The Colorado Rockies were looking for a hot start in April. They knew that in order to get fans to come out to the ballpark in a horrific economy, they would need to win early and often.
That never happened.
For the third straight season, the Rockies struggled mightily in April. In 2007 they were fortunate enough to play their way back into the race. In 2008 there was no such luck.
This season the Rockies are trying to find a groove and get things going. Unfortunately, the club has yet to hit on all cylinders. If the lineup was hitting, the starting pitchers were missing. If the starter had a good outing, the bullpen seemed to have a bad night.
While no one would argue that the lineup has yet to hit its groove, the biggest problem thus far has seemed to be a shaky bullpen. The 'pen was something that the Rockies were bragging about going into Spring Training in Tucson.
Over the last two days, the bullpen is doing its best to prove that they are an asset to this team, rather than a liability. Sunday in San Francisco, Jason Grilli, Alan Embree and Matt Belisle all did their part to protect a phenomenally pitched game by Jason Hammel. They combined to throw three shutout innings to force the scoreless game into extra innings. The only mark against them was the game winning run off of embattled reliever Manny Corpas in the 10th.
Monday night in San Diego, Jorge De La Rosa looked on top of his game early. However, after not getting some calls at the plate, De La Rosa lost his concentration. In five innings he only gave up three hits, but six runs, only three of which were earned. The unearned runs came because De La Rosa threw a ball into right field after fielding a bunt by Padres starter Kevin Correia.
When De La Rosa left the game the Padres had a 6-5 lead and it seemed that the Rockies may be in for another rough night.
The bullpen, along with Chris Iannetta, had a different idea.
With one out and the bases loaded in the eight inning, Iannetta stepped to the plate to face Cla Meredith. After watching the first pitch, Iannetta unloaded on a pitch, hitting it into the upper deck in left field for his second career grand slam. The home run put the score at 9-6 Colorado.
Glendon Rusch, Matt Daley, Alan Embree, and Huston Street all worked one scoreless inning, combining to give up only one hit in four innings.
Combining Sunday and Monday's games, Rockies relievers have pitched seven plus innings, giving up only one run.
The difference from early in the season seems to be that the relievers and attacking the strike zone. Also, Daley, recently called up from Triple-A Colorado Springs, may be playing himself into a full time roll in the bullpen. He has yet to be scored upon and his arm angle seems to baffle the opposition.
The Rockies are looking for a continued strong approach from the bullpen. As it has been mentioned several times in the past, if Colorado can find a way to get all three aspects of their game to play well at the same time, they will be a dangerous team to deal with.