Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Method to My Postseason Madness

I have a very complicated process for choosing whom to favor in the various play-off races. It is highly subjective and probably not acceptable. But it works for me.

First, obviously, if the Rockies are in it, all of my choices are based on what would create ideal match-ups for them in later series. But when they are not, as is the case this year, other things must be weighed.

There are several criteria that I use to make my decision, and the order in which I prioritize them switches around a lot. One of them3 is the sentimentality factor. Some teams I like because I feel some kind of connection to them. Maybe I once lived in their town (Pirates), maybe they played an awesome World Series and really impressed me (Angels, 2002), maybe they are the new home of a former very beloved Rockie (Indians).

Another factor is who was in the play-offs last year. I hate World Series repeats (unless it's the Rockies), and prefer not to have postseason repeats at all. I think it's more fun to have fresh blood. No one can keep close track of 30 teams all season long, so when at least some of the play-off teams are different from the previous season, it gives us a chance to get to know them better. For example, I will forever be an Elvis Andrus fan after last year's postseason, though I would hardly have noticed him without it.

Lastly, there's the underdog factor. For the most part, I don't like those beast franchises that have a ton of money and can just buy whatever awesome free agent pitcher/hitter they need to make their team perfect. I don't want to be one of those whiny people that constantly blames my team's failures on a lower payroll (that was the least of our worries this season), but it is frustrating when you have dynastic franchises that only win because they can use money to fix all their problems. So teams that are a little rough around the edges, or perhaps have come from out of nowhere to win a postseason berth, get my support. **The exception to this rule is always going to be the Yankees. I have deep affection for my New York sports teams (sentimentality). I don't always root for the Yanks, and prefer the Mets between the two, but I will often root for them even if the team they're playing is the underdog.

Taking all these things into consideration, here is who I would like to see win each of the postseason series.

National League Division Series

Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Milwaukee Brewers

My pick: Arizona
My dad taught me a long time ago that you should root for the team that beats yours, because if they win your team looks good. I apply this rule occasionally and loosely. If the Giants were back in the play-offs, I would not be rooting for them, because one season of their fans milking the World Champion thing was way more than enough. The D-backs, though, have really stepped up this season. I like the way they've played. They've done the little things right and I respect that. I also think they're the underdog in this series.

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Philadelphia Phillies

My pick: St. Louis
The Phils are the ultimate non-underdog. I mean, have you seen their rotation? Even Vance Worley, whom no one had heard of prior to this season, is awesome. They have several legitimate Cy Young contenders. I will say that I think they play good baseball; the Red Sox are a perfect example of a team that has the goods but couldn't deliver. The Phillies delivered and they did it a long time ago. That said, I can think of few situations when I would root for them. The only time so far when I have was in the 2008 World Series, because they hadn't won one in a long time and they were the NL team. If it's Phils-Rays again this year, I'm going for the Rays. I also have some sentimentality toward the Cards because of Matt Holliday. Sorry if you don't like that but it is what it is.

American League Division Series

Tampa Bay Rays vs. Texas Rangers

My pick: Tampa Bay
This is the series I feel least strongly about. I like both these teams and think they deserve to be in the postseason. What tipped the scales toward the Rays was the fact that the Rangers advanced all the way to the World Series last season and it would be cool to see the Rays make it further this year. Also, I like that they hung in and overtook Boston on the last day of the season. That's a team that's hungry to win.

Detroit Tigers vs. New York Yankees

My pick: New York
Like I said, I love my New York sports teams. In truth, I never had the cynicism toward the Yankees a lot of people have, because they were one of the first teams I liked, long before I ever thought of moving to New York. I pulled for them in the '96 Series because I wanted anyone but the Braves to win that year. It was a really fun series to watch and the Yanks were awesome. The fact that several members of that team still play in the Bronx ups the sentimentality factor. I can't say for sure if the Yankees will be my pick in every series they play this postseason, but I actually think that will be a moot point. They don't really stand a chance against the Tigers, who have way better pitching. So there's a little bit of the underdog thing there too!

All's Well That Ends Well

Rockies 6, Giants 3

If you are a baseball fan, it does not get any better than yesterday. The play-off races that came down to the wire and were ultimately turned on their heads, in extra innings, at the same time, were unreal. To be honest, much as I wish the Rockies were in it, the benefit of them not being in it is that I don't feel as invested in the results and I can just watch the game and get excited about the results. That's what happened yesterday.

The Rockies did play, and played well. I'm so glad they were able to go out of the season with a win. Finishing 3-11 isn't great, but it's better than last year's 1-13. They have so much trouble at AT&T Park, too, and it was easy enough to picture them finishing their season on the wrong end of a sweep there. That they prevented the sweep and got Drew Pomeranz his third major-league win was a nice high note to end on.

Pomeranz was nearly perfect through 5, shutting out the Giants on 3 hits and zero walks (any time a member of our rotation has no walks, I want to break out the bubbly). In the 6th he started to lose his sharpness and earned 3 runs on 3 hits and a wild pitch, as well as a hit allowed by Matt Lindstrom who relieved him. I think we can call Pomeranz's fiasco of a start in Houston last weekend what it is: a result of the fact that he's still brand new and sometimes won't be perfect.

I'm proud of our offense too, for the way they scored in 3 separate innings and went 6-for-15 with runners in scoring position. 5 different guys had multiple hits. There was still the requisite runners on 2nd and 3rd, 1 out, nobody scored, but I'll let that slide on the last day of the season.

So that's the end. A terrible terrible year for the Rockies. But again, this is the time in the season when we who love the game can cut our losses and turn our attention elsewhere to watch others' stories unfold. And what a story last night!

If you went to bed early and missed it, I feel sorry for you. Let me set the scene: the Braves and Red Sox were play-off favorites all season long, and I for one had no doubt they would get postseason berths. In fact, I thought the Sox were a shoo-in for the American League pennant. How could they not win it? Talent-wise, they have the best team in baseball. But the Cardinals and Rays had been creeping up for some time now and, improbably, the right combination of circumstances created a tie at the top of both Wild Card standings going into the final day of the season. This is when baseball hurts: when it comes down to ONE game, and you think back to all those close ones that you should have won.

So last night all four teams played. If all four teams won or lost, there would have been two play-in games today. I personally was rooting for the Cards and Rays. I love Cinderella stories (how could a Rockies fan not?) and I don't love the Braves and Red Sox. But I knew the odds of the right teams winning and losing were long.

All four games started while I was in class last night, surreptitiously refreshing the MLB scoreboard on my phone under the table every few minutes. By the time class ended and I was heading for the train station, the Phillies had come back to tie the Braves and that game was going into extra innings. The Cardinals were beating the Astros 8-0, so it had become a must-win sudden-death situation for the Braves, which is the absolute best kind!

Meanwhile, the Red Sox were leading the Orioles 3-2 but had gone into a rain delay. I was so hoping the O's could come back and win, because it didn't look good for the Rays. They were down to the Yankees 7-0 thanks to a grand slam by Mark Teixeira. This was a night of improbabilities, though, and the first would be the Rays' comeback. By the time I got home, they were deadlocked at 7 with the Yanks, heading into extra innings. Obviously the Rockies-Padres play-in in 2007 was the most nail-biting game of my life, but I don't think there have ever been two deciding games going into extras simultaneously like this before.

Got home, pulled up and put the Phils/Braves and Sox/O's on split-screen. (I was blacked out of Yanks and Rays and don't have a TV in my room. Yeah, I was too lazy to walk back out to the living room.) The Phillies had just gone ahead 4-3 in the 13th. The Braves had a runner on 1st and 1 out with dangerous Freddie Freeman coming to the plate. And Freddie grounded into a double play. Game over, Braves out, Cards in.

Minutes later, the Sox loaded the bases in Baltimore with 1 out in the top of the 9th. How were the O's going to get out of that? Bam! Another double play. But the Sox were still leading. Boston closer/Rockies nemesis/ickiest guy on the planet Jonathan Papelbon had the ball. He got two quick strikeouts. And then! A double. And then! Another double! Tie game! The final play of the game would be an RBI walk-off single by Robert Andino. The nasty irony in it was that Sox left fielder Carl Crawford made a sliding catch attempt that almost worked. He signed with the Sox this season after starting his career with the Rays, and it was his messy defense that won the game for the O's and put the Rays in the driver's seat.

Still too lazy to get out of bed, I switched on the Rays radio broadcast. Evan Longoria came to the plate to face Brandon Gomes in the 12th. All of a sudden the Rays' announcers started yelling that he hit it out. Well, according to my calculations, that puts Tampa ahead 8-7, and that's the ball game and the season. WHAT IN THE WORLD JUST HAPPENED????

What a day. What a game. Baseball is awesome people. Don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rockies are Terrible, Nobody Gets Fired

Rockies 0, Giants 7

The Rockies got shut out last night, but I don't really want to talk about that. Suffice it to say that Alex White is still a concern, Esmil Rogers will be a concern until the rapture, only 3 guys had a hit and one (*cough* Ty Wigginton) struck out 3 times. And some guy named Conor Gillaspie hit his first career home run. It was of the inside-the-park variety, and it occurred despite the fact that he slipped rounding 3rd. We can thank our right fielder (*cough* Ty Wigginton) for that.

But here's the real issue: WHY is the entire coaching staff coming back? I mean, I shouldn't really be surprised, because Jim Tracy's decisions have increasingly tipped the sanity scales, but does he actually think doing everything the exact same way is the answer? That is the very definition of insanity, Jim. Also, you yourself seemed obsessed at times with changing things up, convinced that you were on the cusp of exactly the right lineup, and when you found it everything would change. So why do you lack any semblance of consistency in that area, and in this one you have drawn your line in the sand? I DO NOT UNDERSTAND YOU.

So here's what I'm predicting for next season. It will go more or less exactly like this one, and the best we can hope for is no life-threatening injuries or devastating last-second trades. If those two things don't happen, 2012 will be in improvement over 2011. Also, consider this: before 2007, you never thought the Rockies had a shot at winning anything. Not even in 1995, when we all knew our guys' stats were inflated by Coors Field play and that they'd get bumped from the play-offs in about 5 minutes. I was 12 and I knew that. So we've spent the past 4 seasons watching our team perform better than we ever thought they could, and that's long enough that we started to think maybe they were a good team now. Turns out we were wrong, so now all we have to do is go back to being the kind of fans we were before 2007. In my case that means passionate devotion, but in the way one is devoted to a stray dog that is kind of ugly. Deep love, but a little embarrassment and very low expectations.

That's where we are, I say. I would love to hope that the Rockies prove me wrong, but it's more fun if they do that when I'm not hoping for anything. Don't worry though. I wouldn't know how to abandon them even if I wanted to, so despite my cynicism, I will be here to document every moment of lousiness in 2012.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Battle of the Disappointments

Rockies 1, Giants 3

There were a lot of sad pandas in last night's crowd at AT&T Park, and with very good reason. At the beginning of the season everyone, including me, thought that the National League West would come down to the Rockies and Giants. Who else could even be in the mix? The Padres were without Adrian Gonzalez. The Dodgers, despite Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp, seemed unlikely to put all the pieces together. And the Diamondbacks? Bahahahaha!

Well, I am humbled to report to you that those same Diamondbacks are the National League West champions. The Giants and especially the Rockies played terrible baseball this year. Both teams were also plagued by injuries, though the Giants played through them better than the Rockies did. In any case, this series is like a last gasp for two major disappointments, rather than a nail-biting contest between the only two teams still standing.

On that cheerful note, does anyone really care what happens in this series? Nah. But I'll tell you anyway, because something good did happen that was irrelevant to our missed postseason. Jhoulys Chacin had his best start in more than a month, going 7 innings and allowing just 2 runs. He did allow 9 baserunners, but only 1 of those reached on a walk, and Chacin kept his cool better than usual. Ordinarily, he only has good starts when he doesn't allow that many runners and is able to keep the bases clear. But in this start and in a couple of others he's had in the second half, he's shown signs of being able to keep things under control.

Obviously, I would prefer Chacin not walk anybody anymore, and I hope spring training is one long "how to pound the zone" clinic for this rotation, but a good pitcher works with the situation he's in rather than giving up because things aren't going as planned. It's a sign of maturity to adapt, so any time I see Chacin doing that I feel encouraged.

It doesn't matter how good your pitcher is when your hitters can't hit with runners on base. After a record-setting day at Minute Maid Park on Sunday, the Rockies left their bats on the bus upon arriving in San Francisco. In the 1st inning, there were 2 runners in scoring position with 1 out and neither scored. Mark Ellis was the only Rockie to manage a hit with a RISP, and thus he has the only RBI.

Is it too much to ask that we don't get swept in our final series? Probably. But I'm still hoping for that.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Colorado Team Scored More Points Than the Titans Today

Rockies 19, Astros 3

Well, good grief, just when I think the Rockies have fallen to the absolute depths of embarrassment, they do something like this. Namely, set a franchise record for hits in a game and runs scored in a road game. With the lineup still missing the three guys I declared this morning that they could not win without.

I stand gladly corrected. I'm not going to say a single thing about this game's implications for the future success of this team. I'm just going to enjoy it all on its own merits and be happy that it happened.

Specifically, I am very happy about the following.

1. Kevin Millwood. This guy is such a total class act. I desperately want him back in a Rockies uniform next year, whether he actually pitches or not, just so he can rub off on some of the other guys. What he did today is exactly what a starting pitcher should do following a tough outing. Don't make excuses, come back, do what you know how to do, and do it well. In Millwood's case, he did 7 innings, allowing 1 unearned run and 3 hits. He also hit a 2-run home run in the 6th. Considering that's his second home run this year and before that he hadn't hit once since 2002, I'd say being a Rockie agrees with him. And I agree with that.

2. Seth Smith. 3-for-5 with 2 walks and 2 runs scored. And one of the outs he made was a long fly ball that allowed Eric Young to advance from 2nd to 3rd. I realize Smitty hasn't been perfect these past few weeks, but surely this makes up for it at least partially. The Free Seth Smith movement remains alive and well.

3. Kevin Kouzmanoff. 3-for-5 with a career-high 5 RBIs. Also, the man hit 2 home runs when previously he'd only had 5 on the year. Since he hit #5 in this series as well, clearly something about Minute Maid Park is working for him.

4. Jordan Pacheco. 3-for-5 with an RBI and 3 runs scored. You can't ask for anything more than that from him, and he's delivered something similar in nearly every game. He also played both first base and catcher and did very well at both.

5. Ty Wigginton. 3-for-5 with an RBI and 4 runs scored. He also had both the Rockies' extra-base hits that weren't home runs. AND he did not strike out, or for that matter make the final out of any inning. It was a very un-Wiggy-ish day, but I will take it.

6. Chris Iannetta. Just 2-for-5, but one of his hits was a 3-run home run. And it's kind of amazing that he can hit at all since Wilin Rosario has gotten all but a few of the starts at catcher lately.

7. Tommy Field. 4-for-5 with 3 RBIs and 2 runs scored. And he's still playing a pretty mean shortstop. This kid is definitely the one who has most pleasantly surprised me this September. Not sure if he should make the 25-man in April, but he should definitely be considered.

The Broncos wish they'd had the Rockies offense today. They would have beat the Tennessee Titans, who only managed to put 17 points on the board. I don't know that a day will ever come when we can be proud of more than one of our sports teams at the same moment, but I am proud of my Rockies in this one.

The End is in Sight

Rockies 4, Astros 2, F/13

All right, those TV show recaps were fun for a minute, but I've lost interest in that too. Just 4 more games and we can all turn our attention away from this train wreck and focus on teams who are playing good baseball.

Last night, Jason Hammel had another good start that earned him a no-decision thanks to anemic offense and crappy baserunning. At this point we have gotten a very good look at what this team is without Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, and Todd Helton, and the lack of depth is truly frightening. None of our utility players are worth their weight in cat litter, and the young guys are promising but mostly not ready. The Rockies cannot, will not, win without those three.

Yes, they did win last night, but they did so in the 13th inning after squandering many early opportunities to go ahead in regulation. Also, they've been outscored 12-22 in this series, and that's playing the HOUSTON ASTROS, indisputably baseball's worst team. So I'd love to get excited about this victory, but really there are only two things worth giving my excitement to: 1) The Rockies could still have a 1-13 finish like last year, but at least it won't be 0-14. 2) It's so great to know that once we do finally get the lead, however many innings it takes, we have a closer like Rafael Betancourt to come in and slam the door.

Hammel's line (7 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 3 K's) is really encouraging too. Even though this was the Astros, these same Astros shelled our golden boy Drew Pomeranz on Friday, so good on Hammel for going out there and reminding them that they are not good.

Okay, I only have to do this 4 more times. I can make it.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

30 Rock

Episode #412: On Location

For this new season of TGS, Liz Lemon knows that she needs to step up her game. Kabletown's takeover of NBC has threatened the life of her show on more than one occasion, and she is willing to do whatever she has to do to make sure that it stays on the air. Well, we all know what happens when Liz Lemon gets desperate.

Her first idea is to ask Jenna if she will help recruit guest stars so they can get more famous people to appear on the show. Jenna gives Kenneth a list of her famous friends to call, and he gets out in front early when he books Ru Paul and a New York cabaret singer for the premiere episode. However, at that point Jenna reclaims the list, saying something about "restraining orders" and "can't go back to Rikers."

Next, Liz approaches the writers room to see if they have any ideas. Lutz and Frank suggest a swimsuit competition starring Cerie. Liz briefly considers before coming to her senses and insisting that that will not attract the kind of audience they need. Dot Com, who was recently hired as a writer in a surprise move by the producers, starts throwing out bad ideas so fast everyone agrees that he's set a record. Pete begins to cry, because he recommended Dot Com for the job, and now he realizes that it was a huge mistake.

Finally, Liz goes to Jack to ask his advice. She explains that she's nervous about the takeover and afraid that TGS will slip through the cracks. His second piece of advice (the first is that she needs to zip up her fly) is to take the cast on a trip to a city that represents Americana and try to make an episode that more people can relate to. He suggests Houston.

"Houston?" says Liz. "What is Houston even known for? Oil and that baseball stadium with the name that sounds like a Disney World ride?"

"Nobody has played baseball in the Astrodome for over a decade, Lemon. But that's not the point. Houston is a city full of real people who don't understand what it's like to ride everywhere in chauffeured cars and eat imported caviar for lunch. We need people like that to start watching our show."

"I don't know what it's like to ride in a chauffeured car and -- "

"Lemon, I need you to leave. My manicurist has been flown in from Beijing for my weekly treatment, and she's on her way."

"Houston it is."

Friday, September 23, 2011


Episode #329: Applied Mechanics

When your world is the size of Greendale Community College, sometimes little things take on an exaggerated importance. Don't tell that to the study group that formed in Spanish 101 a couple of years ago though. For them, the decision whether to admit a new member or expel an original one is epic. The consequences of the wrong choice could be catastrophic.

So the debate over whether Pierce should be allowed to remain with the group has been heated. Pierce is crass and inappropriate, but he brings a certain rakish charm to study sessions. He has what the other group members refer to as "great movement" - it's unclear whether they think this a positive thing or if he does it on purpose or not. All we can say for sure is that Pierce gets taken deep often. And the study group just doesn't know if they can abide that any longer.

He was invited to a trial study session last night following the first session of the group's new anatomy class. He immediately caused a disruption when he started throwing things at various members' body parts in order to demonstrate what he learned in class. He plunked Annie on the elbow ("Pierce!") and Troy on the thigh ("Dude!").

Jeff decided that Pierce needed to be sent out of the room while the others discussed the situation. He started to make the point that Pierce had made 6 productive comments in the last successful study session, including 3 in a row at one point, which tied his previous high. But Britta immediately jumped down Jeff's throat for his poor leadership this year. "You think that just because you're a man, and you were in the work force for a while, you get to be in charge of everything! Well guess what? We need someone who knows how to take one for the team and doesn't have to be the best all the time! It's not about your personal stats!"

"Huh?" Jeff replied.

"Psssshhhhh," Britta huffed, crossing her arms and rolling her eyes.

Meanwhile, Chang was standing against the wall trying to look as though he belonged. Unfortunately, Abed spotted him and tried to start an ironic meta conversation with him. Chang was totally unprepared and tried to judo chop Abed. Troy dove in between them at the last possible second and hit his head on the corner of a bookshelf. He was knocked unconscious.

Chang tried to escape in the ensuing chaos, but he wasn't even halfway to the door when he slipped, fell, and was grabbed by Jeff.

Was everyone able to put aside their differences and help Troy? Would Pierce be allowed to stay in the group? Will Chang ever be anybody's baby daddy? These questions are unanswered and unanswerable.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Law and Order: SVU

Episode #693: Cooked

It's time. Detective Stabler has been with the Special Victims Unit for 12 years, and he's getting a little rusty around the edges. He's starting to bust down doors without search warrants, harass suspects who have been cleared of all charges, and shoot fugitives in the belt instead of at the knees. The other detectives agree that it is probably time for him to move on.

During his most recent case, which unfolded in a 20th Street housing development yesterday afternoon, he was immediately overwhelmed by a perp he was confronting. The suspect, a San Diego priest accused of rape, punched Stabler 6 times and fired 4 shots. All 4 bullets lodged in Stabler's right arm, and doctors say he will likely never use it to fire a gun again. Miraculously, despite the injury, Stabler himself clubbed the perp 8 times before back-up arrived. The officers who reached the scene first said they had not seen Stabler launch such a sustained assault on a perp in more than two years. An anonymous police department source speculated that Stabler knew he was on his way out and was overcome by adrenaline. Others wonder if perhaps he was simply lucky to hit his spots.

The detectives that relieved Stabler collectively sustained just 3 minor contusions in their apprehension of the perp. Detectives Rollins, Tutola, Amaro, and Benson were able to subdue and arrest him, though they expressed regret that their colleague was injured so badly. Captain Cragen said in a press conference yesterday evening that he feels his unit has let the city of New York down recently, and that he intends to make some staffing changes in the coming months. Reading between the lines, it's quite clear that he means Detective Stabler will be asked to move on. Previously, the Los Angeles and Chicago police departments had expressed interest in him, but the fact that his right arm is no longer working likely means the end of his career.

Peace and happiness to you, Detective Stabler. We hope that early retirement agrees with you.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Is This Season Still Going On?

Rockies 1, Padres 2

So some stuff happened in a baseball game last night ... Jhoulys Chacin pitched good and got a loss ... Mat Latos pitched really good but it wouldn't have mattered because the Rockies can't hit anything right now. There was a tiny little 9th-inning rally that woke up the fans for a brief moment, but it died too soon. Troy Tulowitzki made a pinch-hit appearance in the 8th and apparently had been given a swing limit of one. He struck out looking. Seth Smith went 0-for-4 with 2 strikeouts, throwing my campaign to get him more starts in my face. Eric Young Jr. overestimated his speed and took care of the nightly baserunning error. Kevin Kouzmanoff did cool stuff in the field but made one bad play that cost the winning run because that's this season and I want it to go away and never come back.

I was happy for about a minute and a half when Rafael Betancourt came to the mound in the 9th and threw 10 pitches, 9 strikes. The Padres did not put wood on a single one. Bam, side struck out.

These recaps are getting shorter and shorter but I just don't have anything else to say. The things my fellow writers and I are doing to try to get through the rest of this season are not pretty. I think the final week of the season will feature recaps disguised as plots from my favorite TV shows, because that is what it will probably take to keep myself amused.

Read this piece by David Martin, because he is still miraculously able to muster the energy to show some respect, and he's right that Aaron Cook is deserving.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Rockies Fail At Everything, Including Getting No-Hit

Rockies 2, Padres 8

If I'm the Rockies, and I'm playing the worst baseball of my entire life, at the very least I'd try to do interesting things. I'd try to steal home or strike out 4 times in an inning or catch a fly ball after doing a backflip. Or help a rookie pitcher on one of the worst teams in baseball get a no-hitter.

But these Rockies can't even do that. After 5 2/3 innings of getting zero hits against Cory Luebke, Eric Young Jr. walked and Mark Ellis launched a 2-run home run to center. So the Rockies' box score reads 2-1-1. You don't see that every day.

Kevin Millwood would have gotten the loss no matter what, since the offense had no intention of providing him with run support. But Millwood had a pretty tough outing last night. He only lasted 3 1/3 innings, and in that time he gave up 7 runs (6 earned) on 9 hits. He was buried pretty early, when in the 2nd the Padres hit 3 straight singles before they made an out. That's not usually how things go with Millwood; he might give up a hit or two here and there, but he keeps them from coming in bunches like that. He just didn't have it.

Luebke did have it, though, to the tune of 7 innings pitched with just the 1 hit, 3 walks, and 9 strikeouts. He's good with the punch-out, but that's embarrassing. Ernesto Frieri pitched the final 2 innings of the game and allowed no hits, recording 3 K's of his own.

Several runs scored because EY was in left field instead of Seth Smith. Who cares if Smith doesn't hit that well against lefties? When you're getting one-hit in September, somebody better be thinking bigger than just people's splits. That somebody should be Jim Tracy, but who are we kidding.

The Rockies batted 1.000 with runners in scoring position. Good job guys.

You should really read Bryan Kilpatrick's recap as well. It's funnier than mine.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Rockies 5, Giants 12

Today I did something that I haven't done once yet this season. I turned off the baseball game because I literally could not take it anymore. I'm not a fair weather fan, and I almost never stop watching/listening when the playing is bad, because the more bad playing I watch and the more supportive I am when my team is slumming it, the most rewarded I feel when they play well. Or I'm just a glutton for punishment. Most Rockies fans are. But every now and then, I reach the end of my tolerance, and today was one of those days. I was listening to the game on the radio while getting some schoolwork done, and things were quickly going from bad to worse. I was pretty proud of myself for hanging in when the opposing pitcher hit a 2-run home run. When the Giants batted around in the 4th and Pablo Sandoval went deep for the second time in the INNING, I had had enough.

Of course, the worst was over, as I would later learn when I started following it again. But it was the worst of the worst. I don't know what Esmil Rogers was doing out on that mound. He lasted 3 2/3 innings and gave up 9 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks. So every single runner he allowed on base scored. And it's not even like he was getting ahead in the count and then throwing mistake pitches. All 4 home runs the Giants hit off him came on the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd pitch of the at-bat. He just had no movement. Everything was landing right over the plate belt-high. That's what we call a complete train wreck.

His replacement, Greg Reynolds, gave up that 2nd home run to the Panda. It was on the second pitch he threw and it came with 2 men on. And then he gave up a solo shot to Brandon Belt in the 5th.

Other pitchers were great, and I kind of wish any of them had started this game besides Rogers. I know why that wouldn't have worked, but really, I think we might have cobbled together a better game with 6 relievers pitching an inning or two apiece. That sounds like something Jim Tracy would be up for anyway, so why not?

I really want to hate on Ty Wigginton for grounding out to end the 1st with the bases loaded. But he did come up with an opposite-field RBI double in the 5th, the only decent inning the Rockies put together. Wiggy's hit was preceded by another opposite-field double, this one from Seth Smith, and followed by a line drive single up the middle from Chris Iannetta. Those were some quality pieces of hitting, and it was great to see them all in a row (interrupted by Kevin Kouzmanoff getting plunked in the back).

We should have seen that happen every inning that Matt Cain pitched, because he was totally out of control. Where Rogers was throwing gift pitches right down the middle, Cain couldn't have found the middle if the ball had a GPS on it. In 5 innings, he walked 4 batters, which is unheard of for a pitcher whose BB/9 rate is 2.25. (Rogers's, by comparison, is 4.92). A winning team takes advantage of a good pitcher having a bad day. The Rockies did it to Tim Lincecum back in May, but here in September they are a shell of their former selves.

I have no intelligent conclusions. I am tired of this team. I am ready for the the play-offs so I can cheer for someone else for a while and not feel bad about it. That is all.

Bye Bye .500

Rockies 5, Giants 6

Good news: Drew Pomeranz is really really good. If nothing else, he has a serenity that our other young pitchers seem to sorely lack. Even giving up his first major-league run to a pitcher collecting his first major-league RBI didn't faze him in the least. After that happened, he froze Andres Torres to get the third out and end the inning. Jhoulys Chacin would have walked the next 2 batters. Alex White would have walked the next guy and given up a home run to the following. So we're dealing with limited data at this point, but I think we can safely say that Pomeranz is the real deal.

In last night's game he went 5 2/3 innings and allowed 2 runs on 4 hits and 2 walks. He wasn't quite as dominant as he was against the Reds last Sunday, but he never lost control of the game. And I don't think I can overemphasize the importance of that mental focus he has. He will need that at Coors and to compensate for his own inexperience.

Of course, if he wants to get more wins he might be with the wrong team. Just about everybody else was patently awful. Eric Young Jr. only reached once, on a walk, and didn't even try to steal a base. Ty Wigginton struck out 3 times. And Huston Street took a game the Rockies were winning and turned it into a game they were decidedly losing. He pitched 1/3 of an inning and gave up 4 runs on 3 hits. Only 2 of those runs were earned, but when the pitcher commits the error that makes the other runs unearned it's just semantics. Jeff Keppinger hit a comebacker to the mound with a runner on 1st and Huston tried to get the force at 2nd. He threw it away. Matt Lindstrom committed a throwing error of his own later in the inning. It didn't lead to any runs, but by then the Rockies were down by 3.

I would like to end on a positive note, so I will point out those who did make a quality offensive contribution. Dexter Fowler walked in his first 3 plate appearances. One of those times he actually stole a base successfully, and then scored on a 2-out single by Jordan Pacheco. Fowler came up with the bases loaded in the 6th and hit a 2-run single. He's great for extra-base hits in the clutch, but he still needs to work on knowing when he doesn't have extra bases. In this case he did not, and was tagged out at 2nd.

A 9th-inning rally anchored by a Mark Ellis RBI double almost changed the game. Hector Gomez was the final batter and he struck out swinging. But he was also the only Rockie who had 2 hits last night, and since it was his first major-league start, that's not too shabby.

Looks like we aren't going to help knock the Giants out of the postseason after all. At least we play one more series against them next week. Hopefully by then they'll be eliminated, because if they aren't, we'll probably be responsible for giving them the division title.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Rockies Spoil My Night Rather Than Giants' Postseason

Rockies 1, Giants 9

I'm starting to feel a little bit worried about Alex White.

Wait, that was my lead sentence yesterday.

Well, it's that kind of season. Just because I'm recycling it doesn't mean it isn't true. I am a little bit worried about Alex White. I was very defensive of him in his first couple starts, because it seemed like people weren't giving him a chance to adjust and figure things out. Now he's had 5 starts, though, and none of them have been quality, so I'm concerned. My main concern is that he isn't going to be able to pitch at Coors Field. His home run rate is the worst by far on the team; he's giving up almost 1 per 2 innings pitched. It's on the coaches now to figure out how to help him get the ball down and hit his locations better. Can it be done? I just don't know. I really hope so. But at this point, Kevin Millwood is a better option than White.

Last night he allowed 2 home runs that scored 3 total. He also allowed a ground-rule double and a very long 2-run double to Madison Bumgarner. Yeah, that's the opposing pitcher. He actually had 2 hits in the game, for the second time in his career. Why are we letting the pitcher get hits? Why are we letting him drive in runs?

Even if White hadn't given up a single home run, or a single hit to Bumgarner, the Rockies still wouldn't have won this game. They didn't have much of a chance with the lineup Jim Tracy produced. Once again, Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, Chris Iannetta, and Todd Helton were on the bench, and Eric Young Jr., Kevin Kouzmanoff, Tommy Field, and Wilin Rosario were not. The thing is, though, the hitters weren't too bad. As a team they collected 9 hits and only struck out 5 times. Jordan Pacheco had 3 hits all by himself. But since Sunday's game when these guys put together a win against the Reds, they seem to have realized that the Rockies don't play like that. The only run that scored was made possible by a Pablo Sandoval fielding error. They went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. These kids learn fast.

Aaron Cook worked hard to make sure that the game was far out of reach. He pitched the 7th inning and gave up 3 runs on 4 hits. I do not want this guy anywhere near Coors Field next season. Bringing him back would be a big mistake. There's no doubt that he has lost it. I wish him well, but I wish him well away from my team.

Also, Hector Gomez's first act as a major league shortstop was to commit an error. The number of errors committed by Rockies shortstops not named Troy Tulowitzki this month has been pretty staggering. Let's not forget how lucky we are to have Tulo there most of the time.

Jim Miller and Greg Reynolds both pitched a hitless innings. And Kouzmanoff made a great catch that involved falling into the stands. Those are the only positive things I can think of to say. I'm especially depressed because, rather than spoiling things for the Giants, the Rockies have helped them. The Diamondbacks lost their last two games, so their lead in the West has shrunk to 6 games. If it's down to 4 at the end of this series because of the Rox, I will be speechless. Even when the pressure is off completely, this team still can't do anything worthwhile.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Jhoulys Has the Jitters

Rockies 5, Giants 8

I'm starting to feel a little bit worried about Jhoulys Chacin. What's happened to him this season has been a slightly less extreme version of what happened to Ubaldo Jimenez last season. His great first half and very uneven second half just don't line up with each other. I don't know exactly what's going on, but I hope the situation will be handled very differently from how the Ubaldo one was. Rather than wasting their time dismissing rumors and making excuses, the coaching staff needs to work closely with Chacin to diagnose the problem and work on a solution. My best guess is that it's still just youth and inexperience, but he needs to get back to whatever helped him cope with those things in the spring. He won't fetch nearly the price that Ubaldo did, so putting him up for sale at the trade deadline definitely isn't the answer in this case.

Last night, Chacin struggled mightily in the first 2 innings. He got 2 quick outs in the 1st, but then a single by Carlos Beltran and a home run by Pablo Sandoval put the Giants up 2-0 before the Rockies even had a chance to bat. Chacin's next move, unsurprisingly, was to walk Aubrey Huff. Luckily he got out of the inning without any more runs, but it's the way he loses his command when things go wrong that is a problem. In the 2nd, things weren't much better. Chacin allowed 2 hits and 2 walks and, thanks to 2 errors from his defense, 3 more runs scored. Things went well after that until the 6th, when 3 more hits plated 2 more runs.

Back to that defense though: wow, did it suck last night. It was so bizarre the way the sloppiness seemed to pass from player to player. It wasn't just the younguns either, though they certainly had their share. Tommy Field, who has been very solid at short over the past week, made 2 crummy throws, one of which was scored an error. Jordan Pacheco let a grounder go through his legs, Bill Buckner style. But far worse, Chris Iannetta had TWO passed balls (one of which I think should have been a wild pitch, but still). And both Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler made catch attempts against the outfield wall that went wildly wrong.

The offense did its best to try to keep the team alive. All 5 runs were driven in by different players. Pacheco collected his 2nd major-league home run. Eric Young Jr. had just 1 at-bat but made it count, with a pinch-hit RBI double in the 7th. Iannetta hit a home run as well. Field had a pair of hits and scored a run. So basically everybody who messed up defensively contributed something to the offense. And that brings us back to the pitchers, who ultimately cost the team the game.

I have to admit, though, that J.C. Romero was not one of those pitchers. I guess maybe I should stop trash talking him, because he was great. He pitched 1 1/3 innings and allowed 1 hit, striking out 3. Edgmer Escalona played with fire a bit, allowing 2 runners in his inning, but he kept it scoreless. And 1 of those runners was Pablo Sandoval, who hit for the cycle in his first 4 at-bats. I think intentionally walking him on the 5th was by far the smartest thing to do. Matt Reynolds gave up a lead-off home run to Brandon Belt in the 8th, which seemed to take the game out of reach. A 2-run deficit felt surmountable, but not a 3-run one. Josh Roenicke recorded the final 2 outs without a problem.

Ick, Ty Wigginton. Just, ick.

Weird stat: the Giants went 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position. Which means this really should have been a lot worse than it was.

If we don't take at least two in this series, I'm going to be horribly disappointed. This San Francisco team isn't good enough at hitting for us to let them get away with this.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Our Mill is Better Than Your Mill

Rockies 6, Brewers 2

If the Rockies had to go to any non-NL West ballpark twice in one season, why did it have to be Miller Park? I think I'd almost rather they have to go to Citizens Bank Park twice (which, joy of joys, they get to do next year). The Brewers have the best home record in baseball, and the Rockies had not won against them at their home park all season.

So it is so completely satisfying that they won this final game. Especially since they were eliminated on Tuesday, and I could understand if they needed to mope and play crappy for a day or two. Such behavior would not have surprised me out of this season's Rockies. Therefore, I have to respect the fact that they went out and did their jobs last night. It might be too little too late, but at least it was something.

Kevin Millwood: total professionalism and serious quality, exactly what we've come to expect. At this point I'm going to feel bad if we can't find a way to keep him on for 2012. I'm really hoping that he can stay, if only because we won't have Jorge De La Rosa back right away, and Millwood makes our rotation substantially more experienced than it would be otherwise. Or maybe he can be a special assistant to Bob Apodaca and do the actual coaching, since I'm not convinced Dac is helping anybody.

And Millwood didn't give up any homers! Not even to Prince Fielder! He did give up 1 of his 2 earned runs in the 1st inning on a triple by Corey Hart and an RBI groundout by Nyjer Morgan. But what's great about Millwood is how he never lets things unravel. Whenever the game gets away from him, it's always because he lets too many balls leave the yard. But he never ever loses his cool over a little thing like a run scoring with no outs in the 1st. He didn't allow another run until the 6th.

When Millwood gets run support, he wins, and luckily he had plenty of that last night. A tip of the cap to Mark Ellis, who had 4 hits with an RBI and 2 runs scored. Thomas Field got his first major-league hit (appropriately, he also got his first major-league baserunning error, and so wasn't able to score). Carlos Gonzalez hit a 2-run home run. Wilin Rosario hit a homer of his own. Later, Cargo also collected an RBI on a sacrifice fly, and then Jason Giambi hit an RBI double. That's how this team plays when they're all working together, and it makes 1-run losses like Tuesday's that much more painful.

The bullpen did a fine job holding Millwood's lead for him. Matt Belisle gave up 1 hit in a scoreless inning. Huston Street only lasted 1/3, putting runners on the corners for Rex Brothers, who shut the door decisively.  Rafael Betancourt had no trouble getting a 1-2-3 9th. I actually would not to TOO sad to see Huston go in the off-season. It's become clear that both Brothers and Betancourt can better handle those final innings. It doesn't make sense to keep all three, and if we have to lose someone Huston makes the most sense.

Finally, I had to do an exercise in class last night which produced the following sentence. It is way more Proustian than it is Rockies Woman-ian, so I didn't think it made sense to try to shoehorn it into this post somewhere. But I felt like it needed to be shared. Make of it what you will.

And when after a failed season everyone surrenders, when the manager has conceded, when the players are weary and defeated, pitcher and hitter spent, less hopeful and less proud, less imaginative, less cooperative, less jubilant, stay mindful of a distant future, reconstituted team, dreaming, planning, joining, among the men of next year; and accept willingly, from the tearful and tragically distraught hearts of their fans, the heroic charge of beginning again.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bye Bye, Rocktober

Rockies 1, Brewers 2, F/11

The Rockies held on to their postseason hopes quite a bit longer than I initially thought they might, but they're eliminated now, and it hasn't happened this early in September since 2003. That's a team that included Todd Helton, Larry Walker, and Preston Wilson, but I personally would take Helton, Carlos Gonzalez, and Troy Tulowitzki any day.

At least, I think I would. I'm actually far more impressed with how our Sunday lineup played, without all three of those guys. Sunday's offense reached base 12 times and scored 4 of them. Tuesday's offense reached 13 times and scored once. So since it's generally accepted that scoring runs is the way you win games, it's an easy choice.

Apparently watching the kids put the ball in play was not helpful for the veterans, who struck out 9 times. There were 6 strikeouts with runners on base. Zack Greinke is a good pitcher, but he's not that good. The Rockies have had his number in the past, but they must have lost it. Or maybe it's just a really hard number to remember. I don't know. What I do know is, they got him to throw 116 pitches in 5 innings but still couldn't bring more than the one run home. It's not helpful to work counts if you chase a ball in the dirt and finish yourself off.

Also, Mark Ellis was tagged out at home TWICE. In the same game. Within the first 3 innings.

And the Brewers defense is not great. The one run that did score came about when Wilin Rosario doubled over the head of Ryan Braun who was playing too shallow. The infield committed 2 errors in the same inning and the Rockies could not take advantage.

Esmil Rogers had as good a start as he'd had in a long time. He allowed 5 hits and walked 4, but the Brew Crew was just as impotent when it came to scoring, so the only run he gave up was on a solo shot to Prince Fielder. And Fielder's like Mike Stanton; you just expect him to homer at some point during the game, so you have to assume you're going to need an extra run. But when Rogers is keeping runners under control like that, help him out with a little offense!

At least he didn't get the loss. That belongs to Matt Lindstrom, who gave up a walk-off home run to Ryan Braun in the bottom of the 11th.

This was a discombobulated post. I get verklempt when my team is eliminated. I expect to return to coherence tomorrow.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Future is Bright

Rockies 4, Reds 1

This game made me nervous. Drew Pomeranz, the centerpiece of the Ubaldo Jimenez trade, made his MLB debut just weeks after undergoing an emergency appendectomy. From what I've seen so far, I love Drew, but we basically need him to be incredible in order to justify that trade, and after Alex White's tough start I worried that he wouldn't be.

Also, the lineup was positively bush league. Nobody in the organization is kidding themselves that the Rockies will make the play-offs (though thanks to the Diamondbacks' loss last night, they are improbably not yet eliminated), so there's no reason to take any chances with anybody. Thus, yesterday's lineup was conspicuous for the absence of Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, and Todd Helton, all nursing minor ailments they would have played through if we were still in the race. Only 3 guys who started were on the major-league roster on opening day. And behind Pomeranz, another guy made his debut in the bigs: Thomas Field at short.

But you know? These guys did their thing. Pomeranz was terrific against a Reds lineup that was certainly not bush league. He allowed just 2 hits in 5 innings, and some would say one of those was really an error on third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff. The most encouraging thing about Pomeranz was how much control he seemed to have over where the ball went. He did get a couple of really long fly balls that challenged Ty Wigginton's outfielding abilities - though, let's be honest, most fly balls do that. But what he did so well was get double plays. He allowed 4 runners total; one reached with 2 outs and another advanced to 2nd on a bunt. But the other 2 were erased with double play ground balls. So, I love Drew.

And props to those kids playing behind him, too. Eric Young Jr., Jordan Pacheco, and Field were responsible for those double plays. Field actually looked really solid at short. He was a definite improvement over Chris Nelson. And maybe we can try EY at 2nd again? I just want him to be able to hit. He stole 3 bases yesterday and, as is always the case when he does that, was able to score twice on singles as a result. One of those times, the hitter of the single was Pacheco, who did so with 2 outs. That kid is clutch. Small sample size, yes, but he gets hits when it counts.

If this is what our team can do without Cargo, Tulo, or Helton, maybe things are looking up. Maybe these young kids can show our self-satisfied veterans what it looks like to go out and make things happen every day, and among them they can create an actual winning team. There's reason to hope in any case. And did I mention that I love Drew?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Why Baseball Matters

I don't have a lot of friends who love baseball like I do. Most of them not only don't love it, but they don't understand my love for it. When they ask about it, I usually mumble something like "childhood ... new team ... competitive ... home ... Dad ... play-offs ..." or I just shrug and say, "It's hard to explain." But I can tell you this: one of the many reasons I love baseball is the sense of community that forms around it. I lack this to a certain extent, living on the east coast and rooting for a team way out in the Mountain Time zone. It still comes my way sometimes, though. If you're a diehard fan like me, you know what I'm talking about. Every so often you meet someone who loves the game like you. Even if they don't cheer for your team, they know the sport well enough that they can talk about it with you. Suddenly you're talking about players like they're old friends, and about significant moments like you were both there to witness it. You instantly understand each other, if only on that one level. Most of the time we only appreciate this superficially, but it's always there. Baseball, for lack of a better phrase, brings us together.

I doubt this was ever more evident than in September and October of 2001. Today is the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, and living in New York City makes it impossible for me to ignore that. Not that I would want to. The truth is, the events of September 11th played a big role in bringing me here. This isn't the place to recount that story, but you can read it here if you're interested.

What I do want to do here is make an argument for why baseball matters even more in light of what happened on that day. Sometimes we see each other get worked up over this loss or that injury and we try to remind each other to keep things in perspective: it's just a game. It IS just a game, but what it represents goes so far beyond that. And it's in times of tragedy and fear that we can see just how true that is.

If you haven't seen the HBO documentary Nine Innings From Ground Zero, you absolutely must. It makes this point better than I ever could. It's about the 2001 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Arizona Diamondbacks. The D-backs won ultimately, but the Yanks made several improbable comebacks. There were people at those games who had lost loved ones in the attacks, who needed a reason to be hopeful. That series reminded us that we could hope, and also that we could go on. That there might still be a place in life for joy.

Even though baseball boils down to men swinging wooden sticks and throwing round chunks of leather and yarn around, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. What it really means is the possibility of being a part of something that is larger than life. It means a sense of community and belonging. It means triumph over adversity, resolution of tension, working together. And I would argue that its greatest virtue is also the thing we all respond to most in life: redemption from failure.

Everyone experiences failure. Some of us react it to it more strongly than others, but we all know what it's like to feel shame and worthlessness. Athletes feel these things too, and in some ways more intensely, because they represent a population. When they fail, so do we. As fans, we feel our players' triumphs and troubles deeply. In our own lives, we long to believe that we're doing something worthwhile, and that we're doing it successfully. When our players succeed, especially after a failure, that possibility feels alive.

In 2007, the Rockies won 21 of their final 22 games en route to their first play-off berth in 12 years. For those of us who had been following them all those years, it was a culmination, a pinnacle, a rush of excellence after so many years of mediocrity. I don't know how else to explain my feelings about that October except to say that every time they won, I felt like I won too.

As we look back on the events of September 11th and remember the lives that were lost, I think the worst thing we can do is shove baseball to the side and say it doesn't matter. It matters so much. Not because the winner of any one game or of the World Series wins on some sort of cosmic level. But because those of us who follow along with and cheer for them see ourselves in them. We revere them because they show us who we can be, and they bring us together in our shared experience of that.

As Babe Ruth once said (all right, it wasn't Babe Ruth - it was the actor who played him in The Sandlot): "Remember kid. Heroes get remembered. Legends never die." The theme of September 11th memorials has always been "Never forget." I would argue that remembering our sports legends isn't so different from remembering the legends of an event like September 11th. The potential to create hope, inspire goodwill, and bring people together exist in both. And those things make being human a lot more worthwhile than it would be otherwise.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Rockies Fight Back For Once

Rockies 12, Reds 7

I didn't actually see this game, thanks to MLB's deal with the devil (also known as Fox). The joke's on them, though, because if they think that because I'm not able to watch my game I'm going to give it up in favor of the Twins-Tigers instead, they're nuts. Nevertheless, I was confined to radio today, so I'm relying on Jack Corrigan and Jerry Schemmel's interpretation of events. And I'm okay with that.

Alex White: 5 home runs allowed. WHOA. I have no idea how to make that sound better than it is. He has got to start making adjustments if he's going to be successful at Coors Field. I have been a fan of White's and continue to be one, but if he doesn't learn how to get the ball on the ground, he just isn't going to last long. He has great stuff, and he'll be wasted on a team like the Rockies if he keeps this up.

But, this: only 1 walk in 5 innings, so that's an improvement over previous starts. Also, he both made an error and suffered one from Dexter Fowler in the 1st inning that led to a run. In the past, such early-inning shake-ups have messed up White's command and caused him to start walking batters. I definitely don't prefer the homers to the walks, but at least it means he's finding the strike zone even when things aren't going as planned. Here's a tip for Jim Tracy, though: please don't leave this guy in long enough to give up back-to-back-to-back long balls. EVER.

And the really great thing about this game is that the offense came through for White. Not only did they go deep 4 times themselves, but they worked the bullpen for runs as well. This game came down to which team got to the pen, since both starters gave up 6 earned runs. In the late innings, the Rockies' hitters kept at it. In the 8th, they turned their 1-run lead into a 5-run lead simply by taking pitches that Aroldis Chapman and Jeremy Horst couldn't throw properly. A wild pitch and a walk drove in a pair of runs; then Jordan Pacheco, who'd already hit a solo shot earlier in the game, hit a 2-run single. He did that with 2 outs, which always pleases me greatly.

The bullpen came through too. While the Reds' relievers struggled, the Rockies' relievers were flawless. Matt Belisle took over for White in the 6th and retired all 5 batters he faced. Of course, it wouldn't be Tracy's pen if Belisle was allowed to face 6, so Rex Brothers was brought in to finish the 7th. He gave up a double to Joey Votto but then got Jay Bruce to ground out. Huston Street took care of the 8th by striking out the side. And Rafael Betancourt had - what else? - a 1-2-3 9th.

This is a Rockies team I can believe in. They didn't give up and they did what they had to do to win. I do have my concerns about White at this point; he needs some coaching and he needs it now. Will Bob Apodaca break him like he did Ubaldo Jimenez and Aaron Cook? I hope not. White is going to be some team's really good pitcher, and I just hope the Rockies will be that team.

The Case of the Missed Opportunity

Rockies 1, Reds 4

I would say that it's hard to watch our best players ride the bench while untested kids get the start night after night, but the truth is that I don't know if we'd be playing a whole lot better if the reverse were true. So much about last night's game told the story of this season. It didn't look all that different from many games from way back when it seemed like the Rockies might be good this year.

This was most glaringly the case in the team's failure to drive runs in. Not one SINGLE baserunner scored, despite the fact that 7 reached. The lone run was accomplished via a Chris Nelson solo homer and, as I have pointed out previously, when you hit the ball out of the yard they have to let you cross the plate. They do not have to let you cross when you put 2 on with no outs, or a runner on 3rd with 1 out.

Dexter Fowler is looking a little too much like his old self. He went 1-for-4 with 2 K's. Todd Helton, who hasn't a good game in weeks, went 0-for-4. That's ironic, too, because for once Jim Tracy put him in the clean-up spot with Troy Tulowitzki taking a day off. Usually Tracy puts the last guy you'd want in that spot on Tulo's off days, but Helton there actually made sense. It's too bad it didn't pay off. The only guy with multiple hits? Seth Smith, who also stole a base. He was that runner on 3rd with 1 out, however, and chose to run on the contact play. You can probably guess what happened next.

Jhoulys Chacin, pitching on more than a week's worth of rest, looked good early on. It was a similar to the outing he had against the Reds at Great American Ballpark in August: he allowed several hits in the first couple of innings but handled his traffic, and then settled in to retire many batters in a row. He didn't last as long this time, however; in the 6th he allowed another run to score, though you can thank errors from Chris Nelson and Seth Smith on the same play for that. Chacin was clearly on a short leash, because he was not allowed to finish that inning. I'm encouraged, though, most especially by the fact that he only walked 2 batters, neither one until that 6th inning.

Tracy is having a field day with his expanded bullpen right now, and he used 5 relievers in this game. Surprisingly, he actually allowed 3 of them to complete a full inning. It was good to see solid outings for Matt Lindstrom and Greg Reynolds. Not solid: Josh Roenicke. I had a feeling that once his ERA became greater than 0.00, it would be all downhill from there. He gave up a pair of RBI singles, though only 1 of those runs was his fault since the other belonged to Chacin.

What are we playing for at this point? Pride? Uh, no. A look at the future? Sure, though that is both confusing and potentially saddening since some guys are being shown off to interested teams and others are playing for a spot that would mean one of their teammates getting dealt. Because MLB makes you finish the season whether you like it or not? I think we have our answer folks.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Millwood Gives as Good as He Gets

Rockies 3, Diamondbacks 5

I like Kevin Millwood. I never thought I would say that. But he just seems to be a really good guy who really likes to pitch. And he is holding his own in the Rockies' rotation this season. At this point, I'd be happiest with a 2012 rotation that looked like this: Jhoulys Chacin, Juan Nicasio, Jorge De La Rosa, Alex White, Drew Pomeranz. And Kevin Millwood. Obviously we won't have a 6-man. But if we did, Millwood is my #6. And if DLR and/or Nicasio aren't ready to go in April, then I definitely want him.

Unfortunately, he wasn't able to pull out a win in last night's game, despite starting well. He ended up being removed in the 6th after throwing 102 pitches and allowing 4 runs on 10 hits. But he didn't walk anybody, and he only gave up one home run. Since that's usually his kryptonite, when there's only one I'm happy.

ALSO: he hit a home run of his own! I guess he figured, if I'm going to keep giving up these long balls, I'd better contribute one myself. His last home run was way back in May 2002 and, naturally, he hit it at Coors Field. Off Denny Stark, who allowed 25 home runs in 32 games that year. So maybe there's a little poetic justice in Millwood hitting this one now as a member of the home team.

The real reason the Rockies lost is that Millwood provided 1/3 of the offense, and when that's the case you don't really deserve to win. The other 2 runs also came from solo home runs, one by Carlos Gonzalez and one by Wilin Rosario. Yay for Rosario though! We need him to be a power hitter, so for him to go yard in only his second major-league game is encouraging.

Everybody else, though, was dead in the water. Well, Troy Tulowitzki had 2 hits, but nobody could get on base in front of him, so it didn't do him any good. D-backs pitchers collected a couple of 1-2-3 innings, including David Hernandez, who was responsible for allowing Tuesday's offensive onslaught. And you know, I can't even blame Jim Tracy for a B lineup. This isn't exactly the A one, but it's the same as Tuesday's. Right down to Seth Smith, who was allowed to start against a lefty. And I can assure you that will never happen again, because he went 0-for-4 with a strikeout.

Tracy's bullpen tinkering was in full force last night; after yanking Millwood, he used SEVEN pitchers in the final 3 1/3 innings. Only Josh Roenicke was allowed to pitch a full inning. But the good news is that only Rex Brothers struggled, and he's been great lately, so we can give him a break. He allowed a solo home run to Justin Upton, but who hasn't? We also got our first look at Jim Miller, whose call-up was a bit of a surprise. He walked a man but otherwise induced 3 easy ground balls. Only 2 would have been needed if Tulo hadn 't committed a rare error. Props to Miller for not allowing that to rattle him.

I have nothing left to say except good-bye Snakes. Take your wiles elsewhere.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Matt Belisle is Our Second-Best Pitcher

Rockies 8, Diamondbacks 3

Okay, I don't actually think Matt Belisle is our second-best pitcher. And I do think that the win-loss stat is pretty useless. But I'm also depressed that Jhoulys Chacin is the only starter with 10+ wins this season. That has much to do with why the postseason is passing us by this year.

In fact, I'll go ahead and say that the starting rotation is 2011's biggest disappointment. I know our offense hasn't been quite what we hoped for, but most guys have done about as well as we thought they would (Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki), and some have gone well above expectations (Todd Helton, Seth Smith). The fundamentals are poor, but I haven't felt that anyone (except Ian Stewart) has been a colossal letdown. And the bullpen has been generally better than I thought it would be. But the rotation has been troubled from the very beginning.

Last season at this time, we still had play-off hopes, and it was largely because of what the starting pitchers had accomplished. Ubaldo Jimenez struggled a bit in the second half, but had been almost perfect in the first. Jorge De La Rosa and Jhoulys Chacin were solid and reliable. And Jason Hammel continued to surprise with how consistent he could be in the back end. This season? I remember how excited I was on April 1st when Jimenez took the hill to face the Diamondbacks in the season opener. If you'd told me then that just a few months later he'd have a losing record and be shipped off to another team, I would not have believed you. DLR pitched less than two months before Tommy John surgery sidelined him. Chacin has been inconsistent. Juan Nicasio is out. Aaron Cook is a letdown. And Hammel is no longer good enough even for the back end. With all this in mind, it's not surprising that a reliever has the second-most wins.

All right, enough lamenting. Hammel actually had his best start in a long time in his return to the rotation last night, which is interesting, because at this point I can't help but think his days in a Rockies uniform are numbered. Last night he pitched 7 innings and allowed 1 earned run. He also walked only 1. It was very uncharacteristic of what he's done lately. I wish the team could have gotten him a win out of it, but at least he didn't have to take a loss.

In the 8th, Huston Street faced 3 batters and got 2 of them out. The second was Justin Upton, who struck out swinging. Jim Tracy's response to that was, as usual, to replace Street. Matt Reynolds came in and promptly allowed a run, although it was unearned (and I don't even believe he should be charged with a hit, which he was). Matt Belisle recorded the final out, and that out was enough for the scorekeeper to award him the win. Rafael Betancourt had a perfect 1-2-3 9th, as we've come to expect.

Offense: very quiet at first. They didn't score till the 5th, when Seth Smith led off with a triple and Jordan Pacheco grounded out to record his first major-league RBI. Pacheco had 2 hits and 2 RBIs in the game, which was encouraging. Fellow newbie Wilin Rosario didn't fare quite as well; he was hitless, though he did score 1 run after reaching on a walk.

But the Rockies relied on the big inning to get the win. In the 8th they scored 7, making it their biggest inning this season. The best part was that all seven scored with 2 outs. 2 outs in the 8th and down by 2 is usually when the Rockies throw in the towel. Also, Tulo came to the plate with 2 on and 2 out and for the second game in a row he hit a 3-run home run. I'm happy about that, but here's the drawback: he's probably thinking, see, that is why I swing for the fences every single time! So I better keep doing that! When in reality  his chances of that kind of success twice in a row aren't great. I don't expect his clutch hitting to improve overall until he's willing to get a smaller hit than that.

Defense: Pacheco and Rosario showed their youth and both contributed to an unearned run. Rosario had a passed ball that moved Paul Goldschmidt to 3rd; he would score on a Gerardo Parra single. Later, Pacheco muffed a throw to 1st that allowed Miguel Montero to reach and Aaron Hill to score. It was recorded a single and an error, but it was more like a 2-base error. If Pacheco makes that play, Montero is out and the inning is over. But this is why these guys got a September call-up: to give them the chance to iron out some kinks at the big-league level. Our season is over, so no reason not to give them that. Also, Pacheco has primarily worked behind the plate, so he may need quite a bit of time before he'll have a feel for an infielder's glove.

So? Our rotation isn't that great. But Alex White is promising, Drew Pomeranz debuts this weekend, and with some luck DLR and Nicasio will be back in 2012. Plus, the Rockies have certainly sunk in the public's estimation, and that's how they prefer it by their own admission. Things could get very interesting.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Dex Dings D-Backs

Rockies 7, Diamondbacks 10

Do you remember last Labor Day? I do. Like it was yesterday. I was hanging out with some friends, following the Rockies-Reds game on my phone. It started to get exciting, so I ditched my friends as I am wont to do when that happens (they get mad, but I have my priorities). I turned on the game just in time to see Chris Nelson steal home as the Rockies came back to win. And went on to sweep. The play-offs seemed not only possible, but imminent.

Well, things change. Today there are absolutely no play-offs in sight, and my readership has plummeted since a couple weeks ago when the fans still believed. The Rockies picked a bad time to completely play themselves out of contention; not only are they not interesting to watch anymore, but football is on. I'll admit that even I was watching my Georgia Bulldogs lose to the Boise State Broncos out the corner of my eye during Saturday's Rockies game. I think the last time I tried to watch baseball and football simultaneously was 2008.

Anyway. There was a game today. You probably missed it, but I watched the whole thing. It featured the not-dead-but-dying Colorado Rockies and the National-League-West-leading Arizona Diamondbacks. Esmil Rogers did the usual: put a million men on and let some of them score, because the law of averages really works. Today it was 13 baserunners in 5 1/3 innings. Greg Reynolds did the usual: threw a gajillion balls and made all of us cringe yet again that he was ever a first-round pick. The Rockies have got to unload him the moment an offer comes along, just to save us from having to relive the shame over and over. J.C. Romero did the usual too. (Where did he come from? Stupid expanded roster.) He worked the team even more out of the game than they already were. The details of how aren't really important.

You know who didn't do the usual? Josh Roenicke. Excuse me while I mourn the loss of his perfect ERA. It was so shiny and special for so long. Now it is 1.64. He gave up a bases-clearing double to Paul Goldschmidt. The Rox lost by 3, so Josh Roenicke: shame on you!

Now I just want to talk about good things. Here are three:

1) Dexter Fowler. He went to my high school, you know. And graduated in my brother's class. So I'm going to feel a little adopted-hometown-pride in him.  He had yet ANOTHER 3-hit game today, and two of those hits were home runs! First time in his career! What's so bizarre is that he went nearly the entire season without any long balls, and now he has 4 in the past 8 days. And ALL of them against the D-backs. I thought it might be Chase Field at first, but these two were at Coors! What's beyond doubt is that he is swinging the bat better than he ever has. He's still iffy on the basepaths - he got a lucky safe call when he slid  into 2nd with a double and nearly overslid - but the offense is unquestionably excellent. And he even had a great day in center field. That's two in a row!

2) Speaking of good defense, almost everyone had it today. Kevin Kouzmanoff made some killer line drive catches. Carlos Gonzalez collected his major-league-leading 12th outfield assist when he gunned down Henry Blanco at home plate. Chris Iannetta caught yet another guy stealing. The one double play turned featured some great footwork by Mark Ellis. The only guy who wasn't quite with it in the field was Esmil Rogers. Which is ironic, because he's a very athletic guy and certainly capable of making any play. But twice in today's game a ball came back to the mound and he didn't know where to throw it at first. The other fielders had to tell him. I realize that sometimes there is a lot going on, but when Ty Wigginton is standing next to you pointing to 1st base because you haven't thrown it there yet, well ... come on Esmil.

3) Troy Tulowitzki came to the plate in the bottom of the 9th with 2 men on and 2 out. Cue the "Tulo choke"  funnies. But - he DIDN'T choke! He got a legitimate clutch hit! It's hard to hate on him for swinging for the fences in those situations when he actually does hit it over the fence. The issue is that he usually doesn't have the patience to wait for a good pitch, so he strikes out or pops it up. But today, he took three pitches before he saw a cutter he liked and bam. 3-run home run.

So I think that I've shared a lot of good news with you. And here's something else: we're all about to get our first major-league look at Wilin Rosario, Jordan Pacheco, and the greatly anticipated Drew Pomeranz, who apparently has recovered from his appendectomy. The kids are all right, and they're coming to town! Don't give up on baseball yet!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sunday Strikes Again

Rockies 2, Padres 7

Wow, just when we thought the Rockies had Sundays figured out. I would say that I saw this coming, but this game was actually lost in a way I would not have predicted. It reminded me of our August 7th game against the Nationals, which was also started by Aaron Cook, and which was also lost, irrevocably and painfully, by the bullpen.

Cook wasn't too bad. That's about the highest compliment I'm willing to pay him at this point. Well, that, and that he has a similar attitude to Jason Hammel's: they both go out there every time and do their job without whining. That and a quality start, which he had, are about as much as I expect. It just barely met the requirements for quality; Cook went exactly 6 innings and gave up exactly 3 runs. He actually did a great job getting his signature groundball outs. Alas, he also walked 4, so that doubled the number of runners who reached base. 2 of the Padres' runs were scored by Orlando Hudson, who reached once on a walk and once by being hit. I'm getting super tired of the free passes. The Rockies' pitching staff is 8th in the majors with 453 walks on the season and that's not good. (Although, get this: the Giants are 3rd in the majors with 481! Who knew?)

The offense didn't get anything going till the 4th inning. They were facing Mat Latos, who's a good pitcher, so I won't be too hard on them for that. The second time through the lineup, they suddenly started doing things. Dexter Fowler continued his extra-base-hit dominance with a lead-off triple. Mark Ellis drove him in with a groundout - so hey! The contact play worked! Troy Tulowitzki walked, Jason Giambi singled, and then Seth Smith singled to drive in Tulo. Just like that the Rockies were within 1.

Of course, things fell apart after that. Despite 2 more hits from Fowler, the Rockies didn't score again. And once Cook left the game, it got ugly. Matt Belisle pitched a 1-2-3 7th, but then allowed the lead-off man on in the 8th. He was replaced by Matt Reynolds, who was allowed to record 1 out before he was yanked. If Reynolds finishes the inning, who knows? But instead, Jim Tracy brought in Matt Lindstrom, who had his second tough outing since coming off the disabled list. He didn't look focused at all. He made a funny fake to 1st and 3rd while Nick Hundley was at the plate, and though it wasn't a balk the crowd sure let him know they thought it was. His next pitch hit Hundley. He also allowed a triple to Will Venable that cleared the bases. Of course, none of those 3 runs was earned since there were 2 outs and the previous hitter, Alberto Gonzalez, reached on an error by Mark Ellis. Ellis is normally close to perfect in the field, but he took his eye off the ball for a second and it bounced out of his glove. Not the best time to mess up.

Joe Thatcher required only 9 pitches to retire the side in the 9th, and that was that. No sweep for us. At least we go back home tomorrow. Wait, what? We're playing the D-backs again? Didn't we JUST play them? This season needs to end.

Teamwork? We Have Some of That?

Rockies 5, Padres 4

Here are a few things I learned last night that I hope the Rockies learned too: 1) Jonathan Herrera should not attempt sacrifice bunts anymore. 2) Rich Dauer should not send any runners, ever. 3) Working together and helping each other out produces wins. Huh. Whoda thunk?

I'm so proud of Dexter Fowler, because he had a great game. He went 3-for-5 with 2 runs scored, which is exactly what you want from your lead-off man. He also stole a base. He did get picked off 2nd as well, but that wasn't entirely his fault. The ball was in the dirt and it wasn't clear whether catcher Nick Hundley would block it. Still, it's hard not to be critical when he makes an out on the basepaths since it happens so often. He was also great defensively. He made one very nice running catch up against the wall, and he didn't misplay any other balls that came his way. So good job Dex.

Of course, one man can't win a game on his own. Luckily for Dex, other guys came to play too. When he led the game off with a double, Carlos Gonzalez was there to drive him in with a single. In the 4th, Troy Tulowitzki led off with a double and Todd Helton singled him home. A Kevin Kouzmanoff single, Ryan Spilborghs double, and Chris Iannetta sacrifice fly made it a 3-run inning. It was great to see everybody taking good swings, especially in Iannetta's case, since his patience isn't good for much with runners on base. That he got the ball in the air and allowed the run to score is great for him.

In the 5th, Dex led off with a single. Then he stole 2nd and Tulo singled to drive him in. That was all the runs the Rockies would score in the game, and they certainly had their share of missed opportunities, but their 4-for-10 with runners in scoring position I will take. Cory Luebke is no ace, so I'm not trying to suggest that all the kinks are suddenly worked out, but it was still a decent offensive game.

Alex White came to the mound in search of his first Rockies win, and in the beginning his outing looked eerily similar to the one he had in Arizona last week. He gave up a home run on the third pitch he threw, and then wrestled with his command in the wake of it. He held it together better in this one, though. He allowed fewer his (5), fewer runs (4), fewer walks (3), and struck out more (6). He also pitched one fewer inning, which was a wise choice on Jim Tracy's part. White was left in the game too long in his last outing, and lost because of it.

White is still finding himself a little bit, but I can see his confidence growing. Even better than his work, though, was the way the bullpen came through to hold the lead for him, especially since the hitters couldn't put up any more runs after he went out. Josh Roenicke, Huston Street, Rex Brothers, and Rafael Betancourt worked a stellar 6th-9th innings, allowing just 2 hits and a walk. When your pen comes through for you like that, you can afford to have a few growing pains.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the defense. Cargo made a fantastic over-the-shoulder catch in the outfield, and Kouz made me wish I'd never said anything about his fielding when he executed an amazing double play. He dove to catch a liner and threw to 1st to double off the runner. Ty Wigginton doesn't make that play.

Can the Rox sweep the Friars this weekend? Neither team is playing for anything at this point, so let's hope so. It would be a good way to finish a tough road trip.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Nail-Biting Race for Fourth Place

Rockies 3, Padres 0

There's nothing like a trip to Petco Park to suddenly bring out a winning spirit in the Rockies. I think it would be nice of the Major League Baseball brass to just let the Rox play all their remaining games there for the rest of the season, regardless of opponent. It might help them finish the season with a little bit of good playing, which couldn't hurt.

Of course, no ballpark can change the fact that the Rockies are stuck in a rut, making the same mistakes over and over. This was clearly on display in the 1st inning, when Dexter Fowler took care of the nightly baserunning error without any hesitation. He was on 1st with Carlos Gonzalez at the plate; Cargo popped it up to short left and the ball dropped. Fowler was just chilling on the bag, so he wasn't able to get to 2nd in time and was forced out there. Yes, the Friars bungled that play, but part of playing good baseball is capitalizing on the other guys' mistakes. Another part of it is trusting your teammates. Fowler's failure to take a lead on the play encapsulated so much of what's wrong with this team right now: they just don't think the other guys will come through. Dex didn't believe Cargo could put the ball in play, so he didn't budge. Those two need to go out and get wasted together or something, because their friendship seems to be suffering. They don't trust each other in the field, either, and nearly perpetrated yet another collision in this game.

In the 4th, the Rockies were able to take advantage of some bad defense, so all was not lost. Will Venable misplayed a ball of Fowler's bat that allowed Dex to cruise in to 3rd with a triple. He scored on a single from Jonathan Herrera, who took some great swings in this game. Herrera would score on a Troy Tulowitzki groundout. Tulo also drove in Herrera in the 6th for the Rockies' third run. In the meantime, there were still plenty of offensive screw-ups. They left the bases loaded in the 8th AND the 9th. Todd Helton is in his first legitimate hitting slump of the season right now, and it bummed me out to see that the Padres felt safer intentionally walking Tulo to get to Helton with 2 outs. He proved them right when he struck out swinging. He's hitting .194 over his last 10 games with 10 K's.

Fortunately, those 3 runs were more than enough because Kevin Millwood was so so good. In a pitcher's park like Petco, where he likely won't give up any home runs, he's the pitcher I feel most comfortable sending to the mound (add that to the list of things I never thought I'd say this season - there is a situation when I'd rather see Millwood pitch for the Rockies than anybody else). He pitched 7 shut-out innings and recorded 8 strikeouts, which is an excellent outing for him. You can't ask for any better than that.

The bullpen didn't ruin things either: Rex Brothers pitched a scoreless 8th and Rafael Betancourt continued his awesomeness with a perfect 9th that included 2 strikeouts. If the Rox played nobody but the Padres or teams of their caliber, they would be great. Alas, there are plenty of better teams out there, and as long as this team can't do the little things that are necessary to make wins happen they aren't going to beat any of those teams.

Twitter is getting pathetic during Rockies games. Probably 75% of the people who would tweet during games a couple months ago seem to have given up. That plus football now happening during baseball games at times means there just aren't enough quality choices for Tweet of the Game. Step it up people! Just because the Rockies have given up doesn't mean you have to.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Rockies Report Card: August

It's hard to believe the Rockies nearly finished this month at .500, but they did. They're also all but officially out of the postseason. So let's celebrate the minor victory that this was not their worst month of the season.

August Record: 14-16

Hitting: B+

Guess who led the National League in runs scored this month? And scored almost twice as many times as the Giants? Yep. The Rockies collected 143 runs in August. They also had far more hits than anybody else, with 272, and they had the best on-base percentage and second-best slugging percentage. A team like this should be winning more, right? In a word, yes. Despite the criticism the Rockies' offense has received, from everyone including me, they really aren't struggling to get on base or score. The issue is timing. They scored 102 runs in their wins, an average of 7, and 41 runs in their losses, an average of 3. They don't need to score 7 runs to win; 4 or 5 will usually do it. But this season's offense is too codependent, for better or for worse. They're either on or off, and they don't know how to pick up the slack for each other. The division-leading Diamondbacks scored 120 runs in August, which puts them in the middle of the National League pack. Their record? 20-9. Ouch. From an individual standpoint, Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki have finally hit their stride (hitting .356 and .340 respectively this month), and generally the team wins when those guys play well. Todd Helton had a bit of a down month, though he still drove in more runs than anybody other than Tulo and Cargo. Seth Smith and Chris Iannetta had a very good August, and Jim Tracy rewarded them both with plenty of rest. Netta's playing time has been severely diminished by Tracy's love affair with Eliezer Alfonzo (whose average was 81 points lower). Meanwhile, Ty Wigginton, Chris Nelson, and Jonathan Herrera struggled. It's time for these secondary guys to step up their game and not leave all the work to Cargo and Tulo.

Running: B-

The Rockies have given us fans a lot of super fun inside jokes this season, but perhaps the most fun is their inability to run the bases properly. The ridiculous things they do on the basepaths are quickly becoming legendary. Getting tagged out at home on the contact play, making outs trying to stretch singles into doubles, and far too many rundowns and pick-offs. Perhaps my favorite was when Nelson tried to take 3rd on a sacrifice fly and was called out because he didn't tag up. I am pretty sure that is the first thing they teach Little Leaguers after "make sure you touch each base as you run from one to the next." Surprisingly, their stolen base rate this month was good: 24 successes and only 6 failures. They did show more aggression in their running than they have in the past. I just want more intelligence. That is all. Help a girl out, Rockies!

Defense: B

I think that the Rockies are a very good defensive team. It's certainly not their primary weakness. But the same problem has been plaguing them all season long: constant lineup changes prevent the best 8 guys from playing the field every game. They committed 11 errors this month, but that doesn't tell the whole story. There have been crummy plays at nearly every position. I don't feel right about blaming Smith for anything he does wrong, since Tracy is doing such a lousy job using him appropriately, but I don't know anyone who doesn't think he's been a worse fielder in the second half of the season than he was in the first half. For every stunning running catch that Dexter Fowler makes, there's another horrible misplay that costs the team a run. Kevin Kouzmanoff hasn't been any kind of defensive revelation at 3rd base, and while Nelson was excellent there, every time he played 2nd he made a sloppy play. And behind the plate, Alfonzo and his .964 fielding percentage are getting nearly equal the playing time as Iannetta and his .997. I would like to see things tighten up considerably. That said, I also fully expect Gold Gloves for Cargo and Tulo again. Whatever else happens, things are usually going perfectly in right and at short.

Starting Pitching: C

The starting rotation's ERA for the season is near the NL basement: 4.59. That is a painful figure. Everybody else in the division is currently maintaining something below 4.00, which explains why their pitchers constantly outpitch ours. This month, the starters won 8 games, which is not good. Part of the problem has been synergy with the offense; on days when the guy on the mound seems to really have his stuff together, the team can barely manage to scratch out a run. But the pitchers themselves are all kinds of on the hook. They're responsible for 14 losses in August. The only one whose ERA was below 4.00 in the month was Jhoulys Chacin, and he walked a league-worst 19 in 36 1/3 innings. New acquisition Kevin Millwood has done well for himself, but he loves the long ball, and he allowed 6 home runs in 25 1/3 innings in August. Esmil Rogers, Aaron Cook, and Jason Hammel all lost more games than they won, and opponents are hitting over .300 against all of them. I'm very encouraged by what we saw from Alex White in his 2 Colorado starts so far, but he didn't win either of them, and he gave up 10 runs in 12 innings. And then there's Juan Nicasio, who only pitched 1 inning in the entire month because then he was nailed by a line drive and broke his neck. Forget anybody's numbers, that is the worst thing that happened to the Rockies' rotation in August. That might have been the worst thing that happened to humanity in August.

Relief Pitching: B+

Great news!! Surely you need some by now. The bullpen is back, or at least they appear to be. Many members of the pen had incredible stuff in August. Ignoring those who only got the briefest of looks (Greg Reynolds, Edgar Gonzalez, J.C. Romero), the relief pitching was mostly great. Huston Street and Matt Lindstrom both hit the disabled list and so pitched a combined 12 2/3 innings - which makes their 4+ (Lindstrom) and 6+ (Street) ERA's a little easier to ignore. Rex Brothers allowed 4 runs in 11 1/3 innings this month, but he also struck out 15, and he's becoming more and more lights-out. He's also adjusting to the fact that NL hitters now know his pitches, and his mid-summer rough patch seems well in the rearview mirror. Matt Belisle blew a couple of saves (despite recording 4 wins, more than anyone else on the team including the starters), but his ERA for August is just 2.93. Edgmer Escalona did a stellar job in long relief and only allowed 5 runs in 13 1/3. What's up with Josh Roenicke? He has yet to give up a 2011 run. It's getting a little spooky. And Rafael Betancourt. I would not have chosen him as the star most likely to emerge out of this pen, but he has been very nearly untouchable in the second half. He finally gave up a run on Saturday, and it happened to be a Matt Kemp save-blowing homer, but beyond that, still nothing. He also walked nobody in August. His WHIP is 0.32. Don't hurt me, but I wouldn't really be that sad if he got Street's closer job permanently.

Intangibles: D-

I feel kind of like we're back where we were in May, when everything just seemed sad. Our team is playing so lifelessly it's really getting painful to watch them. They don't trust each other, they don't challenge each other, and their manager isn't doing anything to help. He constantly benches the wrong guys, and you get the sense that nobody feels his starting job is safe. Because of that, they are playing as individuals competing for their spots rather than a team trying to win. This always happens a little bit this time of year; non-contending teams start trying out future players and figuring out who's going to stay with the team next season and who's going to be shopped. But the season isn't over yet, and it's so insulting to see everybody from Dan O'Dowd down to the ball boys throwing in the towel. Because of that, I can't give a good grade for this category, despite a couple of good extra-inning and walk-off wins this month. These guys have lost all their love for the game, and August has probably been the worst month to watch them since this is the month when it slowly began to dawn on them that the play-off run was not coming.

Overall Grade: C+

Hitter of the Month: Carlos Gonzalez (.340, 9 HR, 30 RBIs)

Pitcher of the Month: Rafael Betancourt (12 1/3 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 15 K's)