The Colorado Rockies looked to win their third game in a row tonight against the Padres.
Winning tonight would have given the club a chance to salvage at least a decent April record with a win tomorrow afternoon.
The Rockies could not capitalize, as Padres starter Chad Gaudin, a pitcher Colorado pursued less than three weeks ago when the Cubs cut him, matched Jorge De La Rosa in a fun to watch pitcher's duel. It was De La Rosa's third straight start in which the Rockies wasted a great performance.
The Rockies lost 4-3 in a game that see-sawed back and forth in the late innings. With the Padres up 2-0 with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, Seth Smith one handed a pitch that found itself barely making it over the wall in right field. That got the Rockies within a run for the late innings.
In the seventh, after Yorvit Torrealba struck out for the third time, Troy Tulowitzki, out of the lineup for the second straight day, pinch hit in the pitcher's spot. After going down 0-2, Tulowitzki stayed back on a ball and lined it into center field for a base hit.
Dexter Fowler, quickly becoming a fixture in the Rockies lineup, laid down a beautiful push bunt for a single.Ryan Spilborghs then singled home Tulowitzki, then Todd Helton followed with a sharply hit liner to right field to score Fowler.
With Spilbourghs at third, Helton at first and one out, Colorado had an excellent chance to pour the runs on.
Unfortunately, Garrett Atkins could not use his big bat to come through, instead he proceeded to ground into a double play to end the rally.
In the ninth inning the Rockies had another rally going when Helton doubled down the right field line. This brought Atkins back to the plate with a chance to redeem himself. Instead, Atkins grounded to the shortstop Luis Rodriguez, who flipped to Kevin Kouzmanoff at third for an easy fielders choice to end the game.
The Rockies effort to go back to basics this spring may be one of the most over publicized stories in the history of the franchise. Even the most amateur Rockies fan knows that the club was going to work on situational hitting and being more aggressive on the base paths.
It seems that Garrett Atkins missed the memo.
Atkins, who had a chance to open the game up with even a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning, failed to find a pitch to hit into the outfield. In that situation, a power hitter of Atkins ilk is looking to do one thing; hit the ball into the seats. If he fails, he has scored a run via the sacrifice fly.
Since 2005, Atkins has grounded into no less than 16 double plays. In '06 he led the National League with 24 GDP's.
The troubling part of this number is the flip side of it. While grounding into double plays seems routine for Atkins, he has never had more than 10 sacrifice flies in one season.
Part of the pain in losses like this for the team is that it has such a similar feel to that of last season. It was games like these, in which star players were ineffective in clutch situations, that caused manager Clint Hurdle to fire three coaches and make the declaration of going back to basics.
It seems that most of the Rockies have jumped on board and done their part to scratch out runs and make it more of a team game.
The Rockies are wait still waiting for Atkins to get on board with the new style of play.