Saturday, April 25, 2009

Rockies Looking For A Well-Rounded Game

The Colorado Rockies finally got home after a miserable 10 day, eight game road trip in which the team only won two games. They have been home for only four days since the beginning of Spring Training on February 14th.

On the road trip the Rockies were plagued by a variety of issues. If the offense hit well, the starting pitcher was ineffective. If the starter was good, the bullpen struggled. There was not a complete game that the Rockies played on the entire trip.

Coming home was supposed to change that.

With the Rockies finishing off their brutal April schedule with six games against the Dodgers and Padres at home, the club was looking to even some things out before the month came to a close. To say that a home stand is of great importance in April is stretching the truth, but if there ever was an important time to have two good series, the time is now.

In Colorado it is becoming a trend to start the month of April by falling flat on your face. Two seasons ago the Rockies went 10-16 in April. Last year the first month was finished at 11-17. This season the club is 5-10 so far.

Tonight, after getting a pedestrian outing from Aaron Cook in which he gave up three runs in six innings while walking a career high six, the Rockies were still in it. Cook departed the game with the game tied at three.

The offense did not get ahead early, but was good enough to stay in the game, and when Clint Barmes hit a two run shot into the left field seats in the 8th inning, it looked as if the Rockies may have a chance to turn their fortunes.

Unfortunately, tonight was a night for the bullpen to blow a game.

Huston Street pitched a flawless 7th inning, but was sent out to pitch a second frame in the 8th. He immediately gave up a double to Brad Ausmus and ended up giving up two runs while only getting one out.

Jason Grilli came in to rescue Street, but walked two batters and gave up a hit to score the two runs credited to Street.

The failing reliever parade continued in the ninth, one frame after Barmes had tied the game up, when Manny Corpas came in and gave up a double to James Loney, and a seeing eye single to Ausmus to plate the winning run.

The reasons why this team has yet to click seem baffling. The only aspect of the team that did not seem to be a strength coming into the season was the starting pitching. But not Cook and Ubaldo Jimenez. The concerns were with Jason Marquis and Jorge De La Rosa. Surprisingly the latter two are the only two pitchers who have thrived so far this season.

The bullpen was supposed to be as good as good, anchored with two closers in Corpas and Street. In addition, the back end of the pen would have Taylor Buchholz and veteran Alan Embree to bridge the gap. The bullpen has done a less than satisfactory job, with Street and Corpas struggling and Buchholz going down with an elbow injury.

The lineup was the other plus. Many experts around baseball predicted Chris Iannetta to be an All-Star this season. Clearly the pressure has gotten to the young catcher, and despite going 2-for-5 tonight, his average sits at a lowly .139. Troy Tulowitzki is also looking to find his bat after starting hot, he has cooled greatly. His average stands at .191, but progress seems to be made after walking four times tonight.

The two biggest positives in the lineup are from two of the biggest surprises. Both Dexter Fowler and Ian Stewart were not guaranteed spots on the Opening Day roster coming out of camp. In fact, Fowler was going to be starting at Triple-A up until a week before the season began. Neither player is an everyday starter at this point.

The two players are the only hitters who have shown signs of life in this young season. Fowler has shown the ability to get on base and steal, while Stewart has hit lefties well and shown he is ready for everyday Major League action.

Those are great signs, but this club desperately needs players like Garrett Atkins to step up and play to their potential. Without hitters in the middle of a lineup who can change a game with their bat, this team will continue to spiral out of control and may never find their way.

If Clint Hurdle and Dan O'Dowd want to be employed before most schools get out for summer break, they had better find a way to get something going in a hurry.

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