Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Rockies Falter In Anaheim

So many times during this 17-1 run, the Rockies have found a way to score runs or get outs when they needed them most. They played crisp defense and manager Jim Tracy made all the right moves.

On Tuesday night it was a different story.

Ubaldo Jimenez had another masterful outing, but he was let down by poor clutch hitting and bad defense.

Despite Troy Tulowitzki's first career multi-homer game, the Rockies looked as if they left their bats in the on deck circle.

Clint Barmes, Todd Helton and Brad Hawpe combined to leave 12 men on base. Barmes, who has been the hottest hitters in the Majors in June, went 0-for-5, striking out three times, the final time in the ninth inning to end the game with the tying run at second base.

In the fourth inning with a runner at third base and two outs, Helton had a 3-1 count, but rolled over a pitch and grounded out to second base to end the inning.

Despite the issues at the plate, the Rockies were still in the game, leading until the eighth inning when Maicer Izturis laid a bunt down the third base line. Ian Stewart charged to field the ball, trying to bare hand the ball. He bobbled it and could not make a throw. Replays showed that Stewart would have had time to glove the ball and make the throw.

With runners at first and second Chone Figgins laid down a bunt that Jimenez fielded quickly and threw to third. However, Stewart could not find the bag with his foot and all the runners were safe. Bobby Abreu followed with a two-run single. It was all the Angels needed.

The feeling with the loss is different than the average loss. With the Rockies recent success it almost seems like the end of a great run. However, the fact is that with the loss the Rockies have now simply won 16-out of-18. That still leaves them as the hottest team in baseball with a chance to win a series against one of the best teams in the American League on Wednesday.

During this run, the Rockies have had a surprisingly tiny amount of national coverage. The coverage that they have received is basically calling the run a fluke and that this team cannot contend. From an outsiders perspective it is easy to write this team off, they are still relatively young and, for the most part, are full of unknown players.

Those who watch the team on a daily basis know that despite not having names that are known in all parts of the country, this is a good team and, while they will probably not have another 17-1 run, they have the talent to contend in the National League.

If Ubaldo Jimenez was pitching in New York or Boston, his name would be everywhere on the nightly national shows. Experts would be calling him the next Pedro Martinez. They would be raving about his 97 MPH fastball that has Greg Maddux type movement. However, he plays in Colorado, so he remains simply an afterthought.

If Dexter Fowler played on the East Coast he would be considered the next great speedster. Every time made a tough play in center field look easy it would be one of the top highlights. However, he plays in Colorado, so he is just a potentially talented player with some speed.

Brad Hawpe is in the top five in every single offensive category for outfielders in the National League, yet barely ranks in the top 20 in All-Star voting for outfielders.

To find a player that has been overlooked by the national media, look no further than Todd Helton. Helton has over 2,000 hits in his career, over 300 home runs, and is 10 doubles away from 500 in his career. He is a .320 lifetime hitter. His numbers are far and away better than many of the players who have been enshrined in Cooperstown, yet he is simply considered a good hitter who has reaped the benefits of playing in Coors Field.

The fact is, until the Rockies prove that they can consistently win, not just once every 15 years, or when they have an incredible run to end the year, they will always be looked at as a junior varsity team in Major League Baseball.

Until then, everyone who watches one or two Rockies games per year will think that any win they get is simply luck and that their talent is just second rate.

This may be the team that is able to prove that they are not just a fluke. This run is happening in June, not September, which means that Colorado has a chance to continue playing well for the rest of the year. If they can do that it may change the perception of some of the experts on the national stage.

Of course, that requires the Rockies to shake off games like Tuesday night and keep enough confidence to play like they know how to the next day.

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