Network, so that should tell you how much Wiggy was robbed. The Rox just need a little luck and a little bit more strategy at the plate. If the infield puts the shift on, hit it to the opposite field. That's been a challenge for many of them. But they're making contact, often anyway, and hitting it hard, which is good news.

3) The bullpen is generally pitching great. With Franklin Morales and Felipe Paulino no longer in danger of being called upon, I actually don't cringe when the starter has to leave the game. Greg Reynolds was terrific in long relief on Tuesday, and no Rockies reliever has given up a run in a loss since last Friday's disaster in Milwaukee after which Paulino got the boot. I hope we can get poor, underused Huston Street some save opportunities some time soon, but in the meantime it's nice to see such a solid group of relievers at the ready. We shouldn't forget their role in our winning streak back in April; they held those leads and closed those games, many of them won by one run. They're going to start doing that again soon.

4) Not everybody is slumping. In particular, how good is Seth Smith right now? He's hitting .312, the best average on the team, and he's the only one I think I can confidently say has been reliable since the beginning of the season. This is even more gratifying considering how tough last season was for him. He finished at .246 in 2010, but he's hardly dipped out of the .300's at all in 2011. Last night he was the only Rockie with more than 1 hit. Mr. Late Night has become Mr. Anytime You Need Him. I like it.

5) Chris Iannetta is a good catcher most of the time. He does have issues with blocking balls in the dirt occasionally, but we can't discount his role in our pitchers' success so far this year. He's come a million miles in terms of his ability to call the right pitches and keep the guy on the mound focused and calm. He threw out Miguel Montero with a bullet to 3rd in last night's game. Montero was the 11th runner Iannetta has caught stealing; only Buster Posey and Brian McCann have done it more in the National League. (Yes, I know that the Dbacks still stole four bases last night, but we're looking on the bright side, remember?) Iannetta still doesn't have an error on the season, and no other catcher in the majors with as many games played (33) can say the same. We're lucky to have him as our backstop, and it doesn't hurt that he sometimes hits 3-run home runs, too.

6) The division race is far from over. We may have fallen into 3rd place in the NL West behind the Diamondbacks with last night's loss, but it's only by half a game, and we can take that back today. I highly doubt the Dbacks are going to be in the running by the end of the season; with the way the Dodgers are playing, it still seems likely to come down to just us and the Giants. The Giants have caught some extremely lucky breaks this season, and they're good at small ball. The Rockies have been unlucky, and they're good at big innings. The tables can easily turn at any point, and hopefully the Rox will help them by improving their situational hitting. With the way things have gone lately, it feels like we should be about 90 games back, but instead we're only out of first place by 3! Now that is a silver lining.

Tweet of the Game: I'm giving this one to @KellieAldrich, because even though technically she was wrong, this is the spirit I like to see: "We will win. #rockies."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A High High, a Low Low, and a Really Low Low

Rockies 12, Diamondbacks 4

Every time the Rockies have a game like the first game of their twin-bill with the Diamondbacks yesterday, I think oh! Maybe the bats are back! And I usually say something to that effect on this, my humble attempt to capture the Rockies trials and triumphs in writing. But I nearly always eat my words the very next day, because the Rox have failed to string together more than a couple of wins at a time in a good six weeks. Every time it looks like the bats are back, the team plays their next game looking as though they aren't sure which end of the bat to hold.

In truth, it was still pretty nice to see those 12 runs cross the plate. Especially because they came after the Rockies were down 3-0 and Jorge De La Rosa had left the game in the 3rd inning. The deluge started in the bottom of the 4th with a couple of, yes, solo home runs by Carlos Gonzalez and Seth Smith. In the 5th, they finally got some decent situational hitting going. Jonathan Herrera reached base on an error with 1 out. Dexter Fowler singled and Cargo walked to load the bases. Troy Tulowitzki, resisting the urge to swing for the fence, took a walk as well, and Herrera scored. Todd Helton hit a sacrifice fly, which has been so elusive for the Rox for reasons unknown. That scored Fowler. And then Seth Smith doubled home Cargo. It was a 3-run inning, the likes of which we aren't seeing more than once in a blue moon these days. But guess what? They actually did it more than once in this game.

First they had a 2-run inning, in the 6th. A walk, a single, and a walk loaded the bases with Chris Iannetta, Alfredo Amezaga, and Fowler. Cargo finally made a productive out, hitting it to the second baseman whose only play was at his own bag. Iannetta scored. Tulo singled home Amezaga. In the 7th, Iannetta, Ryan Spilborghs, and Herrera hit back-to-back-to-back singles. Herrera's scored Iannetta. Fowler came up with Spilly and Johnny on base and hit a triple that, naturally, cleared the bases. He then scored on Cargo's 2nd home run of the day. I'm starting to really agree with those who think Fowler is better off in the bottom of the order. His primary talent seems to be extra-base hits in clutch situations. Why is a guy like that ever leading off? He needs to hit behind guys who can get on base for him.

The Rox wouldn't score again, but who cares? 12 runs on 14 hits? More please.

And don't discount Greg Reynolds's performance out of the bullpen. He was called up to start on Saturday versus the Cardinals, but with DLR leaving the game so early, his services were needed earlier. He pitched 3 2/3 innings and gave up 3 hits and 1 run. That's decent. He kept us in this game. Also very very good were Rafael Betancourt and Matt Reynolds, who each pitched a perfect inning. Matt Daley gave up his first run of the year, but he kept the damage to a minimum.


Rockies 2, Diamondbacks 5

The nightcap didn't go so well. It looked exactly like so many games the Rockies have played in lately: a good start by a pitcher who struggled later in his outing, and took the loss because we never got our offense going. Whatever Kool Aid the Rox were drinking before the first game, they forgot to spike it before the second.

The guys managed 6 hits, but they never came one after the other in the way they did in the first game, so they couldn't get the rally going. Both Rockies runs came from solo homers, by Jason Giambi in the 2nd and Ty Wigginton in the 7th. They almost got something going in the 3rd, with a pair of 2-out singles by Fowler and Cargo. Then there was this really bizarre moment when a wild pitch, that seemed for a moment as though it had hit Troy Tulowitzki, induced Fowler to run for home. Dbacks catcher Miguel Montero came up with the ball quickly and delivered it to pitcher Joe Saunders at the plate. He collided with Fowler there, and it looked pretty painful. It also looked like Fowler was safe. Not in a Matt-Holliday-touched-the-plate-wink-wink kind of way, but in a look-his-foot-touched-the-plate-a-full-second-before-the-tag kind of way. Jim Tracy felt that too, and the home plate umpire gave him less than half a minute to state his case before he ejected him. Just a weird play from start to finish.

And the Rockies only managed to get two men on base one other time, in the 7th. Of course, there were 2 outs, and Jim Runnels chose to pinch hit Jose Lopez, so nothing came of that.

Jhoulys Chacin didn't have his best start, which certainly didn't help matters. He gave up 5 runs on 5 hits in 7 innings, and his ERA jumped to 3.09. The most damaging inning was the 5th, when he allowed a walk and three doubles, each of which came with an RBI. Matt Belisle and Matt Lindstrom pitched a perfectly competent 8th and 9th, but by then it was too late.

It's time to start rethinking this season a bit, as a fan. For me at least, it's much easier to take nothing for granted, so that if something very good does happen in the final play-off push, it's a pleasant surprise rather than an entitlement. I'm not saying we shouldn't expect the best out of this team. But the truth is, it's not a perfect team. We have some good solid pitching, but our number-one guy still doesn't have a win on the season. Our closer sometimes saves the game and sometimes doesn't. And our offense is really dependent on Cargo and Tulo. If those guys aren't hitting, nobody is. They are both pretty streaky, so unless they find a way to coordinate their streaks so they're opposite of one another, we can't count on them to carry us right now, either. Who knows what could happen in the end? There have already been some very happy surprises on the season (especially Clayton Mortensen). But realistic is the word.


If you were living under a rock yesterday, and somehow you missed the news about Jorge De La Rosa's injury, I guess I have the dubious honor of breaking it to you. He tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow, which generally means Tommy John surgery. (The headline on the MLB website heartlessly reads "De La Rosa tears ligament; season over.") Those words "Tommy John" don't necessarily spell total doom, but they do spell LONG recovery time. Jeff Francis, still my favorite Rockies pitcher of all-time (sorry Denny Neagle fans), had shoulder surgery following the 2008 season and was out all of 2009. To be fair, that operation is more difficult for a pitcher to come back from. It took him a very long time to get his feet back under him in 2010, and the front office apparently felt that he never was able to. They failed to offer him a contract for 2011 and he left for Kansas City, where he's just recently gotten his first win. As a Rockies fan, it was devastating to watch the Francis story unfold, and to know that we may be in for something similar with DLR really casts a pall over everything. Sorry to be a downer, kids. But this is baseball, and sometimes it hurts.

Going forward, we have Aaron Cook coming over the disabled list, but as he's a righty, the team may try to make a move for a lefty to take DLR's spot. His injury could, in the short-term, give us the opportunity to call up Rex Brothers for the bullpen, since everyone is chomping at the bit to see what he can do. We'll see how things play out in the next couple weeks.

Tweet(s) of the Game(s): It's a tie between two that captured the severe frustration we all have with the Rockies feast-or-famine offense right now.

@ibleedcsugreen: #Rockies: The scores from the 1st game don't carry over. You actually need to score some runs. Thank you.

@cheryltweedy: And the #Rockies lose the second game of the doubleheader 5-2. Can somebody tell them you're allowed to win more than one game in a row?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

"Rockies' Road Woes"

Rockies 1, Brewers 3

I put that title in quotes because it might as well be a permanent fixture in the glossary of any self-respecting baseball analyst. The note of glee in their voices when they say it is inexplicable. But I assure you they have been looking for a reason to use it all month long, as the Rockies slowly went from 11-4 to 13-14 in away games. Get used to hearing it, because it's going to start rolling off their tongues any day now.

The Brewers' sweep of the Rockies this weekend highlighted the team's most glaring weakness, which remains situational hitting. I hope they fix it some time this season, because writers like new material, and eventually I'm going to get tired of this topic. Behold, all the ways in which the Rockies failed to help each other score today.

1) Only one lead-off hitter managed to get on base - Alfredo Amezaga with a 5th-inning walk. All 4 of the Rockies' hits came with 1 or 2 outs. That severely limits a hitter's options in terms of ways to move a run across. 1 on and no out vs. none on and 1 out can very easily be the difference in the game, and likely was today.

2) Twice in the game, a hitter drew a walk when a hit would have been infinitely more productive. Walks serve their purpose, and bad pitches should be taken, but sometimes you have to be aggressive enough to reach out and swing at that borderline pitch when there are runners to move up. Troy Tulowitzki walked in the 1st with 2 out and Carlos Gonzalez on base. To be fair, Randy Wolf really only threw him one hittable pitch, but I would have liked him to swing at it. Worse was Chris Iannetta in the 4th, drawing a walk with 1 out and 2 runners in scoring position. He knew that Ubaldo Jimenez was on deck, and he got a couple of fat curveballs right in the middle of the zone that he didn't even try to go for. His walk was costly, because Jimenez came up next and hit into a double play, wasting all three runners. I appreciate Iannetta's patience generally, but in this situation it was a mistake.

3) Cargo hit into a double play in the 5th. He ought to be able to get it in the air enough to produce a sacrifice fly. When the team is having this much trouble getting runners on base, the least they can do is make a productive out.

4) Innings 6-8 were 1-2-3's. Nothing else needs to be said about that.

5) Jason Giambi looked like his old pinch-hitting self in the 9th, when he came up with 2 out and Seth Smith on and struck out swinging. Hitting streak over.

Dexter Fowler was the only Rockie to cross the plate, which is ironic considering his lack of baserunning prowess. He laced a 2-out triple to center in the 3rd inning, and Cargo was able to drive him with a single. Dex isn't blameless in this game, though; he made such a spectacularly bad play in the bottom half of the 3rd it resulted in all 3 of the Brewers' runs. Ryan Braun sat on a pitch on the outside corner and ripped it into center. Fowler chose to dive for it, despite the fact that, fully extended, he was still a good 6 feet short of the ball. He wasted time trying to be a hero, and the ball rolled all the way to the wall. The Brewers had two runners in scoring position because the previous pitch happened to hit the dirt and, despite a good block by Iannetta, the runners were already going. Those two runs scored easily, but then Fowler threw the ball wide of the cut-off man and Braun practically walked home.

I'm still on Ubaldo's side. I think he had a really good start. It wasn't perfect, but he's never perfect. Yes, he did give up the big hit with runners on base, but the error helped that situation along, and it was one of only 2 hits he gave up in the entire game. It was a complete game, too, even though he only had to pitch 8 innings. Walks and hit batsmen (6 total) were certainly a problem, as they have been; however, nobody should lose a game in which he only gives up 2 hits. If the offense doesn't get it together soon, this season is sunk. They keep having one or two really good games and then acting as though they've never seen a bat before in their lives. It pains me greatly to say this, but we need to start taking a page out of the San Francisco Giants' book. They won in a walk-off again today; they have a severe shortage of great hitters, but they know how to move runners up. A single, a stolen base, and another single plated the winning run. They make it look so simple. But it's how they won the World Series. The way the Rockies are playing right now, they'd get swept just like they did the last time.

I don't have the heart to do a Tweet of the Game today. Just not in a funny mood. Also, all the ones that really captured our groupthink during the game contained quite a large number of expletives. I'll get back to it in the Arizona series next week. 4 games at home vs. the Dbacks - we'll get at least a split, right? Right??

Saturday, May 21, 2011

One-Run Games

Rockies 2, Brewers 3

The Rockies just lost their third one-run game in four tries tonight. This one didn't happen in 14 innings or in spite of a personal-best pitching performance. No, this was just a regular one-run loss in which the Rox were dominated by the opposing pitcher and gave up one too many extra base hits to stay in it.

Our offense struck first, which is always a positive sign. Carlos Gonzalez hit a home run to right in the 1st inning with nobody on base. It was one of those low and away pitches that get thrown at him so often because he tends to whiff at them. Somehow, he managed to kick this one off the end of his bat and rope it over the fence. Nobody was on base, though, and the Rockies wouldn't score again until the 9th. The Brewers' Shaun Marcum got unlucky with that Cargo pitch, but otherwise he had the Rockies' number. They threatened briefly in the 3rd when a Jonathan Herrera single and a Troy Tulowitzki double put 2 runners in scoring position with 2 outs, but Seth Smith couldn't get them home. In the 5th, Dexter Fowler caught got stealing for what felt like the thirtieth time this week. It was actually only the fifth time this season, but that's more than anybody else in the National League. And it's certainly no good for a lead-off hitter. Altogether, the Rockies only managed 4 hits off Marcum, and he rang them up 8 times.

Clayton Mortensen, making a silent but powerful argument for a spot in the starting rotation, looked about the same as he did against the Giants earlier this week, which is to say, not lights out, but definitely in control. He had a tough 1st when 2 doubles and Jose Lopez pulling a Billy Buckner at 3rd resulted in 2 runs scoring. But he didn't allow a runner past 1st base through the next 3 innings. Then he gave up a lead-off home run to Jonathan Lucroy in the 5th that gave the Brewers a 2-run lead. Still, he didn't let it rattle him, and that was the last run he would allow. In the 6th, the Brewers had runners on 1st and 2nd with nobody out, and Mortensen shut the door on them. One of the outs he made was a spectacular pick-off of Ryan Braun off 2nd base. You don't see that very often. I feel that Mortensen's head game is very very promising. He deals exceptionally well with traffic on the bases, and gets creative outs like that to cut the opposing team off at the knees. If the Rockies hadn't been so confused by Marcum, this might have been an easy win for them.

The final 1 1/3 innings were pitched by Matt Daley and Matt Reynolds, perfectly so. Daley struck out all 3 of the batters he faced, and the only thing I don't understand is why it took so long to bring him up. Felipe Paulino has finally been designated for assignment, so there's room to bring up Rex Brothers at some point and really make this bullpen strong.

The Rockies did briefly rally in the 9th, and that was encouraging. Tulo hit a 1-out triple and then scored on a Smith groundout. Jason Giambi, now on a 3-game hitting streak for the first time since probably 2006, came through with a clutch single, but Ty Wigginton struck out to put an end to that opportunity. It's a bittersweet feeling, because on the one hand, I love to see the offense sticking with it till the very end. But on the other hand, it's so painful to see them start to come back and then fail to finish the job. They are 6-10 in 1-run games, which isn't horrendous, but it needs to be better. I'm really hopeful that they'll have a walk-off or extra-inning win some time really soon, just to show themselves they can do it.

Tweet of the Game belongs to @therealtuxy. Rockies fans the world over were irate that Fox's exclusivity agreement with MLB meant that the only game available to us, in any form, during this time slot was Mets-Yankees. He captured this frustration particularly well:
" ': The Mets may have a future star in rookie Justin Turner.' Who cares... now what is going on in the game." That's what we all wanted to know.

Pauli-NO MORE

Rockies 6, Brewers 7, F/14

I try really hard not to be one of those fans who says unnecessarily disparaging things about the players on my team. I think fan support is really important for morale, and living in New York I've seen what can happen when people turn on their players. It's ugly. So that's why I keep defending Ubaldo Jimenez, Huston Street, Ian Stewart, and Chris Iannetta. I know what they can do, and I've seen them do it for us before. It would take a lot for me to stop being supportive of them. (I didn't turn on Franklin Morales until this season, if that gives you any idea.)

Well, Felipe Paulino, consider yourself officially out of favor. I might feel more inclined to give Paulino a break if he had played some good seasons, or even some good games, for us, but he has been nothing but a liability. He is the only pitcher on the Rockies staff with 4 losses, and he's a reliever. It's to the point where when he comes out, we all collectively groan because we know what's coming. I don't care where the front office puts him, but he must go. I would be happy to non-violently escort him to the Major League clubhouse of his choice myself. I don't wish him ill as a person, but I need him as far from my team's bullpen as possible.

The Rockies have got to win a game in extras. They just have to. Wins like that are a huge boost for any team, and I wouldn't say no to a boost right now. The Giants, by comparison, have 6 walk-off wins, while the Rockies have yet to win a game when they weren't already leading going into the 9th. The tough thing is that, in these losses, it seems like either the offense or the pitchers just give up after a certain point. The bats really stayed in this one. Four different times in this game, the Brewers either tied the score or went ahead, and the Rox battled back each time. Jason Hammel had a tough 1st inning, but only gave up 1 run. He got out of a bases-loaded jam in the 2nd, Then, he contributed the Rockies' first two runs by hitting a HOME RUN with Ty Wigginton on base! That's two games in a row where the Rockies have done something for the first time since 2004!

The Rox did a great job riding the Brewers' pitching. Zack Greinke, whom they disposed of easily when they played him as a Royal last season, was manageable for them this time, too. He got a 1-2-3 1st inning, but after that the Rockies reached base in every inning he pitched. After Hammel's home run, Jason Giambi hit one of his own in the 6th (maybe I was wrong about him - perhaps we'll see a homer from him in every game from now on). In both the 13th and 14th innings the Rockies took the lead again. In the 13th, Alfredo Amezaga and Seth Smith came through in a big way, hitting a double and a triple respectively with 2 outs. In the 14th, Ty Wigginton led off with a single and then Brewers' shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt turned a routine double play grounder off the bat of Chris Iannetta into 2 on with no out. Jhoulys Chacin, just about the only guy left on the bench at this point, hit a bunt that was fair but a little too close to the plate; Wigginton was tagged out at 3rd. Mr. Clutch Dexter Fowler took care of business by singling to left and driving in Iannetta. It was great to see the guys continuing to battle back instead of giving up.

But then there was the bullpen. Did you know that a team can have three blown saves in one game? They can. Ours did. It's got to be tough for an offense not to give up when they feel like any lead they get their pitchers is going to be taken away in the bottom of the inning. When Hammel left in the 7th, the Rockies had a 4-3 lead. Matt Reynolds struck out Prince Fielder to end the inning, but then Rafael Betancourt came in in the 8th and gave up a lead-off home run to Casey McGehee to tie the score. After four scoreless innings, the Rockies went ahead in the 13th and then Huston Street came in. He needs to stop giving up home runs. Especially to guys like Yuniesky Betancourt. But that's what he did. Score tied at 5. Rockies went ahead again in the 14th, and then it was Paulino's turn. He was the only pitcher left in our bullpen, and it felt like a foregone conclusion before he even took the mound. It's a real shame, too, because Matt Belisle, Matt Lindstrom, and new call-up Matt Daley were perfect, and one more inning out of one of them might have prevented this whole fiasco. But instead, Paulino walked Ryan Braun and then Prince Fielder hit a walk-off home run. The end.

Betancourt and Street are to blame for this loss too, but we've at least seen really good work from them this season. Paulino has done nothing to impress me so far. Obviously, when you get to the 14th inning you start putting in the ball boys, but to have an option like Paulino in the pen is as good as conceding the extra-inning loss, as we've seen. He needs his walking papers.

Tweet of the Game belongs to @TroyRenck, because I don't think he's ever said anything I agree with more than this: "If that isn't Paulino's last pitch as a Rockie, it should be ... Rox lose 7-6 in 4 hours, 35 minutes."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Giambi 7, Phillies 1

Rockies 7, Phillies 1

There's no use pretending this game was about anyone other than Jason Giambi. He came to the plate 5 times, and in the first 3 he hit the ball out of the park. All three times were with men on base. He drove in all 7 of the Rockies runs tonight, and he was the first Rockie to homer 3 times in a game since Larry Walker did it in 2004.

Some things to consider:

1) Tonight's performance is neither a) a signal that Giambi is back to form and will now be going yard in every game nor b) evidence that he's on the juice, as just about everybody outside the Rockies community now thinks. He has always been a power hitter and, especially lately, rarely has quality at-bats that don't end with a ball over the fence. He's still a pretty old guy and his career is fading, so not only will this never happen again, he's unlikely to ever have a multi-homer game again. The best we can hope for is an occasional RBI pinch hit. On the other hand, give the guy a break. Nobody should be rushing to Citizens Bank Park with a urine cup. I'm the first to want guys who take steroids out of baseball for good, which is why I was upset to see Giambi joining the Rockies in the first place. We're a clean team and we don't need any of that. But despite his past, I see no reason to believe he's on anything now. What would he gain from that? He's never going to be an everyday player again, and he knows that everything he does will look suspicious either way. It's a stupid discussion and we shouldn't be having it.

2) Please don't let Giambi's night make you forget the Chacin Machine. Jhoulys Chacin had nearly as good an outing as he had back in April when he pitched a complete game shut-out against Pittsburgh. He was also nearly as good as Jorge De La Rosa was last night. The fact that we have two pitchers who gave up an earned run apiece against a team like the Phillies on the road is something to be very proud of. Chacin also had a season high 9 strikeouts and only 1 walk in 7 innings pitched. He allowed only 4 hits, and just once did he allow 2 in an inning (in the 4th, a single to Placido Polanco and an RBI double to Raul Ibanez that scored the Phillies' only run). Arguably, one of those hits shouldn't have dropped in the outfield, but Carlos Gonzalez pretty clearly pulled something trying to come in on the ball. That was some wet grass they were playing on. In any case, Chacin's ERA dropped to 2.70 and he's 5-2 on the season. I'll take that.

3) Felipe Paulino did not suck. Granted, Jim Tracy brought him in with a 6-run lead, which is about the only time I want to see him (and kudos to Tracy for not burning Betancourt or Street. They've now had two full days rest and should be good to go in Milwaukee this weekend). He gave up a lead-off single but then got a flyout and a double play ground ball to end the inning. I'm not saying we should stop the campaign to get him ousted, but I appreciate him not blowing the game.

4) Seth Smith and Jose Lopez had a great night too. Smith had 3 hits and Lopez had 4 (that's one more than Giambi). Lopez has hit consistently enough this week that I'm ready to believe maybe he'll actually contribute to the team this season. He pushed himself up over the Mendoza line tonight and has 9 hits in the past 5 games. He's also the only right-handed batter that did much with the Phillies pitchers tonight (4 of 5 were righties). He showed potential to hit in the clutch in some early April games, so I would venture to say he was slumping and we're starting to see who he'll really be. Knock on wood and all that.

5) In general, clutch offense was not great tonight. The Rockies had 15 hits, only 3 of which were Giambi's home runs. The other 12 didn't manage to drive in a run. They went 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 men on base. Without Giambi, this game is just like last night's game, and the Phillies win 1-0. So I'm glad for this win, and glad to see the Giambino step up, but still a little discouraged by how many runners we're stranding. This game was a gimme. We should take it, and be happy that we've won 3 of our last 4 against contention-quality teams, but that needs some work.

Unrelated note: Just a few minutes after this game ended, the news broke that Franklin Morales had been traded to the Boston Red Sox for a player to be named later or cash considerations. Without discounting what he did for us in our play-off runs, all I have to say is, good riddance!!

The Tweet of the Game comes from @MileHighKid23. A whole bunch of people retweeted this, so I won't claim to have discovered it, but it's the only way to sum up this game: "We all need to line up and let Giambi punch us in the face tonight." Enough said.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Balls in the Dirt

Rockies 1, Phillies 2

I'm occasionally willing to concede a loss when we're playing a really dominant team in their home ballpark. This is not one of those games. The Phillies, a pitching-heavy team, sent their #4 man Cole Hamels to the mound tonight, and he had never won a game against the Rockies. Their offense is every bit as stagnant as ours; in fact, by the look of things, more so. Jorge De La Rosa was stellar. There's no excuse for this loss.

Perhaps the most frustrating part of it is that the Phillies gave up the same number of earned runs as the Rockies. The Rox are such a great defensive team that to lose a game on the shoulders of that defense hurts. Especially when the hitting has really started to come around. And the hitting was good tonight, too, just not good enough and not at the right times. The Rockies stranded 5 men on base, and both Ryan Spilborghs and Alfredo Amezaga were tagged on the basepaths while unsuccessfully trying to be aggressive. It was just thisclose.

It became clear yet again tonight how pivotal Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki are to this lineup. When they aren't hitting, we usually aren't winning. They both had a pair of strikeouts tonight, although one of Tulo's could fairly be called an umpire mistake. Bad calls abounded for both sides; a Ryan Howard groundout should have been ruled a foul ball, a Spilly sliding catch in right was really just a trap-and-scoop disguised as a sliding catch. The ump also badly missed a call on a 2-out 9th-inning pitch to Jason Giambi. The Rox had the go-ahead run on base, and the Phils' center fielder was playing very shallow. It was a great opportunity, but that call threw Giambi for a loop and he swung and missed at the final pitch. All together, eleven strikeouts for Hamels and Ryan Madson tonight. Yikes.

Todd Helton hit another double, and has the Rockies' only RBI for the night. This should surprise no one.

Jorge De La Rosa will get the loss for the Rockies, and he almost entirely does not deserve it. I say almost because it was his wild pitch that brought the winning run to 3rd base in the 8th inning. But otherwise he was dominant. He threw just 96 pitches over the course of 8 innings, and gave up 2 runs on 5 hits. The first run reached 3rd base on a passed ball by Chris Iannetta in the 5th, so it was unearned. This game was a string of little mistakes that added up. The Phillies didn't play better tonight. They just took advantage more often. Let's hope the Rockies can be the team that does that tomorrow.

Tonight's Tweet of the Game comes courtesy of @gorox1983. Franklin Morales and Felipe Paulino were briefly warming in the bullpen, much to my dismay, and I said so. Quick as a flash, he tweeted this: " @rockieswoman1: Paulino and Morales warming up. That hurts my eyes. #rockies." Follow that link. You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Comeback Kids

Rockies 5, Giants 3

Here's a stat that might make Ubaldo Jimenez's troubles a little easier to swallow: the Rockies have 15 comeback wins this season, most in the National League. The bats are staying in it, and that matters a whole lot.

The sad news is that Ubaldo STILL doesn't have his first win, and it really is starting to feel like waiting for his 18th felt last summer. Everyone's on edge about Ubaldo, waiting for him to mess up, expecting him to, so that his small mistakes get blown way out of proportion. In my opinion, this was a very good start for him. He made it into and through the 7th inning for the first time this season. He walked ONE batter in those 7 innings. He was averaging close to one batter per inning before now. That is a massive improvement in control for him. When he did miss with his pitches, it was in the strike zone. Obviously, we would prefer he didn't give up 8 hits and 3 runs in each outing, but it was still a quality start, and he still struck out 7. I know I've said this before, but I still believe he's on his way back. I hope the team can have some patience with him, because the ace is in there, and he's poking his head out little by little.

I was pessimistic about this game, though, because beyond Ubaldo's potential to walk the entire lineup twice, the bullpen worked hard yesterday, and I did not want them having to come out and pitch 3 or 4 innings. Especially since that likely would have meant a Morales or Paulino appearance. With Ubaldo going deep like he did, the pen only had to cover 2 innings, and Matt Belisle and Huston Street managed that just fine. Both gave up a hit, but the runner was stranded at 1st.

In between Belisle and Street, the Rockies offense broke open, and it was beautiful. They went into the 8th inning trailing 3-1, the only run resulting from a lead-off home run by Troy Tulowitzki in the 2nd. And then it was like they suddenly remembered how to hit in the clutch. It helped that Giants' manager Bruce Bochy unwisely chose to leave his starter, Jonathan Sanchez, on the mound in the 8th. The decision makes sense in light of the fact that Sanchez had only given up 3 hits and thrown fewer than 80 pitches. But he was just tired enough for the Rockies to cut loose against him, and cut loose they did. Ryan Spilborghs and Chris Iannetta led off the inning with a pair of singles. Spilly not being much of a reliable hitter lately made this very gratifying. Alfredo Amezaga came up next and hit a bunt that was meant to be a sacrifice, but Sanchez made a critical throwing error to 1st (much like Tim Lincecum did last night), which allowed Spilly to score and Amezaga to reach base safely. There were runners at the corners and nobody out, and the Rockies were within a run. Bochy chose to pull Sanchez then, and replaced him with Javier Lopez.

Dexter Fowler came to the plate next and had a terrific at-bat, which ended in a very well-hit ball that should have been a triple. Unfortunately, it sailed over the fence on the bounce, which meant Fowler had to stop at 2nd and Amezaga at 3rd. But Iannetta scored, and suddenly it was a tie game. This would be the time when the Rockies of early May would have seemed completely unable to plate a run. A man on 3rd with no out was like an invitation for two strikeouts and a flyout. But ... these Rockies made it happen. Jonathan Herrera grounded out, but Carlos Gonzalez hit a single to right and Amezaga scored easily. Fowler, legs churning, was right behind him. Sergio Romo came in and closed the door on the inning, but those two runs were all the Rockies would need.

I love that the Rockies just took two straight from the Giants, and I love that they came back for the win in both cases. Whatever was said in their pre-game meeting yesterday, it appears to have sunk in. Cargo and Tulo are hitting reliably, the other guys are hitting and running when it matters, and the bullpen isn't selling wins to the other team for a song like they were in Arizona and San Francisco. Good stuff. Let's keep it going. Phillies are up next, and as the Rockies are facing the back end of their rotation, it would be a good time for some more key wins.

Today's Tweet of the Game belongs to @KrissiBex: "Watching Ubaldo struggle is like watching someone drown puppies." Truly spoken.

A Feel-Good Lincecum Beatdown

Rockies 7, Giants 4

It is so much fun to beat Tim Lincecum. While I greatly respect his pitching, his nasty juiced-ball comments smack of sour grapes, and I really appreciate it when my guys can give the what-for to anybody with that attitude. Other pleasing things about last night's game: Double plays (4 turned, none hit into). Clay Mortensen's first win. A home run with actual men on base. And a 9-pitch, 9-strike outing for our lovable 9th-inning man.

The Rockies needed this win. Dropping series to the Mets and the Padres at home this past week was pretty demoralizing. They'd also gone 1-5 against the Giants so far in 2011, and they're going to need something much closer to a season split come September if they want to see Rocktober. That means winning at home, a LOT. With the winless and wild Ubaldo Jimenez coming to the mound today, a loss yesterday might have meant another sweep. Not good.

Clay Mortensen has shown great promise out of the bullpen and spot starting so far this season. Yesterday was no different, though he did see his ERA rise from 0.55 to 2.01. He would have held the Giants scoreless through 5 innings if not for the wild pitch he threw with Miguel Tejada on 3rd. One of the things I love most about Mortensen is his mental control. 10 Giants reached base during his outing, but only 4 of them scored because he dealt so well with the traffic. He induced three double play ground balls in 4 innings. He did give up two home runs in the 6th, which were responsible for the Giants' second, third, and fourth runs, but aside from those two pitches he looked great.

After a run of shaky outings, the bullpen finally managed to hold a lead. Franklin Morales and Felipe Paulino were conspicuously absent, and I suspect that had something to do with it. Of course, we can't expect the 5 competent relievers we have to pitch in every single game, so something's going to have to be done in terms of a trade or a roster move. But on a day when all 5 of those guys did pitch, they did a commendable job. Matt Belisle gave up a single but got 2 outs in the 7th, and Matt Reynolds relieved him to get the 3rd out. Although Rafael Betancourt made us all a little nervous by giving up a single to the lead-off man, the Rockies saved him by turning their fourth double play of the night. Another single and a walk chased Betancourt away, but Matt Lindstrom got a terrific backwards K to end the inning. And Huston Street? 9 pitches, 9 strikes, 3 outs. It was splendid. One of those strikes was hit a very long way by Miguel Tejada, but when you have Seth Smith in right field you don't worry too much about those.

Maybe my favorite part of the game, though, was the Rockies offense. Lincecum is absolutely unhittable when he's on, but he is frequently not on, and the Rox took serious advantage of him last night. He walked 6 batters and only struck out 3, very un-Lincecum-like numbers. And the Rockies made him pay: his one walk to our pitcher resulted in a run scored. And his attempt to adjust to his control problems and to the admittedly very tight strike zone the home plate umpire was using led him to throw a lot of pitches right down the middle. The left-handed hitters were all over those, especially Seth Smith and Carlos Gonzalez, who both went deep in the 6th inning. Cargo even managed to do it with men on base: Dexter Fowler and Jonathan Herrera, both of whom reached on singles. Fowler's single also netted him an RBI, since Jose Lopez was on 2nd at the time. Speaking of Lopez, wow. For the second game in a row he had two hits. I would love to think that he's finally figuring out how to contribute offensively!

Other notable contributions: A great bunt by Herrera in the 5th moved two runners into scoring position. Cargo walked and then Troy Tulowitzki reached way out over the plate to tap a single into right that scored 2 runs. THAT is how you have an inning, gentlemen! And Seth Smith stole 2nd in the 2nd inning, though he would be the only really quality example of baserunning the Rockies exhibited. Cargo was caught stealing once and Fowler TWICE. Dex actually managed to run all the way around the bases twice as well, so I'm inclined to be forgiving, but that's got to stop.

I'm starting to think that not only is this division going to come down to the wire, it's going to be quite the dog fight between the Rockies and Giants. Neither team is playing really spectacular baseball, and all their wins off one another have come from capitalizing on mistakes. I just hope that, when all is said and done, we make fewer mistakes than they do.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Morales-Paulino Train Wrecks Again

Rockies 2, Padres 8

So the Rockies just lost their fifth straight series, and their third at home. I am to the point where I wish they'd just had a normal April. As a longtime Rockies fan, I'm very much used to a crappy spring, a hit-and-miss summer, and a hard-charging fall. It was just a big giant tease for the Rockies to start out so well and then hurt our feelings like this.

Offensive highlights: Basically none. The Toddfather continues to show us all why he is the Rockies most deserving of our respect. He hit his 6th home run of the season in the 6th. Of course, Troy Tulowitzki's popout just before that meant it was a solo homer, the Rox very favorite kind during this homestand. The Rockies' only other run scored in the 1st and was the result of 2 walks and a throwing error. Only Helton and, shockingly, Jose Lopez had a 2-hit day. Tulo hit two balls very very hard, but they were caught on the warning track.

Jason Hammel had a good outing. His is the latest in a long string of "good" outings that featured a couple costly mistakes, a starter who went too deep into the game, and a bullpen that failed to do its job. In his first 6 innings, Hammel gave up just 3 hits and struck out 5. One of those hits happened to rocket off of Ryan Ludwick's bat and into the stands, scoring him and two of his teammates. The win was still completely in reach at that point, but Jim Tracy chose to leave Hammel in for the 7th inning. His spot in the batting order would lead off the bottom of the inning, so in theory it made sense to give him a chance for the win and pinch hit for him. But he was at nearly 100 pitches by then, and showing signs of fatigue. He gave up 1-out singles to the Padres' 7- and 8-hole hitters and a pinch hitter before Tracy finally took him out.

I thought watching Franklin Morales and Felipe Paulino give away the farm was fun on TV. It is just a barrel of juggling clowns in person. Morales threw exactly one pitch, and Will Venable served it up to the gap in left center. Paulino lasted a little longer, but still allowed 3 runs to cross the plate on another double and a single. It would have been slightly less depressing if I hadn't been expecting something exactly like that to happen. I can't add anything to the Morales-Paulino conversation that hasn't already been said. They must go. End of story.

Matt Reynolds came in to pitch the top of the 9th and did just fine. Why didn't Tracy bring him in in the 7th instead of Morales? I have no clue.

The Rockies went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position, but that's nothing new. For all the pop their bats seemed to have in the past three games, they still do things like strike out with runners on 2nd and 3rd and 2 outs in the inning (Dexter Fowler), make the last out with a runner on 2nd who got there by stealing it (Helton and Chris Iannetta), and hit a ground ball directly at the 3rd baseman when there's a force play at 3rd (Lopez). I like to see that they're hitting more singles and fewer long flyouts (with the exception of Tulo, who doesn't seem like he'll ever stop swinging for the fence). But the pieces aren't coming together yet.

Now that we've lost series to the Mets and Padres at home, we get to go play road series against the Phillies and Brewers. Awesome. Oh, but first a little two-game series against the Giants at Coors. And with their rainout in Chicago today, we will not get to dodge the Tim Lincecum bullet this time.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

In Which Hitting and Pitching Turn Out to Be Mutually Exclusive

Rockies 7, Padres 9

I think what we've learned over the past few days is that the Rockies have struck some kind of deal with the devil. They will be given the choice to either pitch or hit effectively in each game, and whichever one they do not choose will perform at obscenely substandard levels. That's the only conclusion I can draw, anyway. How else to explain the fact that the Rockies have scored 24 runs in their past 3 games, more than in the previous 8, and yet only managed to win one of those games? What is wrong with our pitchers all of a sudden?

Jhoulys Chacin actually started out really well today. Aside from 3 singles in the 2nd inning that scored a run, and a double in the 6th, Chacin held the Padres hitless through 6 with 6 strikeouts. It was looking like one of his better starts. Then in the top of the 7th, the wheels came off. He gave up a walk, a single, and a walk to load the bases with nobody out. The following play reads thusly: "Eric Patterson reaches on fielding error by pitcher Jhoulys Chacin. Cameron Maybin scores. Ryan Ludwick scores. Kyle Phillips to 3rd. Eric Patterson to 2nd. Throwing error by pitcher Jhoulys Chacin." It takes a talented fellow to appear in one play twice as the party responsible for an error.

Too little, too late, Chacin was replaced by Matt Lindstrom, who gave up an RBI single and a sac fly. Rafael Betancourt allowed a pair of singles and a sac fly, then balked and gave up an RBI single. And Huston Street sealed the deal with a Will Venable double and a 2-out home run by erstwhile Rockie Brad Hawpe (sporting some unfortunate facial hair - it would seem he and Chris Iannetta have been sharing the same razor). Every pitcher who took the mound for the Rockies today allowed at least 2 runs to score. Lindstrom's were unearned because they were Chacin's baserunners, but he still let them cross the plate. Epic pitching fail.

The extremely frustrating thing about all of this is that the Rockies offense was dynamite again. They faced some of those scary Padres relievers, but they chewed up starter Aaron Harang so thoroughly it shouldn't have mattered. The 3rd inning saw a Dexter Fowler walk, a Jonathan Herrera single, a Troy Tulowitzki double (he was tagged out trying to stretch it to a triple), and a Todd Helton home run. Carlos Gonzalez homered in the 4th. And in the 5th, we got a Helton walk, a Seth Smith double, a Ty Wigginton single, and a Chris Iannetta sac fly. If you kept track, that's everybody in the lineup making a contribution. The Rockies were up 7-1 by the time Harang left the game in the 5th. Surely our bullpen could hold that lead, right? Right??

The weather got increasingly wetter as the innings stretched on, and it was clear that some of the defensive mistakes were a result of that. But it's tough to ignore the fact that the Padres scored 8 unanswered runs. That's not okay.

I had previously suggested a standing ovation to welcome Brad Hawpe back to Coors Field. My bad. Let's all read his line and weep: 3-for-5, 2 RBIs and 3 runs scored. Rockies pitchers must really miss having him around, because they gifted him with a 19-point raise in his batting average today.

Pull Up a Chair, Offense

Rockies 12, Padres 7

Very quick recap today, as it is the crack of freaking dawn and I have to head to the airport to catch a plane to Denver. If you need a more detailed rundown, check out the sites listed in my blogroll sidebar. Those guys will take good care of you.

Just four things.

1) Hits. So many hits. 16 hits, to be exact, which is more than the Rockies have managed in any game this season. I would say, "Well, they were getting those hits off Dustin Moseley, who's not exactly lights out," but let's face it. Lately, the Rox have been making the likes of Chris Capuano and Ryan Vogelsong look like aces. So cheers, Rockies. Lots of hits, and I don't care who was throwing the balls.

2) Pitches. Lots of those too. 102 for Jorge De La Rosa in 5 2/3 innings, on his way to giving up 5 runs. Matt Belisle allowed 2 more. But the pitching has been carrying this club for too long, and at the end of the day the bats need to be reliable enough to keep the game going if the starting pitcher is struggling. DLR has shown great consistency this season, but he's not perfect, and I appreciate the Rockies getting the win for him anyway. That's what should have happened for Ubaldo Jimenez at least twice. And wow, Padres pitching. You guys used to be so good. Granted, we did not face Mike Adams or Heath Bell last night, but STILL. Yikes.

3) Ty Wigginton back at the hot corner: Like.

4) Well hello San Francisco. Scooch over a little bit there. You're not the only team at the top of the division anymore.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Faces Behind the Handles

Well, the Rockies were the victim of yet another rain/snow-out yesterday (their 4th so far this season). As sad and bored as that makes me, it gave me some time to start thinking about my trip to Denver this weekend, so I thought I'd write a little post about that.

The reason I'm coming this weekend specifically is that my brother is graduating from seminary and I would like to be a supportive sisters. But it doesn't hurt that the Rockies are playing at home! I'm going to be attending their game versus the Padres at Coors on Sunday at 1:10 and tweeting the play-by-play. Before that I'll be hanging out with a few Twitter followers at Blake Street Tavern in LoDo. Obviously I really enjoy interacting with all of you via Twitter, but it would be so much more fun if I could see what your faces looked like! So I would love to have any of you join me. I'll tweet a more specific location the day of, and you'll find me in my purple Tulo T-shirt. Hope to see you there :)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

3 Home Runs, 3 RBIs

Rockies 3, Mets 4

It was another bummer of a game for the Rockies last night. Why can't they win these one-runners you ask? Great question.

Jason Hammel turned in another good start for the Rox, although his few mistakes would cost him. The first two batters, Jose Reyes and Daniel Murphy, reached base on a double and a single respectively. It was starting to feel like it might be a painful kind of night, because with the Rockies bats as cold as they have been, we've been very reliant on our starting pitchers to keep us in games. And they have for the most part, so to see Hammel struggling early was a downer. He got David Wright to strike out, but then walked Carlos Beltran to load the bases. An Ike Davis single scored Reyes and Murphy, and just like that it was 2-0 Mets with 2 still on and 1 out. Hammel's velocity was a bit higher than it normally is, and it seemed like he was overthrowing the ball a little, which made him miss his locations. But following the Davis single, he pulled it together. His curveball started dropping right over the plate, and he struck out Jason Bay and Ronny Paulino looking to end the inning.

Mike Pelfrey was on the mound for the Mets, and he's shut down the Rockies in the past - most notably at Citi Field last August, when Ubaldo Jimenez was gunning for his 18th win. He gave up just one run and still lost because the Rox couldn't manage to score against Pelfrey. I was there. It hurt. On the other hand, at Citi Field on April 11th, the Rockies scored 4 runs off Pelfrey in 5 1/3 innings. So who would win this battle? The only way to find out was to fight it. And if the 1st inning was any indication, the Rockies had not brought their big guns.

However, the 2nd was a different story, and by then Hammel was really looking good. In the bottom of the inning, Troy Tulowitzki hit a lead-off home run to right. Then Seth Smith dropped one in right center. This was a sight to see, because it's not as if balls have been flying off Rockies' bats lately, and so twice in one inning felt good. And just like that, the score was tied.

Nobody reached base in the 3rd, and then in the 4th Ronny Paulino singled off Jason Hammel's calf. There was a collective gasp, as we all knew that 5 1/3 innings of bullpen pitching was not going to make this game go our way. Hammel seemed okay, but naturally he struggled a bit to get his rhythm back after that. He walked Jason Pridie and then gave up a double to Pelfrey (ugh - opposing pitcher extra-base hits are the worst). That scored Paulino and Pridie. Hammel snapped back quickly, though: Jose Reyes grounded out to end the threat. Of all the batters Hammel faced in that inning, Reyes was the toughest out, so the fact that he was so easily retired tells us that Hammel needed very little recovery time. Still, it's a really tough break that he gave up that double, since it was the difference in the game.

There was another injury delay in the bottom of the 4th when Ike Davis and David Wright collided in front of the mound going for a Tulo pop-up. Forgive my coldheartedness, but I was most disappointed to see that Wright managed to hold on to the ball. With 2 out, Todd Helton singled and Seth Smith walked, but then Chris Iannetta, the closest thing our club has to a sure thing right now, grounded out to end the inning.

In the bottom of the 6th, Carlos Gonzalez led off with a home run. I still feel that he's out of his late-April slump. He hasn't been great offensively, but no one on the team has. He's not going 0-for-eleventeen anymore, so I'm no more worried about him than I am the other guys. Of course, none of these home runs would be enough to win the game, because nobody else who reached base was able to score. If just one of those homers had come with somebody already on, this would have been a completely different game.

A few bullpen notes: Matt Lindstrom had a perfect 8th. He's now given up just one run in 15 innings pitched, and that ratio is better than all but 5 other relievers in the game. We should all be giving Lindstrom a hug. He rarely gets credited with a hold since Jim Tracy most frequently puts Rafael Betancourt in when the Rockies are winning. And yet, he's nearly flawless. At least we have one solid former Astro on our pitching staff, because we also have Felipe Paulino. He gave up a lead-off walk to Jason Pridie but some serious Gold-Glove work behind him resulted in a double play after that. A Willie Harris pop-up ended the Mets' 9th.

As disappointing as this loss was, I'm actually encouraged, because the Rockies haven't had a multi-homer game since April 26th. That was also their only other 3-homer game of the season so far. It's really nice to see some pop returning to the bats. The situational hitting, obviously, still needs a lot of work, as does reaching base in the first place (we were 0-for-1 with runners in scoring position last night), but when you see the Rox playing at Coors and not able to go yard, you worry. We've still got some ground to make up (especially with the Giants now only a half-game back, winning in yet another walk-off against the Diamondbacks last night), but not everything went wrong yesterday.

This afternoon: Ubaldo Jimenez needs his first win, badly. And the Rockies need to win this series. That's all.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Iannetta Gets the W

Rockies 2, Mets 1

Thank God for Chris Iannetta, because in truth, last night didn't look all that different from the Rockies' games in Arizona and San Francisco. Other than Iannetta, everyone still looked pretty impotent at the plate. And let's face it: all Iannetta is doing is his job. He's a good catcher, and a good 7- or 8-hole hitter. If the other guys don't start doing their jobs soon, the wins will be few and far between.

Jhoulys Chacin got the ball for the Rockies, and it wasn't his best start. He issued 6 walks over 6 innings, a career high for him. He struggled with the release point on his fastball, and that affected his location greatly. Lucky for him, and the rest of the team, the Mets aren't any better with runners in scoring position than we are, so the damage was minimal. Chacin allowed 2 walks in 3 separate innings, but he interspersed them with enough slow ground balls and strikeouts that only Carlos Beltran managed to score a run.

After Chacin's outing, it was pleasant to see a Paulino- and Morales-free mound. Jim Tracy seems to have at least partially understood that Rockies fans don't want to see those two, ever. There's still the pesky problem of their taking up space on the active roster. Paulino is out of options so the Rockies are reluctant to assign him and essentially give him up to free agency, but at the moment I'll settle for seeing the two of them enjoying the game from the safety of the bullpen. I do very much hope that Dan O'Dowd can get to a place where he's ready to give up on Paulino, because Rex Brothers and Matt Daley are tearing it up in Triple-A, and we want them here.

Matt Reynolds was brought in to replace Chacin in the 7th. As per usual, he only pitched a third of an inning, and was pulled after he gave up a single to Daniel Murphy. Matt Belisle then came in and gave up a single to David Wright. It was looking a little dicey, but Murphy took off from 3rd on Beltran's grounder to 1st, and Helton smartly threw to home to get the out there. It's the least he could do after the number of times this week the Rockies have done the same thing on the basepaths. Belisle got out of the inning with another grounder to 1st from Ike Davis.

Rafael Betancourt came on to have a perfect 8th, and Huston Street had a regular Huston 9th: gave up a single, but managed to get three straight outs after that. One of those outs was Iannetta, in every possible way the hero of last night, throwing out Willie Harris on his attempt to steal 2nd. It was nice to see Betancourt and Street come back around, as neither had had the opportunity since their blown saves last week. Luckily, the other teams whose closers are breathing down Street's neck have had tough weeks too, with few save opportunities, so Street is still tied for the major-league lead with 12 saves.

And now for that "offense." In the 1st inning, the Rockies looked just as they did in so many recent games: Dexter Fowler drew a walk, Jonathan Herrera singled, Carlos Gonzalez struck out swinging, Troy Tulowitzki hit a bloop single to right, and Todd Helton hit into an inning-ending double play. Sigh.

Other than another Fowler walk, the Rockies did nothing again until the 5th. That inning was led off by Super Chris, who doubled to center. It actually looked more like a single, and Iannetta isn't that fast, but he put on some major hustle and got to 2nd safely. He seemed to understand that his fellows weren't going to get much done, and the only way to ensure that the Rockies didn't walk off the diamond full of shame was to put a little bit more into everything. And it's a good thing, because he moved up to 3rd on a Chacin ground out and scored on Fowler's 2-out single. Between Iannetta and Chacin, Ian Stewart struck out swinging. I'm pleased to see Tracy showing confidence in Iannetta by moving him from the 8th spot to the 7th, but with the way he's hitting right now, Stewart on deck is the kiss of death. Iannetta has a 6-game hitting streak, and at this point the pitcher is more likely to move him around the bases than Stewart is. I love Stew, but I think he's got to go. Ty Wigginton will return from the DL next week, and we'd all better ready ourselves to see Stew make a permanent return to Colorado Springs.

In the 7th, Iannetta hit a line drive to left that somehow dumped itself over the wall. He looked as surprised as anybody that it was a home run. But it was, and the Rockies went up 2-1. Of course, they didn't manage to score after that, but because the bullpen was able to keep from melting down completely, the win was preserved. Matt Belisle was credited with it, but I think that wins for relief pitchers is a useless stat. It doesn't tell us anything about how that pitcher performed, just that he came in with the score tied or the other team ahead and his team went ahead in the next half-inning. Betancourt was the best Rockies pitcher last night, so I want to give the win to him.

Going forward, the Rockies need some kind of spark. They need one of those games where somebody hits a grand slam, or a walk-off home run, or a bases-loaded triple when they're down by 2 runs. They need the kind of game they had on April 20th when they beat the Giants 10-2, and that they haven't had since then. I keep saying this, because it's true: there is far too much offensive talent on this team for them to be scraping by the way that they are. Not just potential talent, but actual talent: we all know what these guys can do. Mets' starter Chris Capuano was okay, but the Rockies scored 7 runs off him in 6 innings in New York last month, and they could easily have done that again. The fact that they didn't is disheartening. All the kudos in the world belong to Chris Iannetta, but the rest of the lineup needs to get something going fast.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

While My Bat Gently Weeps

Rockies 0, Giants 3

Some things that are making my heart hurt:

1) The Rockies got swept for the first time this season.

2) Holding the broom were the San Francisco Giants who are a) the World Champions, b) our biggest division rivals now and likely throughout the season, and c) not really all that nice.

3) After going 17-8 in April, the Rockies are 1-6 so far in May.

4) Jorge De La Rosa got his first loss after starting out as strong as he ever has. It came despite the extraordinarily professional way in which he adjusted to some control problems in the early innings. He gave up 4 walks in 2 innings, but held the Giants scoreless by getting 2 double plays and 2 strikeouts. Of course, he did allow 4 hits, one of which was an RBI single to Cody Ross and another of which was a 2-run home run to Cody Ross (scoring Buster Posey, who walked). But it was a good start. He really wasn't outpitched by the Giants' Ryan Vogelsong. And yet, the loss.

5) The Rockies now lead the division by only 1 game.

6) Jim Tracy's disparaging comments about the team to the press. He's such a fatherly manager most of the time, and if he goes all Ozzie Guillen on me I'm going to be very upset. Granted, the things he said were true, but he's not winning any popularity contests with Rockies fans right now, and if he can't take responsibility for his own part in these losses, we're going to like him even less.

7) The bats. Everything about them. The fact that they were pink actually made it worse. If the Major League Baseball community intends to do to breast cancer what the Rockies did to the baseball today, we're all in an enormous amount of trouble.

That's all. I'm going to go nurse my hurting heart now.

Walk Off This Way

Rockies 2, Giants 3

Walk-offs are super fun when you are the home team. There's really nothing more thrilling than going into the bottom of the 9th, or the 10th, or what have you, either tied or behind, and then scoring the winning run. The Rockies have had their share of dramatic walk-off wins, and have finished the last three games that way. But they've been the visiting team.

These games have been a bit on the heartbreaking side, because our starting pitchers have done so well, and our hitting has been good but just not good enough. In each game we can point to some early opportunities that were missed. In each game, runners have reached 3rd and haven't scored. And in each game, our rock solid bullpen has proven that they have weak spots, too.

One thing to keep in mind is that this is generally how the Colorado Rockies play in the spring. They're slow to start, and they seem to take months to get certain rhythms going. Those first couple weeks of April looked at first like they might have been a turning point, but really, I think we just got lucky. I expect that now May and June are going to look a lot more like May and June of 2010. The only guy on the team performing with any kind of consistency during those months was Ubaldo Jimenez. This year, we have three pitchers who are turning out one solid start after another. And we have hitters like Troy Tulowitzki, who has been on-and-off but is still off to his strongest start ever. We're probably going to go back to losing road trips and winning maybe 3 out of 5 at home. And we're going to remain very much in contention. The Giants have pulled within two games, but we still lead the National League West. It's okay if we don't lead the division all season long. Last year, the Padres led it almost the entire time and then broke their fans' hearts on the very last day. This year, they aren't even pretending to be relevant. I would rather my team be consistently good rather than sporadically great. Of course, to even get to a point where they could be called consistently good, they're going to have to improve on last week's performance.

Esmil Rogers was scratched from his start at the last minute and put on the 15-day disabled list. He was replaced by Clayton Mortensen, so good in his two relief appearances in April (8 scoreless innings). And Mortensen proved that those appearances were no fluke. A lot more pressure comes with a start, but he handled it beautifully. He has some great off-speed pitches and he used all of them very well. In 6 innings he allowed 4 hits and 2 runs, only 1 of them earned. His ERA is now 0.64. He did walk 4 batters, but he prevented all but one from scoring. It was a great outing. So good that I wouldn't mind seeing Rogers sent down to Triple-A for a while to give Mortensen a chance to build on his momentum. Better yet, let's send Rogers to the bullpen and Felipe Paulino to Triple-A. Or to the moon.

Felipe Paulino is the new Franklin Morales in terms of being the pitcher every Rockies fan loves to hate. And the argument for that is reasonably strong: he's lost three games in relief already this season, and his ERA is 7.59. Last night he didn't even get credit for 1/3 of an inning as he was unable to record an out. There's a general cry of outrage that goes up every time he's called out of the bullpen. It would have made a lot more sense to put in Huston Street in the 9th last night. Yes, he's the closer and there was no game to close yet since the score was tied at 2, but I believe Street could have shut the Giants down and given the Rockies an opportunity in the 10th, with Giants closer Brian Wilson having already pitched a full inning. Instead, Paulino gave up singles to the only 2 batters he faced, and then was replaced by Morales. Morales threw a pitch so wild it was practically baring its teeth at the fans, and that put both runners in scoring position, still with no outs. The Giants had two chances to produce a deep enough fly ball to bring Aaron Rowand home, and Mike Fontentot only needed one.

Beyond the bullpen woes, the offense is making me kind of crazy. They actually did come up with some clutch hits last night, and it's not as though they were blown away by the Giants. But it just wasn't quite enough, and that's really the biggest difference between the April Rockies and the May Rockies. Last month, they nearly always had just enough offense to get the win, and this month they've nearly always had not quite enough. To be fair, Madison Bumgarner did turn in a great start for the Giants. He has a nasty sidearm delivery that proved very effective against the Rangers in the World Series. He's also a lefty, which is the only explanation I can think of for why Jim Tracy started Ryan Spilborghs instead of Seth Smith. It does not explain why he started Alfredo Amezaga instead of Jonathan Herrera. But Smith and Herrera did come in as pinch-hitters later in the game and produced nothing, so it's really a moot point.

The Rockies did a decent job of reaching base in last night's game, with 8 total hits and 4 walks on the night. But they also did some really stupid things, including grounding into 3 double plays. In the top of the 4th, Dexter Fowler tried to steal 2nd but got a terrible jump and was out by a long shot. And then in the 7th, Todd Helton came up with the bases loaded and nobody out. He did what he does so well and smacked a single to left that scored 2 runs and sent Tulo to 3rd. And then Jose Lopez hit a little dribbler and Tulo ran for home, where he was, of course, tagged. If I see one more Rockie break for home on an infield ground ball when there is no force play, I'm going to scream. That's elementary baserunning, and it has happened no less than four times during this road trip. Infuriating. And then Helton came up again in the 8th with the bases loaded and 2 out, and hit a comebacker to the mound. Even the Toddfather can't come through in the clutch every time.

The Rockies should have won this game, and they should have won Friday's too. The Giants are manufacturing runs at about the same rate as we are right now, so they're no great threat. To lose by one run on the road 3 times in a row shows that we are capable of better. They need to win today, but whether they do or not, they need to get back to Coors tomorrow and use their home surroundings to start fixing some of these mechanical problems. Deep breath, though. It's still very early in the season. They're still showing a lot of promise. There's plenty of time for the magic to happen.