Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I'm Out of Good Titles

Rockies 4, Diamondbacks 9

I should clarify what I said yesterday about wanting the D-backs to win the division if/since the Rockies can't. They're not going to get past the first round of the play-offs. You can bet I'll be pulling for them, but if some guy named Wade Miley is in their postseason rotation, it's not gonna happen. The Phillies, who they'll almost certainly face, will eat that guy for lunch, and the rest of them too.

Of course, Miley is capable of making meals of his own, and he was happy to feast on the Rockies last night. He allowed 9 hits over 6 innings, but thanks to some typically bad situational hitting and some great Snakes defense, those hits only resulted in 2 runs. And I'd like to point out that teams that want to contend make those good defensive plays. They know every last little thing helps. Bad things the Rockies did: Struck out to end an inning and strand 2 runners (if you guessed Ty Wigginton, you are right). Made 2 outs on the basepaths. Loaded the bases with 1 out and couldn't score. Struck out to end the game (could only be Troy Tulowitzki). It's the same old story. I'm really stretching my skills as a writer here to tell it in a different way.

One good thing: they kept at it even into the late innings, which usually doesn't happen when they're being dominated. Todd Helton doubled off relief pitcher Micah Owings and Kevin Kouzmanoff singled him home. And Dexter Fowler FINALLY has his first home run of the season, after hitting dozens of balls that hit the wall but didn't have enough height to go over it. That happened in the 9th off David Hernandez. Of course, that was the least Dex could do after the lousy play he made in the outfield in the 3rd, which allowed a single or possibly a double to become a 2-run triple. When he makes his running catches, he is so good, but he still doesn't have a sense of when to not try to make them. And when he tries and fails, it's always extra bases.

I don't really want to talk about the pitching, except to say that only 2 of 5 were good. The starting pitcher was Aaron Cook, so that went pretty much how we all predicted it would. 6 runs on 7 hits in 4 1/3 innings. Here's a scrap of good news: Cook kept the ball on the ground better than he has recently, and he actually struck out 6, which is really good for him. Matt Lindstrom inherited a Cook runner in the 5th with 1 out and kept him from scoring. Matt Reynolds struggled, giving up a run on 3 hits in the 6th. Lindstrom probably should have been allowed a crack at that, but you know Jim Tracy. Rex Brothers pitched a scoreless 7th with 2 strikeouts. Matt Belisle gave up a 2-run home run to Justin Upton in the 8th to seal the Rockies' coffin.

The D-backs have an outfielder called Collin Cowgill. Many of their fans were holding signs saying "We Need More Cowgill." If you don't get that joke, I can't help you, but Jack Corrigan spent more than one inning behaving as though baseball was distracting him from thinking of songs that have a cowbell in them. This is where we are now.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

It's Getting Hot in the Desert

Rockies 1, Diamondbacks 5

I'm going to confess something, and hope I don't lose every single reader I have for doing so. If the Rockies have to lose to anyone right now, I'm glad that it's the D-backs. Hear me out!! The reason is that they would have to lose so many games and we would have to win so many in order to overtake them in the division that it's basically not happening. And if my team can't win the division, I would so much rather the D-backs win it than the Giants. Wouldn't you? I rooted for the Giants all through the play-offs last season, but I didn't realize how flaming obnoxious their fans would turn out to be once they actually won. Now I don't ever want them to win anything ever again. The D-backs, on the other hand, have much nicer fans, and they are playing really good baseball. They aren't making excuses for their weaknesses, they're just going out and getting it done. Kirk Gibson is doing a bang-up job managing the club. I'm very sad about the vacuum that the Rockies have left in the wake of their awfulness, but if anyone's going to fill that vacuum, I want it to be Arizona.

All right, that said, I still want my team to beat their team in every head-to-head between now and the end, and that did not happen last night. The offense was simply awful. Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki had no hits, so neither did anybody else. It's the same pattern we've seen so many times this season. The rest of the players look to those guys to carry the bulk of the run production, and when they don't do that everybody else gives up. In all, the Rockies collected just 4 hits in the game, and none of those came at any time when they were good for anything. There was one legitimately good swing against Daniel Hudson all night, and that came off the bat of Dexter Fowler. It was a triple, maybe even an inside-the-park home run, until Chris Young came flying through the air and crashed against the wall to make the catch.

Chris Iannetta finally got a start after sitting 4 of the past 5 games. Jim Tracy is now officially platooning catcher, which makes absolutely no sense. He can't even use the excuse that Iannetta and Eliezer Alfonzo hit from opposite sides of the plate, because they do not. Iannetta should be the starting catcher, and Alfonzo should be the back-up. He is so inferior offensively and defensively that to do anything else is ridiculous. And it was clear last night that Iannetta was fighting to get his starting job back. Such a patient hitter ordinarily, he swung at terrible pitches all night long. It's been hard enough to watch him not reach his power potential; if he loses his plate discipline his value as a player diminishes significantly. Netta did drive in 1 run, but that's what happens when you get plunked on the hand with the bases loaded. Even he couldn't figure out a way to mess that up.

Alex White took the mound for his second start in a Rockies uniform, and people are already treating him like a Jason-Hammel-esque pariah. Can we please show some patience kids? We have an extremely young rotation. Just as Jhoulys Chacin has had some growing pains this season, we can expect the same from White.  Trust me, the stuff he has is terrific. It's better than Chacin's. He has fantastic movement, and once he's developed his command a little bit there is no reason not to believe he won't be Tim Lincecum nasty.

That said, the command certainly is an issue right now, and walking 6 in 6 innings isn't going to cut it. He got closer to the strike zone as the night went on, but seemed very timid about getting too close to it early on. This isn't hard to understand when you consider that the third pitch he threw was hammered into the left field bleachers by Ryan Roberts. As he matures and gains confidence, White will find a way to recover from things like that and trust his pitches more. How long should we give him to do that? Hard to say. Chacin has 2 seasons under his belt and he's still waffling a bit. It doesn't make me happy to say this, but I'm guessing we have one of the best rotations in the game in 2014.

The homer to Roberts was the only run White gave up before the 6th. Jim Tracy left him in for the entire 6th inning, despite the fact that he gave no indication that he would be able to reign in Arizona's offensive onslaught. Maybe Tracy is trying to teach his young pitchers how to get themselves out of jams? That doesn't seem right, because he yanks bullpen pitchers the second they show signs of trouble. I don't know. If I could get inside Jim's head, I'd spend a lot of time up there, because there are a lot of things I don't understand.

Jason Hammel and Huston Street combined for 2 scoreless innings in relief. Huston allowed 1 hit, but otherwise was great. Once again, the bullpen has an excellent but irrelevant game since the offense couldn't come through.

I hope we don't get swept in Phoenix. That would be a sad sad thing. But as I said, if anybody's going to do it, I'm happy it's the D-backs. The further they can push the Giants down in the standings, the better.

Tweet of the Game: @fiyahpowah: "The wheels have come off the horse." Nothing like a solid mixed metaphor to describe this Rockies season.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Loney Drives in a Run, Rockies Still Win

Rockies 7, Dodgers 6

These were some very close games the past couple days, and I'm not sure which team should be more insulted by that. We'll look on the positive side, though: the Rockies did not allow themselves to be slaughtered, the way they did on Friday, and they just won another game on a Sunday. If they win every Sunday in September after these couple in August, I will consider this season finished well. Low standard? Maybe. But that's where we are.

Jhoulys Chacin had a great start until the tail end of it. He did allow a pair of runs in the 5 innings he recorded, but he also struck out 6. It wasn't until the 6th inning that things started to unravel. He issued 3 straight walks with no outs to load the bases, at which point it became clear that his command had taken leave. 2 of those runners would score, so Chacin's final line isn't great. He also definitely gave up fewer runs than he would have if Carlos Gonzalez hadn't made a stunning tuck-and-roll catch in right field to end the 4th. Still, he didn't fall behind early as he often tends to, and he now has 11 wins on the season.

The bullpen was mostly good, though the not-good part nearly cost us the game. Matt Reynolds relieved Chacin, and did everything he could to minimize the damage. He got two quick outs, but each one also scored a run. Reynolds was replaced by Belisle, who struck out Justin Sellers to record the final out.

Matt Lindstrom was not so lucky. He had a tough 7th, allowing a walk and 2 hits that scored 2 runs. I'm starting to wonder if he's ever going to return to his dominance from the beginning of the season. Was that a fluke? It remains to be seen. Rex Brothers, however, is only getting better, and he pitched a 1-2-3 8th (helped by a terrific play from Jonathan Herrera at 2nd). And Rafael Betancourt notched his 4th save without allowing a hit in the 9th.

Meanwhile, the offense started off strong with a 5-run 1st inning that ended with Chacin flying out before he'd even thrown a pitch. All 5 runs scored with 2 outs, which was so great to see because that's the time when this team has tended to give up. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Kevin Kouzmanoff, who hit a bases-clearing double in that inning and is responsible for driving in 3 of the 5 runs. I don't expect him to be Mark Ellis reliable, but who knows? He might yet turn out to be a key contributor. And he didn't commit any errors today. After that 1st, Nathan Eovaldi figured out how to pitch to the Rockies, and they were unproductive until Blake Hawksworth replaced him in the 5th.

Kouz was at it again in that inning, and he wasn't the only one. Cargo led off with a double and was driven in by Seth Smith. Kouz singled to send Smith home, and wound up with 4 RBIs of the Rockies' 6 on the day. Not too shabby. After that, they once again went underground. In the final four innings, they only managed 2 baserunners, both of whom were erased by double plays. It's in the late innings of close games that things get dicey with this team. If the starting pitcher is able to keep them in it, it becomes a toss-up of who is most likely to ruin things: an absent offense, or an inefficient bullpen. Today, both were there, but fortunately not so much that they lost the advantage. And as has been said many times, Jim Tracy's lineup ridiculousness and overmanaging of the relief pitchers are certainly to blame for many of the team's struggles. It's hard not to think if/how things would have been different with a different manager.

Tweet of the Game: @Townie813: "You know your season/team stinks when your fans are the only fans in baseball deathly afraid of James Loney. #rockies." Yeah. Sigh.

Hurricane James

Rockies 6, Dodgers 7, F/11

I just feel bad for Kevin Millwood. He probably isn't a Coors Field pitcher long-term, but he has done a very serviceable job for the Rockies in the past few weeks. Yesterday was no exception; he had a 3-hit shut-out going for 5 innings. He recorded 1 out and and put 2 runners on when he exited in the 6th. He was only at 90 pitches, so I'm not sure pulling him out at that point was the wisest decision. And then things fell apart.

Matt Belisle, once again not the reliever I want on the mound when runners are being inherited, faced 6 batters and only made 1 out. He allowed Millwood's 2 runners to score and then earned 1 of his own. The total number of runs scored in the inning was 5, thanks to some awful defense. I've said on numerous occasions that I strongly dislike Jim Tracy's lineup tinkering, and this is another reason why: he seems so convinced that the perfect batting order is just around the corner that he routinely plays a weaker field in an attempt to create offensive magic.

Nowhere has this been more true than at 3rd base. The starting job has been handed off from Ian Stewart to Ty Wigginton back to Stewart to Chris Nelson and now to Kevin Kouzmanoff. These guys have varying degrees of defensive ability, but the lack of consistency at that position is causing just as many problems from a fielding perspective as from a hitting one. Kouz is probably the weakest of the bunch, with a lifetime .962 fielding percentage. He made a bad throw and missed a catch in yesterday's 6th inning. The throw really should have been caught by Chris Iannetta, who was charged with the error, but it was too high. These errors cost the Rockies 2 runs, and therefore the game. A key feature of the 2007 National League champion Rockies was their near-perfect defense. That's a big way you win close games. You can't get to the postseason without it.

Of course, Belisle isn't off the hook, and he gave up 3 hits en route to this second blown save in the past week. As a group, the bullpen disappointed. Rex Brothers pitched a perfect inning with a pair of K's, but he's the only one. Huston Street, fresh off the disabled list and in his new set-up role, didn't give up a run but did allow 3 baserunners in the inning he pitched. Rafael Betancourt, apparently no longer interested in closing now that Street is back, pitched 1 1/3 innings and allowed James Loney to go yard with the tying run in the bottom of the 9th. Jason Hammel, so good in relief against Houston last week, took the loss when he gave up a walk-off solo shot to Matt Kemp in the bottom of the 11th. His 10th wasn't very clean either; he loaded the bases and just barely squeaked out of it.

Offensively, I'm fairly happy with what we saw. Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki finally seem to have settled into a groove where they're both raking at the same time; this also happened late in the season last year, and it gave us a glimpse of what our team might do if these guys could somehow get hot in May or June instead. They singlehandedly made this a 1-run game - Cargo drove in 4 runs and Tulo drove in 2. Every guy in the starting lineup had at least 1 hit, except Iannetta, who struck out 3 times. One of those times was in the 2nd with 2 men on and nobody out. He took a called 3rd strike that he probably should have swung at, especially with the pitcher coming up behind him. Naturally, neither of those runners scored. Seth Smith struck out thrice as well, but what do you expect from a guy who gets hot and then sits for three straight days? I won't be able to blame any offensive issues on him until Tracy stops benching him unnecessarily.

This wasn't quite the offensive onslaught we've seen from these guys over the past week, but I'm still encouraged. The bullpen has been very consistent, and they had a bad day. I no longer feel that the hitters are giving up when it seems like they're out of the game. I hope that they've gotten themselves into a groove that will continue till the end of the season, so we can be proud of them.

Sad fact: James Loney has 8 homers on the season and 6 of them were hit off Rockies pitchers.

Tweet of the Game: @DodgersGM: "It was brilliant managing by Don Mattingly to tell James Loney that today's game is in Coors Field."

P.S. Thanks for those who showed concern for my safety in the hurricane. I am alive, well, and still chronicling my experience!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Umps Notice Rockies Playing Well, Decide to Put a Stop to It

Rockies 1, Dodgers 6

Wow, the wheels sure came off of this one fast. So disappointing, too, because what a great start by Esmil Rogers. After collecting every win he's gotten since his return in July by the skin of his teeth, and earning every inch of that 6.00 ERA, he finally had a very, very good outing. And it was ruined by both an anemic offense and shameful umpire crew.

Rogers pitched 6 stellar innings, allowing just 5 hits and ZERO walks, which was a huge improvement for him. His command was terrific and he struck out 7. He gave us a glimpse of the guy we saw at the beginning of the season, the pitcher we knew he could be. Of course, his offense was giving him next to nothing to work with; aside from a solo home run by Carlos Gonzalez in the 1st, the Rockies' bats were completely silent. Another run would have scored in the 3rd if Eric Young Jr. hadn't been called out on batter interference running to 1st on a ground ball. Watching it again, he did appear to be just out of the baseline, but these umpires did such a crap job with this game I still think that call was their fault.

Then the 7th inning happened. Esmil showed signs of tiring before everything truly fell apart, walking the first two batters he faced. A single loaded the bases, still with no out. Then Jamey Carroll flied out to center and Dexter Fowler's throw to the plate was nearly perfect. He was helped by a suddenly athletic Eliezer Alfonzo, who made a great tag to get Andre Ethier. It actually seemed like Rogers was going to get out of it and maybe even preserve his win. He intentionally walked Tony Gwynn Jr. to load the bases again, and then third-base umpire Bob Davidson called a balk. This was an even worse call than when Cory Blaser called Corey Hart safe at home on July 16th. All Rogers did was turn his head to check Aaron Miles at 3rd, and Miles made a move toward home, so who can blame him for that. It was just a complete boneheaded call. I've never heard Jack Corrigan get so upset. He basically ordered Davidson to retire.

Of course Jim Tracy argued, and of course his argument was rejected. And of course, Rogers wasn't going to recover after that. He's an emotional player and one of his downfalls is how he lets the game get away from him when things start to unravel. So naturally he allowed a 2-run single and had to exit the game. He looked incredibly upset, and he had every right to feel that way.

Matt Reynolds replaced Rogers with Justin Sellers on 1st. Sellers broke for 2nd and Reynolds picked him off. Well, so we all thought. Then home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt CALLED A BALK. Are you kidding me? Rogers was going nuts in the dugout and so was Tracy. Wendelstedt held out his hand to tell Tracy to stay there, but he didn't listen and was tossed. Well, good for him. That was some terrible umpiring, and they needed to know that.

Reynolds isn't as emotional as Rogers, but he wasn't going to recover from that either. He gave up back-to-back home runs to James Loney and Matt Kemp, and that was way more than the Dodgers needed. So basically, after Rogers loaded the bases and then got a double play, 6 runs scored with 2 outs, because of 2 balks. Hey umpires. Thanks so much for ruining our winning streak. We didn't like it that much anyway.

Good to see Matt Lindstrom come off the disabled list and get a 1-2-3 8th. The infield also turned a couple of double plays. Certainly this could have been worse. It could also have been a whole lot better.

And guess what? I am in a hurricane. Track my adventures here.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

It's an Off Day

Um, hey MLB schedulers. Do you think that next year you could NOT give the Rockies 3 straight weeks without an off-day followed by 4 straight weeks with one? It makes these off-day posts hard to write. I mean, my fellow writers are crazy talented and awesome, but I'm not sure I can come up with enough links to fill a post four weeks in a row. Like the Rockies themselves, though, I'm not one to shy away from a challenge, so here goes.

  • This is the time in the season when we should take our eyes off the play-offs and instead think of other good things that might happen. I tried my best to do that in my top 10 list for RoxPile this week.
  • Hey, remember when the Rockies lost 17 Sundays in a row? We'll all be saying that to each other for years to come. The breaking of that streak was such a colossal relief, I think we all owe it to ourselves to relive it as often as possible. So go read every recap of that game that was written.
    • Me
    • Mark Townsend
    • David Martin
    • Jeff Aberle. And Jeff wins for being the happiest of all of us. Poor guy is in charge of Sunday recaps for Purple Row, so he waited longer than maybe any baseball writer in history ever has to publish a positive write-up. Jeff, way to hang in there buddy.
  • Troy Renck finally had time to write more than 140 characters about the Ubaldo trade, and wow, this piece is a doozy. If you haven't read it, you absolutely must.
  • Guess what? Just when you think nothing else can go wrong, something does.
  • A lot has happened since Friday's loss to the Dodgers, but that was a sad one, and I was feeling down in the dumps. Bryan Kilpatrick of Purple Row pulled me out of them, and that is saying something.
  • When we got the word that Alex White would most likely be joining the rotation, I had several friendly Twitter disagreements about who should make way for him. My personal choice was Jason Hammel but that wasn't a popular opinion. Andrew Martin agreed with me though, and apparently the organization agreed with us. Whether we were all right certainly remains to be seen. He's also a potential trade candidate. If he is on the block, I hope he finds great success wherever he goes.
  • I used to think Bruce Bochy was a really good manager, but then there was the whole All-Star roster ridiculousness, and now his own team's fans are turning on him. Their complaints are similar to the ones we have about Jim Tracy. Maybe the whole division is in for a managerial overhaul?
  • We almost had to endure Brady Quinn as a Rockie. Don't believe me? Read for yourself.
  • Here's the MLB Trade Rumors bit on the Mike Jacobs fiasco. Considering steroids nearly ruined my interest in the game in the late '90s, stuff like this PISSES ME OFF. Especially when the guys involved make stupid excuses and act like they didn't know that they were doing. Adios Mike. Don't let the door hit you too hard on the way out.
  • I'll be the first to admit I was not thrilled when Jason Giambi signed with the Rockies. In my mind he was a juicer and a quintessential east coast egomaniac. Not interested. But in the past couple of years, he's proved that, character-wise, he's actually a great fit for the Rox. Beyond that, his work ethic is very impressive and in fact one of the best on the team. Jim Armstrong's piece on Giambi is worth reading.
  • Yes, Larry Walker should most definitely be in the Hall of Fame!! Thanks for pointing that out David Schoenfield!
  • I love Justin Klugh so so much. He is a Phillies fan, which would normally be a dealbreaker for me, but he is one of those rarities who doesn't try to pretend like "Phillies fan" and "nice person" are not mutually exclusive. You should follow him on Twitter and read this piece he wrote for Call to the Pen. It might be the best thing you'll read this month.
  • Yahoo's Jeff Passan examines the 14 teams making a play-off push (don't be shocked to find that the Rockies are not on this list) and analyzes their chances based on the records of the teams they face for the remainder of the season. Hey Giants: don't get cocky just because you're at the top of this list. The Rockies are coming for you. They're going to do everything they can to ruin your good time. P.S. What if schedule strength actually played a role in determining who got to play in the postseason? Am I the only one who thinks that might be kind of cool?
  • If you're a Denver native Rockies fan like me, chances are you haven't had many opportunities to travel around to the affiliate ballparks. They're all on my bucket list and should be on yours too, but in the meantime take a peek at the Modesto Nuts' John Thurman Field.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Sweep! Yes! Oh. It Was the Astros

Rockies 7, Astros 6, F/10

People on Twitter yell at me for being pessimistic, but let me be the first to tell you that this 5-game winning streak should not, under any circumstances, be interpreted as a play-off run. NOT. Now, I'm not saying a play-off run couldn't happen; anything is possible until the Rockies have been mathematically eliminated. However, this is nothing to get excited about. The Rox have won 5 straight games at home against meh teams, and two of those games went to extra innings. If they go on the road and win series against teams like the Giants and the Brewers and the Reds, you'll see me get a little hopeful. But only then. As of now, I still think this is an under-performing team squeaking by and playing with way less intelligence and enthusiasm than the play-off teams of 2007 and 2009.

All right, now that people who can't handle the truth are no longer reading, let's talk about this game. Aaron Cook is still bad. Much as I don't want the Rockies to cut a deal for Wandy Rodriguez at this point (because they can't meet the asking price without giving up prospects they can't afford to lose), I would take just about anybody in place of Cook. Today's special brand of awful was 11 hits and 5 earned runs in 5 innings. He only gave up 1 homer, but our beloved sinkerballer recorded 6 flyouts to just 3 groundouts. I don't want to see this guy on the mound anymore. Ever. Sorry.

The defense still isn't playing very cleanly. Dexter Fowler alternates spectacular running catches with ill-advised diving ones that result in extra bases. Today he was slapped with an error that eventually led to a run scoring. Without that run, this game is won in regulation. I just want him to have a better understanding of his own abilities in relation to where the ball is. He needs to know when to go for the dramatic catch and when to play the ball on a hop. Until he starts making smarter plays on routine base hits, he's going to continue to be responsible for runs.

Luckily his offense is just fine. He's still chasing his elusive first home run of the season, but he's racking up extra-base hits like they're going out of style. He hit a double and a triple today, and the triple drove in a run. I remain unconvinced that the 2-hole is the best place for him. He is an RBI machine when he's locked in, and when there isn't anyone on base ahead of him he's often kind of useless.

Other offensive heroes: Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki both had a 2-hit game, and one of those hits for each was a 2-run home run. Tulo also walked 3 times. Yes, 3 (all right, one was intentional). And Mark Ellis had FOUR hits, although, due to his unfortunate position in the 8-hole, he neither scored a run nor drove one in. Offensive disappointments: everyone else. New Rockie Kevin Kouzmanoff did nothing to recommend himself by going 0-for-5 and leaving 5 men on base. His third base defense was just fine, but we need way more offense from that position than he gave in this game. Aaron Cook batted for himself in the bottom of the 5th, despite the fact that his outing was already over, and he came to the plate with one out and one job: move the runners on 1st and 2nd to 2nd and 3rd. Instead, he bunted it right back to the pitcher and the force play at 3rd was made, so absolutely nothing was accomplished. Eliezer Alfonzo also gets a slap on the wrist for this, because he got a terrible jump from 2nd. Also: Ty Wigginton came to the plate in the 6th with 2 on and 1 out and swung away on a 3-0 count. Inning-ending double play. COME ON WIGGY.

The winning run scored in the bottom of the 10th on a wild pitch. Tulo was at 3rd and came home on the pitch, which was thrown by Anuery Rodriguez. It was an awkward, ugly way to win. When I saw the clip, I sort of laughed and cried for a few seconds. The Rockies should be winning games against the Astros decisively. They should be kicking ass and taking names. Instead, they walk-off on a wild pitch and are out-hit 14-13. This season. Wow.

Okay, here is something really really good: the bullpen was awesome. Jason Hammel proved that his third inning really is his downfall by pitching two absolutely perfect ones after Cook left the game. He allowed 1 hit but otherwise looked great. Josh Roenicke, Rafael Betancourt (2 K's), and Matt Belisle each pitched a scoreless inning. So essentially, they performed exactly how a member of the Rockies should against a team like the Astros. It's nice to know that some people are as advertised.

The Circus Is Back In Town

Rockies 8, Astros 6

I'm not sure that any number of written words could do this game justice. One minute incredible plays were being made and the Rockies looked like they actually wanted to get a serious winning streak underway. The next minute, everything was crumbling before our eyes and everyone on the field was shaming the name of baseball. I guess that's what happens in late August when two mediocre teams without a chance play each other.

The marquee name for this game was pitcher Alex White, making his fourth major league start and his first with the Rockies. After all the pitching fiascos the Rockies have had this season, we needed a little hope, and the consensus was that White would bring it. Don't look at his line (6 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 4 K's, 2 HR) and get discouraged. White looked very very good. He can throw any of his pitches for strikes. He has an unbelievable splitter that moves all over the place. Because of that movement, he doesn't need to be a flamethrower, but he still touches 95 mph regularly. He'll need some time to adjust to pitching at Coors Field. And he'll also need his defense to not do stupid things that cost him runs.

White was cruising through the first 2 innings, allowing one run on a Carlos Lee solo shot, but otherwise taking care of business. Then things started to fall apart in the field. Well, first White gave up a double to Bud Norris, the opposing pitcher. That never ends well. Then Jordan Schafer singled Norris over to 3rd. So there were two runners in scoring position and 1 out. What followed was 3 straight infield hits that scored 2 runs and made the Rockies look like junior leaguers. Chris Nelson contributed an error at 3rd, which made me sad because he has been so good over there lately. The Stros took a 3-2 lead.

Luckily, Houston brought their own circus act to the 3rd inning. Their infield made a pair of errors, one of which allowed a run to score. If I have to watch major league baseball players behave like that, I'm glad my team can at least get a run out of it. In general, the Rox were hit or miss in terms of taking advantage of the Astros' not being a good baseball team. In the 1st, there was (some) heads-up baserunning, some productive outs, and a couple of runs scored. In the 2nd, both Seth Smith and Chris Iannetta stole a base, and they were both in scoring position with no outs. Did they score? No, they did not score. Nor did anyone else in that inning.

In the 5th, Tulo was hit by a pitch and then Smith came to the plate and hit a 478-foot BOMB that was officially the longest home run at Coors this season. Of course, Jim Tracy will reward him by benching him today, but let's just be happy and focus on his boomstick, which was alive and well. Unfortunately, Jimmy Paredes (I know, I said Jimmy who? too) hit a 2-run shot of his own off White in the top of the 6th. White hung a slider and Paredes made him pay. That tied the game at 5. The Rockies went ahead again in the bottom of the inning, thanks to more lousy defense and a timely RBI single by Cargo. White was in line for the win. He might still have gotten the win if Chris Nelson hadn't made an unbelievably terrible baserunning error, getting doubled off 2nd on a fly ball because he failed to tag up properly. Really? What are they teaching these kids about how to run in the Springs? It's really Little-League-level at this point.

Matt Belisle relieved White in the 7th and took away his win by giving up a double and an RBI single. Fortunately, Belisle didn't allow any more runs, and Cargo made quite possibly the best catch I've ever seen him make to end the inning. The ball was blooped into shallow center. Dexter Fowler came in and Jonathan Herrera went out, but they both stopped short of it, which was confusing until I saw Cargo literally come out of nowhere, lay out, and catch the ball. I have no idea how he did that. But it was beautiful.

And then, the Rox came back to take the lead again in the bottom of the 7th. Smith walked and Herrera hit a home run to right. He completely turned on a pitch that should never have gone out, and laid all kinds of power on it. It was a great swing. Rockies were up 8-6.

That would be your final score, but these teams were not done doing crazy things. In the bottom of the 8th, Astros manager Brad Mills did something I have never seen before, but props to him because it worked. He brought in left-handed reliever Wesley Wright to face Cargo. Cargo popped out. Then Mills sent Wright to right field so he could keep him in the game, and right-hander David Carpenter came to the mound to face Tulo, who grounded out. Wright returned to the mound to face Todd Helton, who struck out looking. It was absolutely nuts, but I can't argue with it. It got the job done.

Rex Brothers, possible future closer but with no major league saves under his belt, came on in the 9th to finish the job. He allowed 2 runners but he also got a pair of K's, and then Jose Altuve popped out in foul ground to end the game. Bizarre happenings from start to finish. But you know what? This has just become a legitimate winning streak. Four games for the first time since June. Let's keep this thing going.

Tweet of the Game actually happened before the game, but I have to reward this kind of genius. Yesterday afternoon we found out that the Astros' Wandy Rodriguez, who is scheduled to start today against the Rockies, had been claimed off waivers by Colorado. So there is a sizable chance that he will be scratched from his start due to being traded to the opposing team hours before first pitch. And so @mondogarage brought us this: "#Rockies claim Wandy Rod on waivers in a ninja DOD move to avoid having to face him this season. Go Rox Go."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Rockies Play Good Baseball, But Forget the Game Lasts 9 Innings

Rockies 9, Astros 5

Let's get one thing straight: the Astros are a really really bad baseball team. They were already bad at the beginning of the season, but then they got rid of Hunter Pence AND Michael Bourn. I hope those trades pay off for them in the future, because right now their roster is stocked with a bunch of no-names (no offense to Clint Barmes, who I adore).

Despite that, I'm thrilled any time the Rockies touch up a team for 9 runs, regardless of who that team is. Even better when they do it in the third game of a 3-game winning streak, giving me the smallest bit of hope that they might yet have that winning streak I've been waiting for. Usually when they score this many runs they act as though they're only allowed an average of 3 runs per game, and so they'd better lay low the following day so things balance out. I will love on this win a lot more if it leads to another one.

Jhoulys Chacin: still having a tough time. He "scattered" 11 hits over 7 innings, though in my mind any time you allow 11 hits it doesn't matter whether you scatter them or not. He finally got a 1-2-3 inning in the last one he pitched. Before that, it was a whole lot of luck. The only run scored off him was a Brian Bogusevic solo home run. I will give him credit for getting the ground balls that led to three double plays. I just want to see him be more dominant. I want to see him go out and have several clean innings in a row, like he did in Cincinnati a couple weeks ago. He needs more outings like that, because he can only get away with ones like this for so long. One huge positive: he only walked one. That means that he had his command, which is huge.

The Rockies didn't scatter so much as front load the 1st inning in defense against their anticipated incompetence later in the game. They batted around in that inning, and the only guy who didn't drive in or score a run was Troy Tulowitzki. Poor Tulo, showing his usual overeagerness in an exciting situation, struck out swinging. Everybody else made a terrific contribution, including Chacin. He hit a 2-run double with 2 outs, thanks to the Stros' outfielders playing too shallow.

After that, Monday's game was quite similar to Sunday's. Carlos Gonzalez hit a solo home run in the 2nd, and that was followed by 5 2/3 innings in which only 3 men reached base. Former Rockies prospect Anuery Rodriguez struck out the side in the 7th. Just a reminder from the Rockies to us that they don't intend to play 9 straight innings of good baseball more than once every couple weeks or so.

2 walks and a single loaded the bases with 1 out in the 8th, a perfect opportunity for Chris Nelson to hit into a double play. But! He did not. He singled to center and drove in 2 runs. This was followed by a bases-loaded strikeout by Cargo to end the inning, but we'll take the baby step in the right direction.

In the 9th inning, the bullpen took one look at the box score and though, well this just isn't right. We can't allow this team to lose by 8 runs! That's not very nice. Or maybe they looked at Rafael Betancourt's stats and said, we need to get this guy another save. Why should Huston Street be the only one on the team with 30 saves this season? Let's help Raffy out. Whatever their thinking, J.C. Romero and Josh Roenicke allowed 4 runs in 1/3 of an inning. It unfolded in a messy way that I don't think I'll bother to explain, but you should know that Roenicke's ERA remains at 0.00 because neither runner he allowed scored, and that 2 of the 4 runs were unearned thanks to a fielding error by Nelson at 3rd. Guess he's still not perfect over there.

Okay, so a win is a win, and some things went right in this game. I just want to see a solid finish at this point. I want the Rockies to go out with their heads held high and some good August/September baseball under their belts. 3 wins in a row is not a bad place to start that off.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Sunday Win! A Day Game Win! A Series Win!

Rockies 5, Dodgers 3

It's hard to say what the best part of today's game was, besides the obvious things pointed out in the title. Maybe it was that the Rockies only had 3 hits, but they managed to score 5 runs off those hits. Maybe it was that Kevin Millwood finally earned his first victory as a Rockie and well deserved it. Maybe it was that the team made three sacrifices in one inning, something I don't think they've done all season. Maybe it was the three relievers who did not allow the Dodgers to retake the lead, despite the fact that all three of them pitched last night as well. But no need to make this hard on myself by trying to pick one. All those things are worth celebrating.

Say what you will about Millwood, he is an innings-eater, and that is something we need right now. He's averaging a deeper outing than anybody else in the rotation. And he doesn't start to struggle in the later innings, either. He just throws enough pitches to where it's time to take him out. There's always the home runs, and today he allowed a solo shot to none other than James Loney, but other than that I have no complaints about him. He held the Dodgers to 3 runs in 7 innings despite 7 hits and a walk, and he struck out 4. He also made a defensive play that I didn't think a man of his age could make. Chad Billingsley hit a liner back to the mound. Millwood snagged it and went down to his knees with the force of it, then threw to 1st to double off Jamey Carroll. An outing to be proud of for him.

Speaking of great defense, Chris Nelson brought it to the hot corner again today. He dove and smothered a ground ball off the bat of Justin Sellers and threw it to 2nd in time to get the force play there. Matt Kemp hit an RBI double later in the inning, which would have scored 2 runs if Nelson hadn't made that play. He's so clumsy at 2nd, but I just adore him at 3rd. Ty Wigginton has been good to us, but I wouldn't be too sad to see him go in the off-season so Nelly can be our everyday third baseman (as to what that would mean for Ian Stewart, I don't know, and I'm deliberately not thinking about it).

Offensively, these guys got this win by the skin of their teeth, but they stayed with it, and that's the most important thing. In the 1st inning, Mark Ellis singled and Carlos Gonzalez homered, but after that they wouldn't get another hit until the 7th. It was starting to look ugly. Then Jason Giambi walked and Seth Smith came to the plate. He unloaded on a Billingsley cutter and hit a no-doubter to center. Not only did this give the Rockies a lead that they wouldn't lose again, it was an excellent swing when mostly there had been weak grounders and pop-ups.

Even better than that, the offense kept trying to score! Something kept them from giving up. In the 8th, Eric Young Jr. led off with a walk and Dexter Fowler and Mark Ellis hit back-to-back sacrifice bunts - that's right, two in a row - to get EY to 3rd. Dex was on 2nd, since catcher Dioner Navarro made a throwing error that allowed him to reach base on his sacrifice. Cargo was intentionally walked to load the bases. Then Tulo hit a sacrifice fly! He never does that. By all accounts he was swinging for the fences as usual, but we'll give him credit for what he did and not think too much about what he meant to do. His sacrifice scored EY. The rest of the inning didn't unfold quite as prettily. A passed ball moved both runners into scoring position, and with Todd Helton coming to the plate it seemed like a given that another run would score. But he struck out swinging. He's off the hook after yesterday's performance and this season in general, but that hurt.

So the Rox went into the 9th with a 5-3 lead and the ball in the hand of Rafael Betancourt, occasional closer and all-around magic man. He gave up a lead-off single to James Loney, whom no one could get out, but after that it was a 1-2-3. Just like that, the Sunday losing streak was snapped. We can all breathe a big sigh of relief. And guess what else? The Astros are coming to town tomorrow. If you think the Dodgers were bad ... let's just say that if ever the Rockies had a chance to get a winning streak going, now is the time.

Happy Birthday, Toddfather

Rockies 7, Dodgers 6

A few things I learned yesterday - well, I already knew or strongly suspected all of them, but they were reinforced by events - 1) Esmil Rogers probably isn't going to make it as a starter; 2) Eric Young Jr. brings a lot of good stuff to the table when he's focused; 3) people who predicted that the Rockies and Dodgers would be competing for the same spot in the standings at the beginning of the season were right (though wrong about which spot); and 4) TODD HELTON BELONGS IN THE HALL OF FAME.

The least the Rockies could do after blowing the Toddfather's postseason chances yet again was get him a win for his 38th birthday. Not only did they, it happened in a walk-off in the 13th inning and featured three different comebacks. The Toddfather himself had more than a little to do with it, but I'm thankful to the rest of the team for not wasting his efforts. And, we've got two walk-offs in one week. I still think this team could go on a tear and finish the season strong (do not confuse that with finishing it at the top of the division, because that is not going to happen). It would leave a much better taste in my mouth if they could do that.

So let's start with Rogers. Jim Tracy said on the 850 KOA pre-game show that he likes the way Rogers always battles and fights to stay in it, but that he'd like to see him have a cleaner start. Well Jim, keep dreaming, because that is not what happened. Rogers's ERA didn't budge from what it was before this game (6.00), because this start was perfectly average for him. He lasted 6 innings because he did such a good job controlling his traffic, but he also allowed 12 hits. That the Dodgers only scored 4 runs is a reflection of Rogers but also of the fact that the Dodgers are not a good baseball team. I'm among those who think Rogers is probably better off as a long reliever. Of course, we already have two of those now that Jason Hammel has been moved, so Rogers may have to struggle through a little longer.

In regulation, the Rockies did a superb job taking back the lead whenever Rogers surrendered it. A heap of credit goes to EY Jr., who legitimately seems to have been working to make his game better. He's probably going to commit 7 errors today since I'm saying this, but he has vastly improved in the outfield. He even made both a leaping and a diving catch, neither of which I would have thought he was capable of making. I haven't always liked his attitude, but he seems to have come to grips with the fact that he's not owed a spot on this team just because we all love his dad so much. He's going to have to work and earn it, and he finally is. He also stole 3 bases today, a career high for him, and these allowed him to reach 3rd twice and score easily when Carlos Gonzalez came to the plate. In a tight game like this, every run counts, and EY made sure the Rockies got one every chance they had. It wouldn't kill the rest of the team to try the same. Well done, EY. Don't get comfortable now that I think you're awesome though.

The Rox looked like they might fall apart in extra innings. They got 6 baserunners in the 9th-11th innings and couldn't get the winning run across. This was especially embarrassing in the 11th when Mike Macdougal walked 2 batters intentionally to load the bases with 1 out, and the offense still couldn't get anything done. But then the birthday man himself, the Toddfather, the guy whose cleats we are all unworthy to wipe clean, decided to take matters into his own hands.

The Dodgers had gone ahead by 2 in the top of the 12th thanks to 2 home runs, one allowed by Matt Reynolds, and one allowed by Dexter Fowler (his ill-advised dive botched the play completely and turned a single into an inside-the-parker). So it was no longer sudden death; the Rockies had to put at least two runs on the board to even stay alive in the game. Helton came up with runners on the corners and 1 out and proceeded to take an epic 15-pitch at-bat that ended when he laced a double to right. I would venture to say he is the most professional hitter in the game at this moment. Such a complete class act. That double scored Fowler from 1st and brought Troy Tulowitzki to 3rd. Eliezer Alfonzo grounded out to 3rd and scored Tulo, which is maybe the second time the contact play has worked in the Rockies' favor all season. Tie game again.

Bottom 13: Mark Ellis comes to the plate with 2 outs and doubles. Then Fowler, who owed us all a little redemption, hit a walk-off RBI single to left. This is not the kind of game I would have thought the Rockies could win. It's nice to see that they haven't given up completely yet. Even though they are essentially battling with the Dodgers for 3rd place in the division, there is still such a thing as going out with your head held high. If they can win a few more games like this, they might just do that.

Tweet of the Game: @TroyRenck, what would we do without you? "Only pinch-hitters left are Alfonzo, and obviously Tebow, since he's not needed till fourth quarter across town."

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I Got the Jason Hammel Blues

Rockies 2, Dodgers 8

I can't think of too many things more depressing than the difference between the Rockies' spring training starting rotation and their current one. Ubaldo Jimenez: gone. Jorge De La Rosa: gone. Jhoulys Chacin: struggling. Jason Hammel: struggling. Esmil Rogers: struggling, and regularly bumping his head on his own ceiling. As for the additions we've gotten along the way, Aaron Cook is reliably terrible, Kevin Millwood would be fine if Coors Field wasn't a hitters park, and Juan Nicasio, the best surprise of the season, is gone after the shortest, most tantalizing period of time.

Help us, Drew and Alex. You're our only hope.

Poor Jason Hammel. I'm afraid that this season is going to be the legacy he leaves behind with Rockies fans, which is a real shame, because he was just better than we had any right to expect up until this point. I would much rather he be remembered for his 2010 second half than for his 2011 one. But I have no control over that. Nor do I have any control over how many innings Hammel pitched last night (3) or the number of runs he allowed (6) or the number of pitches he threw (70). I wish there was a way we could just gently and sweetly show him the door. Sending him away with all our love, of course. I badly want him to be a success. But I think we've established that I want has little to do with what will actually happen.

Of course, the Rockies allowed themselves to be held down by Hiroki Kuroda, and therefore did next to nothing to help Jason out. They did what they always do after they win by 7 runs. Plodded through the game, making unproductive outs and going 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position. Same old story. I wish that just once one of those crooked-number victories could get something going. But it just never does.

Okay, bright spot, bright spot, bright spot ... hey, Edgmer Escalona is pretty great. Great enough that I almost want to see him in the rotation, though he likely doesn't have the stamina to pitch 6 innings every 5 days. Last night he went 3 2/3, and while he did give up 2 runs, he was mostly great. He frequently comes in when the team is already out of the game, but it's nice to know that if they weren't, he would keep them in it. He also struck out 5 to Hammel's 1, and walked 1 to Hammel's 3.

J.C. Romero and Josh Roenicke combined for 2 1/3 scoreless innings as well. It's an eternal mystery to me that all these borrowed relievers are doing a better job than the carefully developed ones who are doing tours on the disabled list or on the bullpen bench. Just one more head-scratcher for these 2011 Rockies.

My Twitter timeline is nearly dead during games these days. Can I just beg and plead all you defected fans to return? Even if you don't like the team anymore, those of us who couldn't desert even if we wanted to need you around to keep us going. It's bad enough to watch my team play like crap. Don't make me do it alone.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

It's an Off Day

On off days I publish link collections to direct you to the best baseball blog posts and articles I've read recently. Hope you enjoy them. I have nothing clever to say about them except that I hope all the people whose links I've posted here like to return favors :). Oh - and this particular set of links is kind of Drew Pomeranz heavy. That wasn't intentional but I'm not sad about it.

  • On July 24th, after a particularly dismal loss (the details of it escape me; sometimes this whole season feels like one big long Sunday) I wrote a letter to the Rockies. I guess it struck a chord because it became my most viewed all-time within 12 hours. So you should maybe read it if you haven't.
  • Following the Ubaldo Jimenez trade, I published an emotional reaction on my site, but not a logistical one. I've since published several, all on Fansided sites, so you may or may not have seen them. They can be found here, here, and here.
  • Um, why do bad things keep happening to the Broncos? Sports Authority Field at Mile High, really?
  • Andrew Fisher's piece on the Rockies signings/lack thereof following this most recent draft isn't very optimistic. But this is a homegrown organization, and it is a little frustrating that Tyler Anderson took so long to sign and that no one else did. Perhaps this is now an organization that trades away top-shelf players for other people's prospects because they can no longer sign any of their own.
  • Three things I love: 1) the Giants' recent collapse; 2) Brian Wilson behaving like a tool, because it reinforces the opinion I already have of him; 3) Bryan Rosa of Frisco Fastball. Even though he is a Giants fan. He is freaking hilarious.
  • Dear Edgar Gonzalez: I'm sure you are a very nice person. Unfortunately, you will always be remembered as the guy who took Ubaldo Jimenez's number and then got designated for assignment after pitching 1 inning. Perhaps this is the beginning of something we fans might call The #38 Curse? I don't know. Either way, I'm not very sorry you fell victim to it. Good luck, kid.
  • David Martin of Rockies Review got an interview with Trevor Story, and it's pretty illuminating. From where I'm sitting, it sounds like he's with the Rockies for the right reasons. Hopefully by the time he's playing at the big-league level, they'll be that team again. If he joined them now, he'd probably be enormously let down.
  • I don't want to talk about the Sunday losing streak anymore, especially now that it's officially a major league record. Fortunately, Troy Renck does (or has to). So I direct you to him.
  • Keep this in mind: things can always get worse. At least we don't have to deal with Big Z.
  • If this season's MVP were chosen today, Justin Upton would win over Tulo. Desperately sad as this makes me, I kind of agree with Eric Karabell a little bit. Just a little bit.
  • A little more Broncos. I dislike Tim Tebow but that's 100% because he went to the University of Florida and I will never be able to find it in my heart to like a former Gator footballer. If he wasn't a Gator, I might like him. This article is as good a reason as any, and it's pretty thought-provoking to boot.
  • To be a baseball fan, you have to have a bit of an obsessive personality. This goes without saying. You can't focus on something that demands your attention 6-7 days a week for half the year without being willing to obsess a little. What I love is finding out about what other things my fellow baseball fans affix their obsessiveness to when they aren't thinking about baseball. Bryan O'Connor affixes his to music. This is the result. It is awesome.

I'll Have My Fish Cooked, Please

Rockies 12, Marlins 5

What a nice little laugher this was. And it was great to see the final game of a series end up like this. Of course, this was neither a day game nor a Sunday game, so it's nothing groundbreaking, but still. The Rockies finished off a series with some good work, and now they have a day of rest to celebrate. Maybe they can get up a little momentum. There's still time to finish this season with a small amount of dignity.

I don't know whether the offense or the pitching deserves more congratulations. I think I'll start with Aaron Cook because I'm so proud of him. Despite what everybody, including me, says about him, he's still a professional baseball player, and his maturity shows in the way that he comes out for every start and does the best he can. He seems totally unaffected by what happened in the previous start or by whatever general thoughts he might be having about if/when his career is ending. It's a small picture of how different Ubaldo Jimenez's first half might have been.

Last night, Cook went 7 2/3 innings, and the first 7 were shut-out. He gave up a handful of hits in those innings, but the Marlins seemed completely lifeless against him. If you had told me that Cook would be the one to dominate these guys rather than Kevin Millwood or Jhoulys Chacin, well, I would have laughed. Shame on me. Cook also didn't walk one guy, and anybody who has a no-walk start gets super props from me. In the 7th, he gave up a double and two home runs, so he wouldn't get the goose egg, but for him to go that deep in the game and do that well is really encouraging. Also, one of those home runs was hit by Mike Stanton, who hadn't hit one yet in the game, so he was due. The other one was hit by Jose Lopez, which is just wrong on every level.

Luckily, Cook had a massive cushion for the entire game, thanks to some serious offense. Games like this are proof of what the Rockies can do when they're locked in. It's also proof that they can and do work as a team, because they feed off each other for better or worse. If they could only figure out what makes them swing to the complete opposite end of the spectrum from game to game and correct that, they might actually get something going. The highlight of the 5-run 1st inning was a bases-clearing double by Chris Iannetta. When he hits the ball well, he nearly always lines it right up the middle and it drops for a hit. Center fielders don't seem to know how to play those balls. Case in point: Mike Cameron totally misjudged this one's trajectory, and it went over his head.

The 6-run 3rd inning game via 5 singles and a 3-run home run by Carlos Gonzalez (who also made a great catch in right field). Even Cook contributed a single, and he did it by squaring to bunt to draw in the third baseman and then swinging away. It was a very slow roller and wouldn't have made it out of the infield if the fielders had been positioned differently. Those are the kind of little things this team needs to do more.

After that, Jack McKeon gave Ricky Nolasco the hook, and the Rox weren't able to do much against the Marlins' bullpen. As for ours, Matt Reynolds pitched the final inning and a third, and allowed 2 runs on 2 hits. One of the runs was unearned thanks to an error by Seth Smith, but it wasn't really what you'd call a dominant performance. Fortunately, it was more than good enough.

Good game fellas. If you could string together a few of these, you could make the last few weeks of the season as good as the first few. Wouldn't that be a fine way to go out?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Giambi Tries to Walk Off Again, Finds There Aren't Enough Runners on Base

Rockies 5, Marlins 6

This is my issue with the Rockies playing bad baseball: they start relying on home runs and walk-offs and LoDo magic to win games, when what they should be doing is taking control of the situation and winning with intelligent choices and good teamwork. They'll win the occasional game with that wing-and-a-prayer technique, but not many. Not last night.

Jhoulys Chacin, basically the only Rockie who did not completely fall apart in May, has officially fallen apart post-All-Star. Yes, he is still young, he's an emotional player, he's got a very high ceiling. I've made all those explanations for him myself. And I still think they're valid, but he hasn't had a good start that was also a win since June. He has had some great ones that wound up being losses, such as last week in Cincinnati, but he and his offense are never good on the same nights. This is the most cringeworthy stat on him right now: his K/BB rate prior to the All-Star break was 101/50. Since then, it's been 22/30.

Last night he lasted just 4 innings and allowed 5 runs on 8 hits and 3 walks. He gave the Marlins a 3-run 1st inning. He did also get out of a bases-loaded jam in that inning, and I like that he's showing some signs of being able to keep himself under control when things start to go south. He still has a long way to go with that. But baby steps are good.

The Rockies scored all their runs on home runs. I don't like it when that happens. Obviously it's exciting as a fan to watch the ball leave the yard over and over, but it is not exciting when that's coming at the expense of good situational hitting. Naturally all but one of these homers was a solo shot, because everybody was trying to go deep, and so everybody was popping out and striking out instead of getting on base in front of the home run hitters. Troy Tulowitzki, Seth Smith, and Carlos Gonzalez were these hitters, and the three solo specials they hit represented the Rockies' only runs going into the 9th inning.

Prior to this inning, the bullpen did some good work in relief of Chacin. Edgmer Escalona put in 3 innings, giving up one run on a solo shot to Mike Stanton (who, let's face it, is probably going to hit a home run in every game he ever plays at Coors Field). New Rockie J.C. Romero, who replaced Edgar Gonzalez on the roster, went 1 1/3 and allowed no runs on 2 hits. And Josh Roenicke came to the mound in the top of the 9th with 1 on and 1 out and closed the door. Considering the fact that half our bullpen seems to be on the disabled list, I like what they've accomplished in the past couple of weeks. It's been a while since they've been to blame for a loss.

So then we go to the bottom of the 9th, and Jason Giambi comes up with Todd Helton on and 2 out. Surely he can't go deep again and win the game, can he? Well, mathematically he could not, since the Rox were down by 3 and there was only one man on. But he did go deep. And I appreciate that he owns Leo Nunez and is using that ownership to keep us from losing this series without a fight. I also appreciate him having a good pinch-hit at-bat for the first time this season. What I do not appreciate is Dexter Fowler coming up with a man on and taking a mighty cut at the first pitch. He popped it up on the infield. Game over.

Guess what? The Marlins' Bryan Petersen, who has played in 60 games as a big-leaguer, has 3 career triples. All 3 have come in the past two games at Coors Field. Is that our season or what?

Tearjerker moment: Juan Nicasio in his jersey and neck brace walking around outside the dugout with his mom. He is a symbol of hope if I've ever seen one, and boy do we need that right now.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Now THAT is a Finish

Rockies 7, Marlins 4

Last night's game is representative of what I thought we'd get from the 2011 Rockies. This is what we did get from them often in the past several seasons, even the ones when they fell short of the play-offs. But this season, walk-offs have been elusive, and so have one-run wins, and overcoming late-inning deficits. This season the Rockies have been playing like someone stuck a pin in them back in May and let out all their air. Which is why I hardly dared to hope last night's game would turn out like it did.

Let's get the dull stuff out of the way first, which is everything before the 9th. Kevin Millwood made his first start at Coors Field as a Rockie, and showed that his home run allowance in Cincinnati last week was no fluke. He's a good pitcher with a lot more stamina than his younger teammates, as well as the ability to hold himself together mentally when the game doesn't go as planned. But damn. He gives up a lot of home runs. I'll be shocked if the organization keeps him around once our rotation isn't so injury-riddled. He's too old to make the necessary adjustments to be a successful Rockies pitcher. That said, when he wasn't giving up homers he was busy pitching 6 innings and allowing no runs on 5 hits. It was a good performance, but I just don't think he's ever going to get the ball down enough to be all that reliable for us.

The Rockies had their usual can't-drive-runs-in issue. In the 2nd, they loaded the bases with 1 out. I could just feel a double play ball coming. Fortunately, Jonathan Herrera was the hitter of that double play ball, and he managed to beat the throw to 1st, which allowed Troy Tulowitzki to score. Naturally, 2 runners were still left stranded in that inning. In the 3rd, Eric Young Jr. singled and then was the subject of about thirty pick-off attempts before stealing 2nd easily. The steal turned out to be unnecessary because Tulo came up with 2 outs and hit a home run. Okay, so those were examples of how they did drive in runs.

Here's how they didn't. In every inning after that until the 9th. 4th inning: Chris Nelson got into scoring position with 1 out and was stranded. 5th inning: Dexter Fowler got into scoring position with 1 out and was stranded. 6th inning: Eliezer Alfonzo got into scoring position with 1 out and was stranded. 8th inning: Tulo got into scoring position with no outs and was stranded. So that's FOUR separate innings when the tying run was 90-180 feet away, and nobody could even get a productive out and move him up a station.

Which is why I didn't think we had any right to expect anything different in the 9th. Matt Belisle pitched the top half of the inning after coming in with 1 out in the 8th. He gave up a couple of hits but kept the Fish from scoring, so there was still just a one-run deficit. Here's how things unfolded: Fowler came to the plate with 2 outs, representing the Rockies' last hope. He hit a blooper into shallow center that three fielders managed not to catch. Dex, who still can't buy a good running game, got caught between 1st and 2nd trying to stretch it to a double (he was ultimately credited with a double, which I don't understand). Lucky for him, and I do mean lucky, the throw to 1st was off-line and Gaby Sanchez had trouble getting it out of his glove. Dex was safe at 2nd. So it was Carlos Gonzalez's turn. He swung at the first pitch, which ordinarily would lead to disaster, but this time it led to a double to right. Dex scored, and the game was suddenly tied.

Leo Nunez, the Marlins closer, chose to walk Tulo and face the lefty Jason Giambi instead. Giambi has been useless as a pinch-hitter this season, but he has nearly always been productive as a starter. Last night, he started at 1st, so it wasn't so far out there to think he might be able to drive in a run. To be honest, though, I was a little irritated that Jim Tracy didn't pinch-hit Todd Helton. If anybody's been consistent in the clutch this season, it's the Toddfather. Tracy chose to keep Giambi in, though, and he dumped the fourth pitch he saw into the right field seats. It's impossible to ever get tired of walk-off home runs. It is the most spectacular way to finish a baseball game, and the joy that I feel as a fan witnessing it cannot be quantified. I had planned to finish off this post pointing out that the Rockies really didn't play any differently last night and that they are not about to go on a tear, but I'm just going to keep that to myself, so we can all be happy together about our team and the beautiful 9th inning they gave us.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Rockies Choke on National Television

Rockies 2, Cardinals 6

Okay, we all saw this game, right? It was on ESPN. So I don't really need to tell you what happened, do I?

All right. If you wisely chose to go to bed early and missed it, I'll share the lowlights. Perhaps the worst of all was the fact that things actually started out well. For a very very brief moment, we (well, I) thought that just maybe this ridiculous Sunday streak was over. Mark Ellis hit a solo shot and then Carlos Gonzalez hit a ground-rule double. Troy Tulowitzki singled him home. It seemed like the Rox had figured out Edwin Jackson and were going to hammer him. But then, a pair of walks loaded the bases with 2 outs, and Chris Iannetta struck out swinging. That didn't feel like a good thing. With the bases loaded, we really needed him to be patient and see if he couldn't take the walk. Jackson was missing his spots like crazy, so the chances of Netta getting a free pass were high. Instead: 3 runners stranded before the 2nd inning. At the time I tweeted that I was afraid they would come back to haunt us. Well.

Fortunately for Cardinals fans, Esmil Rogers was every bit as shaky as Jackson. In the bottom of the 1st, he gave up 2 walks, 2 doubles, and a BLAST to Albert Pujols that made the score 4-2. It was Rogers's 26th birthday, and he celebrated by walking 7 over the course of 5 innings.

The Rockies had so many chances to bring this thing back around (as ESPN's commentators so ingratiatingly reminded us over and over and over). Neither team capitalized on the struggles of the other's starting pitcher, but the Rockies failed large at that. After the 1st inning, they reached base 9 more times and didn't manage to bring another run across. They grounded into 3 double plays. They struck out 10 times, 4 with runners on base. This occurred most painfully in the top of the 7th. The bases were loaded with 1 out, and Tulo was coming to the plate. He is not my favorite person in the clutch, but when he's on a hot streak he's good most of the time, and he's definitely on a hot streak right now. Surely he could get the ball into the air and bring at least one run home, right? Struck out on 5 pitches, at least 2 of which would have been excellent grand slam candidates. Then Todd Helton did the exact same thing. OUCH.

It quickly became clear that the offense had no intention of trying to overcome the meager 2-run deficit, despite the fact that the Cards weren't scoring either. So why not try out a new pitcher and give him a couple innings of work, since this game was burned anyway? Jim Tracy's pitcher of choice was Edgar Gonzalez, a "journeyman" who's put in 325 innings of work in 9 major league seasons. He has a long road ahead of him anyway, after making the questionable choice to wear #38. Either he knows that's Ubaldo Jimenez's old number and doesn't have the proper respect for that fact, or he doesn't know it in which case - how could he not know that? Anyway, I feel deeply prejudiced against him and sure that I'm not the only one. He did nothing to change that opinion when he pitched 2 innings and gave up 2 runs on 5 hits.

I had allowed myself a tiny bit of hope that the Rockies might use this national stage to overcome their Sunday issues in epic fashion. Instead, they had an epic choke, and rather than the kindness and gentleness of Drew Goodman, George Frazier, and Jeff Huson to soften the blow, we got Orel Hershiser and Bobby Valentine. Who wasted not one breath telling us how much our team sucks.

Tweet of the Game: @HeatherBelieveR: "ESPN keeps highlighting all of the Rockies negatives. We get it. They aren't having the season everyone thought they would. Enough morons." Cosign.

Oh, and then there was the thing where Rich Dauer got hit in the face with a Chris Nelson throw during batting practice. He's okay, aside from the broken nose, but really? Really???

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Let the Good Times Roll

Rockies 6, Cardinals 1

I just had fun watching the Rockies tonight. For the first time in a while. They actually played the game well, and it was enjoyable to watch them do it. They were firing on all cylinders. Such an event is very rare these days, so I will take it and relish it, knowing that Sunday is looming.

For once, I'm not sure where to start because everybody was so good. But I think the only place to begin is with Jason Hammel, who had the start I've been waiting for him to have for months now. He allowed just 1 run. Just one. For the first time since June 5th. Oh, it has been a long wait. Through the first 6 innings tonight, he was completely dominant, holding the Cards to 3 hits. I kept waiting for him to fold, and he didn't. Recently, even when he's started out well he's had tough innings. Not tonight. Even in the 7th, when he was finally chased off the mound, he looked good. He allowed 2 hits, a walk, and that one run in the first 1/3 of the 7th, but he had pitched well enough long enough by then that the bullpen could take over. And thanks to the offense he also had a comfortable lead.

That offense was primarily led by Carlos Gonzalez, who is forgiven for his terrible game in Cincinnati on Thursday. 4 of the 6 runs can be credited to him, and really it should have been 5 of 7. He came to the plate in the top of the 9th with 2 on and 2 out and laced the ball down the right-field line. It should have scored both Seth Smith and Eric Young, but it lodged in the padding on the wall, and Lance Berkman threw his hands up. That obligated the umpire to determine if it was in fact out of play, and when he found that it was he awarded Cargo a ground-rule double. EY had to go back to 3rd. A small gripe, but the point is that that was a timely hit for Cargo. Another timely hit for him came in the 3rd. EY and Dexter Fowler were on base via walks. Cargo stretched out over the plate, made contact with an 0-2 pitch, and improbably sent it over the wall in center field. Not his usual home run swing, but what counts at the end of the day is the runs scored, and this created 3 of them.

Cargo was certainly the offensive hero, but others contributed as well. EY singled in the 5th and then Jaime Garcia walked Troy Tulowitzki to get to Todd Helton with 2 outs. The Toddfather did what he does so well and made Garcia pay with a double to the left field corner. Matt Holliday had a considerable amount of trouble coming up with it, and a player with younger legs likely would have converted it into a triple. Either way, both runners scored.

Then there was the bullpen, who very kindly did not take Hammel's lead from him. Josh Roenicke took over in the 7th with 2 on and 1 out and prevented any runs from scoring. He was greatly helped by a killer diving catch from Chris Nelson that resulted in a double play. Nelly is playing such good hot-corner defense that I almost ALMOST don't miss Ian Stewart. Matt Reynolds gave up a lead-off double in the 8th, but then he struck out Rafael Furcal, and Matt Belisle got two groundouts to strand the runner. And Rafael Betancourt got a 1-2-3 9th with a pair of strikeouts. Let's not lose sight of how dominant Raffy is right now. Since the All-Star break, he has been the best reliever in baseball. Of all the relievers who have 0.00 ERA's since the break, no one has pitched as many innings as he has (13). And he's tied with Aroldis Chapman of the Reds for most strikeouts (22) and best opponents' average (.098) so far in the second half. He is killing it. Huston Street better watch out, because his job might be in jeopardy.

Just a really satisfying, really well-played game. Of course, the Rockies typically follow these up with complete embarrassments, but I'm just going to savor this one for now. The great thing about being a baseball fan is that you can know you're out of the postseason race when there are still 40 games to be played, which means each game can be taken on its own merits rather than for how it advances the team's play-off cause.

There wasn't a lot of tweeting tonight, but I'm awarding the Tweet of the Game to @CentralCaliRox for this astute observation: "Lately Road Hammel >>> Home Hammel. His fastball MOVES on the road, not in Coors. #Rockies."

I Have No Scapegoat

Rockies 1, Cardinals 6

This game looked pretty much like the majority of Rockies games this season have. A pitcher gave an excellent performance, better than we had any right to expect from him, and the offense did absolutely nothing right, so the game was lost. The fact that the pitcher was Aaron Cook isn't even that surprising. Despite his struggles this season, he's had more than one game like this.

Of course, Cook did have a moment of unraveling that most likely would have negated any rally the Rockies might have put together. He pitched 5 terrific innings, threw just 63 pitches, got 12 groundball outs, and allowed only 2 hits. He was in complete control, and he looked great. Then, in the 6th, it all fell apart. The score was tied 1-1 going into the bottom of that inning, and by the end of it the Cards were leading 6-1. All 5 runs scored in that inning were allowed by Cook, on 6 hits and 2 walks. He started leaving everything up in the strike zone, and Cardinals' hitters were swinging on 1-1 and 2-0 counts and making contact. There was some bad luck involved too; many of these hits skipped down the line or just past an infielder. Still, it was enough to do damage, and Cook finally got the yank with 2 outs.

Edgmer Escalona took over after that and pitched the rest of the game, 2 1/3 hitless innings. There were rumors that Escalona might be sent down to Triple-A to make room for Jason Giambi, who came off the disabled list yesterday. I really really don't want to lose Escalona. So far he's been great in long relief, and we need someone like him because our starters are struggling to go deep into games. An innings-eater like him can do a lot to keep hope alive for the Rockies. Huston Street was placed on the DL with tricep soreness, so for now Escalona isn't going anywhere. I hope we can find a way to keep him.

I eviscerated Jim Tracy for Thursday's game and essentially put all the blame on him for the loss. What do I know. This is the best lineup he could possibly have put together, and the offense still did absolutely nothing. They looked like they have in so many games this year, doing extremely unproductive things and showing a complete inability to move one another along the basepaths. It is so tiresome. It's not even worth going into. Carlos Gonzalez contributed the only run with a solo homer to lead off the 4th. Then the Rockies left the bases loaded in that inning. I love Chris Iannetta and his walks as much as the next guy, but this is when I absolutely hate him batting 8th (ooh, there's something I can blame on Tracy!). There were 2 on and 2 out, and he took 5 pitches, 4 of which were balls. I think teams intentionally unintentionally walk him in a scenario like that, because they know he won't swing at bad pitches. Of course, with 2 outs and the pitcher coming up, putting Netta on makes complete sense. I'd do it too.

I really hope we get a win in this series. Ironically, our best chance for one is Sunday, with Esmil Rogers going against Edwin Jackson. I'd say it's a good time to break the losing streak, but I'm not optimistic.

Tweet of the Game: @TrevorIrvine10: "I have finally figured out the #Rockies. They are auditioning for Final Destination 6."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Jim Tracy: Insane in the Brain?

Rockies 1, Reds 2

I've tried my best to reserve judgment on Jim Tracy this season. He worked a miracle in 2009, digging my team out of a very deep hole. He is a really nice guy who always calls his interviewers by their first names, and his players seem to like him. And I have no idea what it's like to manage a big-league ball club. We all like to think we know how things should be done, but the truth is that none of us have ever done it. (I assume so, anyway. Bobby Cox, are you reading this??) So I don't want to criticize his decisions since I know that there are probably a lot of factors I don't completely understand.

Well, even I have my limits, and I think I may have reached them. Tracy is starting to do things to the lineup and say things to the press that just flabbergast me. Today he decided to rest Troy Tulowitzki and Todd Helton. Both of them. On the same day. Even though neither is injured. He put Chris Nelson at 3rd, Jonathan Herrera at shortstop, Mark Ellis at 2nd, and Ty Wigginton at 1st. He put Eliezer Alfonzo behind the plate and in the clean-up spot. Yes, you read that right. IN THE CLEAN-UP SPOT. Just when we thought we'd seen it all. And he gave two explanations for that. First, Alfonzo's had great at-bats lately. Well, that's true. He has also had 34 of them since his call-up. Total. He has 6 RBIs, 4 of which came via the grand slam he hit in San Diego a couple weeks ago. You do not say a guy like that has had great at-bats. That sample size is negligible. Also, since when do we reward guys for taking good at-bats? Seth Smith hit two home runs on Monday and was benched on Tuesday because he never starts against lefties. Alfonzo hits from the right side. Johnny Cueto is a righty. Help me understand this!!

Tracy's second explanation was that he wanted to break up the left-handed hitters in the lineup. Carlos Gonzalez, hitting 3rd, is a lefty. Seth Smith, hitting 5th, is also a lefty. So clearly there should be a righty between them. I don't disagree with this on principle, but that righty should be a proven hitter, preferably one with power. Alfonzo has the power but not the proof. It makes no sense to put a man in the most important spot in the lineup because of the side of the plate he hits from. Do American League managers swap out their designated hitter for that reason? No.

Tracy also said that he really wanted today to be the day that the Rockies turned it around in terms of their complete failure to win the last game of a series. What? Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? That's exactly what Jim Tracy is doing. He completely overhauls the lineup in the final game of a series, and he gives everybody who needs it a day off at the same time. That will not result in a win. Other managers are not doing that. How can you say that you want your team to start winning the final game of series and then do absolutely nothing to set them up for it?

All right. I'm done ranting about Jim. I still think he seems like a perfectly nice guy, but I just don't get him anymore. I don't think he's in the right head space to run this team. Maybe he should consider joining the Pirates' coaching staff.

I haven't said a word about the game yet. There isn't really much to say. Jhoulys Chacin was excellent. He pitched a complete game, and 5 of his 8 innings were perfect. He struck out the side twice. He struggled in the 1st, when with 2 outs he gave up 4 hits that led to 2 runs (a throwing error by Chris Nelson didn't help - more B-team shenanigans). He tends to lose his cool when innings start to go that way, but he came back in the 2nd and retired 13 batters in a row. He struck out 9 on the day. It was a terrific performance. And for it he earned a loss.

Offensive offenses: Carlos Gonzalez striking out with the bases loaded to end the top of the 5th. Cargo grounding into a double play with 2 on and nobody out in the top of the 8th. And that clean-up hitter, Eliezer Alfonzo, went 0-for-4 with 2 K's. Mark Ellis had 2 hits and Seth Smith hit a moon shot in the 9th that took the shut-out away from the Reds, so they both get props from me.

A couple of bloggers whom I've never tweeted with and who aren't following me (and therefore have no idea what my opinions are about anything), took me to task for being upset with Cargo. I didn't engage with them because I don't see the point of Twitter fights. I'm perfectly fine politely disagreeing with people who communicate with me on a semi-regular basis, and with whom I have at least some mutual respect established. But I don't see the point in getting worked up over an ignorant comment by someone who takes one tweet out of context. That said, if any of my regular followers didn't like what I said about Cargo, allow me to clarify. I'm not saying he's the only one to blame for today. Obviously, a whole lot more guys could have and should have gotten on base. But the fact that he came up twice when there were multiple baserunners, entering into essentially the only two legitimate run-scoring opportunities we had, and did nothing productive, was a huge letdown. I know he can do better than that. That is all.

And you, Jim Tracy? At this point, I'm going to have a really hard time getting excited about the idea of you in a Rockies uniform in 2012.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Double Disappointment

Rockies 2, Reds 3

This series continually reminds me of the final series of the 2010 season, when the Rockies were swept by the Cardinals. Both teams began the season with play-off aspirations, and both were running entirely on fumes by the end. Especially the Rockies, of course, who scored a total of one run in the entire series. At that time, I totally understood the lacklusterness. I was running on fumes by then, too. But why, on the 10th of August, are they playing that way? Fumes don't get you through the last 6 weeks of the season.

Poor Kevin Millwood, who clearly had no idea what he was in for when he signed with the Rockies a couple days ago, had to take the mound tonight in a Colorado uniform. Millwood is a seasoned pitcher with a lot of experience, but he's had a rough couple years. In 2010 he went 4-16 for the Orioles, but that was the Orioles. They don't give their pitchers run support. News flash: neither do the Rockies. They had 14 baserunners and scored 2 runs. Do you even want to know the details?

Here are a couple highlights: In the 4th, Troy Tulowitzki and Todd Helton hit back-to-back singles, and then Seth Smith was hit by a pitch. This loaded the bases with 1 out. All Ty Wigginton had to do was NOT hit into a double play. He hit a chopper that catcher Ryan Hanigan grabbed right away. Hanigan stepped on the plate and threw to 1st. Double play. The Rockies hit into four total in the game, two by Carlos Gonzalez alone.

Then there was the 9th inning. What a mess. Eliezer Alfonzo managed a pinch-hit double with 1 out. Eric Young came in to run for him. EY stole 3rd. Everything was looking good, till Dexter Fowler hit a comebacker and EY got caught in a rundown. I guess that's Dex's fault because it was a hit and run, but regardless, EY was out. Rather than a tie game, we had a runner on 2nd with 2 outs, down by 1. Chris Nelson hit the ball right to Todd Frazier at 3rd, who did not tag Dex, but the umpire was apparently sick of being out there and called him out anyway. Game over.

In the midst of all this, Millwood went 7 innings, threw 100 pitches, and only allowed 7 baserunners. Unfortunately, 3 of those runners hit solo home runs, and that's all the Reds needed. Millwood certainly didn't deserve the loss. He mixes pitches well, gets lots of groundball outs, and controls the running game. I don't know how many seasons he has left in him, but he certainly seems like a quality choice for the Rockies considering our rotation issues right now. It remains to be seen how well he'll pitch at Coors; still, he did not disappoint me, and that's enough, since the rest of the Rockies really did.

Tweet of the Game: @judyfrie: "Hey Millwood welcome to the team of #baserunningerrors, GIDPs, and #leavingRISPs."

P.S. Juan Nicasio was released from the hospital today. The man BROKE his NECK five days ago. In the midst of all this disappointment, Nicasio is bringing the miraculous back. What might have been one of the most terrible stories in a terrible season has turned into one of the most inspiring.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

We Can Strand More Runners Than You Can!

Rockies 3, Reds 2

I actually feel really bad for the Reds and their fans. I know what they are going through. Their team makes it into the play-offs for the first time in about a million years, immediately gets bumped off by the Phillies, and goes on to have a depressing and underachieving season the following year. It's like the 2007 and 2009 Rockies had a baby, and it came out looking like the 2010 Reds.

At the end of the day though, they are the other team, and we did beat them, so yay for that. Dontrelle Willis was basically dominant, and Esmil Rogers was not, but the Rockies sucked less at driving runs in, so they won. Willis pitched 8 innings, and in 6 of them he retired the Rockies in order. He also struck out 10. Rogers, on the other hand, pitched 6 innings and only put the Reds own in order once. He allowed 13 baserunners and threw 111 pitches, which is a lot for only 6 innings. I want to be encouraged by his start, but to be perfectly honest Cincinnati just handed him this win. A better team would have been scoring runs like crazy. He got really lucky that he held the Reds to just 2. I'm sorry to those who want to think he was brilliant, but that's not how it went. Still, props to Rogers for not making the Reds look like a better team than they are, and for getting outs when he needed them.

Willis didn't deserve this loss, but he got it thanks to a home run by Troy Tulowitzki in the 4th inning. It was the second hit Willis allowed in the game, and lucky for us the first hit happened in the same inning, so the homer plated 2 runs. The third came in the 5th when Dexter Fowler singled with the bases loaded to score Chris Iannetta. I do have to give Rogers credit for that situation. He put down a terrific bunt that allowed him to reach 1st, and that turned out to be necessary since Fowler's RBI came with 2 outs. Of course, the Rockies still left them loaded.

Willis was especially dominant against left-handed hitters tonight, so maybe Jim Tracy is to be forgiven for benching Seth Smith (not that his switch-hitting replacement, Eric Young, did anything of note). Carlos Gonzalez and Todd Helton went a combined 0-for-8, and Helton racked up 4 strikeouts for just the second time in his career.

The best thing about tonight's game was how well the bullpen pitched. I hope the fact that they are suddenly doing their jobs again doesn't mean somebody else is going to start struggling, although I assume that will happen since that's the Rockies' circle of life this year. Matt Reynolds pitched a perfect 7th, Josh Roenicke gave up a hit but got 2 outs in the 8th, and Rex Brothers shut the door on that inning. And Rafael Betancourt, pitching on behalf of a sore Huston Street, provided a completely drama-free 1-2-3 9th. So pats on the back all around, and here's hoping the Rockies are actually gaining a little momentum!