The fireworks still went off after the Rockies game on Saturday, but the Diamondbacks ruined the festive mood of the night.
In front of 49,096 fans who braved the early rainstorm, delaying the start of the game by 27 minutes, the Rockies made it seem early as if there would be more to cheer about than the fireworks after the game.
Clint Barmes put the Rockies up 1-0 in the first inning with a solo home run to left field, then the Rockies tacked on three more in the third. With Aaron Cook sailing through the first three innings, it seemed as if the rout was on.
The Diamondbacks had other plans, however, as the scored a single run in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, then exploded for six runs in the eighth and two more in the ninth to tie the series at one game apiece.
While those who follow the Rockies have seen the resurgent Rockies shoot back up the standings, proving that they are not just a decent team, but in fact a team worthy of contending in the National League West race, as well as the wild card race, there has been one glaring weakness. The bullpen.
More specifically, the middle relievers have been awful. Joel Peralta has been a steady hand, but besides him Rockies fans basically cross their fingers when it comes to anyone else not named Street strolling in from the bullpen.
The other shoe dropped for Peralta on Saturday night as he could not locate his split-fingered fastball, a pitch that was absolutely devastating for him in June. Without it he gave up five earned runs on three hits while walking two and getting just one out. It was his first blown save of the season, and ballooned his ERA to 5.06
While the Rockies offense battled their way back into the game in the bottom half of the eighth, Matt Daley nearly guaranteed an Arizona victory by giving up two runs of his own in the top half of the ninth.
Daley was phenomenal in his first 13 outings giving up runs in only two of those times out. The wheels have fallen off since then. He has given up runs in four of his past six outings.
Peralta and Daley are prime examples of why the Rockies are in desperate need of bullpen help. Both have done their part in helping the club win some big games. The only problem is that they are not the types of guys who can be depended on time in and time out.
Peralta is 33 years old and has bounced between the Major Leagues and Triple-A for a long time. He has done well in his times up, but he by no means is the answer for a team who wants to be in contention. He is fine out of the bullpen, but to depend on him in one runs games is not going to get the job done. His split-finger fastball is good, but when he cannot find the location on that pitch he is going to get hit, and get hit hard.
Daley is a rookie. He has shown the ability to get hitters out and has shown the ability to pitch well at the Major League level.
The problem for Daley is not that he cannot do it, it is the fact that despite being 27 years old, he is just a rookie. By no means is that saying that a rookie cannot do a good job, but pressure situations in Denver are a whole lot more intimidating than pressure situations in Colorado Springs. Getting hitters out is a whole lot easier in the minors.
While Daley enjoyed early success, the book is now out on him. He must learn to mix up his patterns when he pitches. It seems that teams know what is coming next and sit on it, ready to drive the ball the other way on him.
Daley has the potential and talent to be successful, but just like any player stepping onto a Major League field for the first time, there is a learning curve to begin and a learning curve after all of the scouts have broken down the patterns and consistencies in every way possible. He will compete and be a good pitcher, but he must be allowed to get his feet wet in the big leagues before being given big-time situations.
Those two relievers have been good, with just a hiccup here and there. Alan Embree on the other hand has been a complete bust. Embree was signed as a free agent this offseason by the Rockies for $2.25 million. Although on Saturday he got four outs without getting a hit, he has been awful. His ERA sits at a large 6.35, with right handed hitters batting over .300 against him.
The problem for the Rockies is that middle relief is like watching daytime TV. It becomes evident why it is on in the middle of the day, because it is not very good. If it were a good show it would be on prime time. It may be entertaining at points, but given the choice a prime time show always beats out a mid-day soap.
What it also means is that everyone in contention is looking to bolster their bullpen, with very little help available.
The Rockies do have a pretty good trading chip with Garrett Atkins being dangled. Even though his season has been abysmal, he is showing signs of life and would be worth giving a shot to for a middle reliever.
Colorado can also decide to go their typical route, which is to look from within. Ryan Speier, out since May with a hamstring injury, is almost ready, and pitched well in a rehab appearance in Triple-A on Thursday night. Also, with Jorge De La Rosa pitching well on Friday, the Rockies could also look to Franklin Morales as a reliever, providing them with starter talent in the bullpen.
It will be interesting to see what Dan O'Dowd does, but it is becoming clear that the Rockies will need to find some help sooner rather than later if they want to play meaningful games in September.