While those two hitters are clearly the meat and potatoes of the Rockies offense, leading the team in nearly every single offensive category, the team lives and dies by the play of one hitter in particular, and it is not Helton or Hawpe.
As Clint Barmes goes, so go the Rockies.
Barmes started swinging a hot bat right away when Jim Tracy moved him to the two-hole in the lineup. He led all of the league in hits in the month of June, getting on base often for the big bats behind him.
Barmes, admittedly a poor off speed pitch hitter, thrived in the two-hole because he sees more fastballs there. Pitchers do not have as much wiggle room with him because Helton and Hawpe are coming up right behind him. This allows Barmes to fire at more pitches, knowing that the heat is coming and it is most likely going to be in the strike zone. It is very conducive to Barmes' game.
Barmes is the kind of player who has to work his tail off just to play in the big leagues. He is aggressive at the plate and in the field. If Barmes were looking for walks when he went to the plate, he would never have made it. Sometimes a person's greatest strength also is their greatest weakness.
This is the case with Barmes, who, because of his aggressiveness, often finds himself down in the count 0-2 and walks less than anyone else on the team. That is fine, as long as Barmes is hitting.
When Barmes is hitting well, the offense runs like a well-oiled machine. Even if the starting pitcher has given up a few runs, the feeling since June has been that the guys swinging the bats will find a way to get back in the game, and they have been successful at doing that. Barmes would get on base and Helton or Hawpe would find a way to drive him in.
However, if Barmes is not able to reach base, Helton and Hawpe do not see the good pitches that they would with a runner on base, resulting in the offense coming to a sputtering halt and the negative thoughts of losing before the game is over creeping back into player's heads.
Saturday night is a good example. Barmes finished the night 0-for-5 with two strikeouts. The first strikeout came in the third inning, immediately following Dexter Fowler's one out triple. With the infield back, the Braves were conceding the run, leading the game 2-0. Essentially all Barmes had to do was get the ball in play and he would find his name in the boxscore with an RBI next to it.
Instead, Barmes did the worst thing possible and struck out, leaving Fowler on third base with two outs.
In the ninth inning, with Seth Smith on first base representing the tying run, Barmes swung at three pitches outside of the strike zone, ending the game with the Rockies losing 4-3.
While Barmes struggled at the plate, he is not the only Rockies who is having their issues. On the night the club went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position, a stat that they dominated during the June run. Not getting clutch hits is almost always the reason for a one-run loss.
The Rockies try to salvage a split of the four game series on Sunday, the final game before the All-Star break. Jason Hammel will be on the mound for the Rockies. The game begins at 1:10 and will be broadcast on FSN Rocky Mountain and 850 KOA.