Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Rockies Drop Opener in L.A. in 13 Innings

For the whole month of June the Rockies have been playing like they are Superman. If the Rockies are Superman, the Dodgers are kryptonite. The 13th inning loss on a Andre Eithier two run home run to right field

Ubaldo Jimenez looked as good as he ever has on the mound. He went seven strong innings, giving up only two earned runs on five hits while striking out four, and having only an intentional walk.

The two runs, however, essentially lost the game. In the fifth inning, just minutes after Ryan Spilborghs gave the Rockies a 2-0 lead, Jimenez gave up a hit to Matt Kemp, then with two outs he intentionally walked Russel Martin to get to the pitcher Randy Wolf, boasting an average of less than .100 coming into the game.

With runners at first and second Jimenez quickly got ahead of Wolf 0-2, looking like he would easily get out of the inning.

What happened next was the turning point.

With Jimenez about to pitch, Wolf stepped out of the box, calling time. Jimenez stopped in mid-pitch, where home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman called the right-hander for a balk. While Wolf had stepped out, Dreckman never granted him time out, meaning that play was still live. The runners moved up to second and third, but Jimenez still had Wolf at the plate.

Clearly rattled by the call, Jimenez did not find the zone on the next pitch, he then threw an offspeed pitch that Wolf raked into right field, scoring two runs and tying the game. They were the last runs scored until the bottom of the 14th inning.

The bullpen did a phenomenal job for the Rockies. After struggling their last times out, both Alan Embree and Juan Rincon showed poise and confidence, combining to give up only one hit in two innings, shutting the Dodgers down in huge situations.

The offense looked like the April and May Rockies offense. They had very little patience, chasing pitches out of the zone and consistently getting behind in the count.

The Dodgers bullpen, which pitched from the seventh inning on, combined to strike out 13 Rockies hitters. Clint Barmes, on fire of late and a huge catalyst in the Rockies run back to contention, went 0-for-6 with a strikeout. The strikeout came at the most inopportune time for the Rockies.

Leading off the 10th inning, Spilborghs hit a ball on the screws, which knuckled in the air and skipped past center fielder Matt Kemp, it landed Spilborghs on second, who moved to third on Chris Iannetta's rocket shot to left field. With no one out and runners on first and third, Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler and Clint Barmes all whiffed and the rally was killed.

The 10th inning was exactly the opposite of what the Rockies have been able to accomplish over the last month. It has seemed that when an opportunity to hurt a team comes around, the Rockies have made the opposition pay all through June. Tonight it was back to status que as the team consistently failed in big situations.

In all, the Rockies left 17 men on base, Barmes being the biggest culprit, leaving four himself.

The game was a good test for the Rockies. While they seemed to fail in the big situations, they played to the Dodgers level and stayed in the game. When the pitchers got into trouble they found a way to wiggle out of it.

Not once did the Rockies look like they did for most of the '08 season and early in '09 when the look in the dugout was of complete defeat, waiting for a chance to win the next night instead of that night. It was an encouraging sign for Rockies fans.

The Rockies look to get back at the Dodgers on Tuesday night, with Jason Marquis looking for his 10th win of the season. Marquis will be taking on Chad Billingsley, who has looked like an All-Star himself, also winning nine games so far on the season. The game starts at 8:10 Mountain Time and will be broadcast as always on Fox Sports Rocky Mountain and 850 KOA on the radio side.

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