Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Colorado Rockies Lose Lead, Game to Diamondbacks; Bullpen Struggling

The Rockies celebrated the 4th of July in a quiet clubhouse as fireworks boomed over Coors Field. They had just blown a 4-0 lead to the lowly Diamondbacks with ace Aaron Cook on the mound.

17 days Fox Sports Rocky Mountain may as well have shown a replay of the Independence Day game. With a 4-1 lead in the fifth inning, Dexter Fowler misplayed a ball that was hit on the screws. It looked as if the ball would drop right into a coasting Fowler’s glove for the second out of the inning, but instead the ball sailed over Fowler’s head, allowing two runs to score on what ended up as a triple for Justin Upton.

The hit turned the game from a comfortable 4-1 lead with Cook sailing, to a 4-3 nail biter. The Rockies were not prepared to battle it out.

On a night where Cook pitched well, the bullpen failed to hold up their end of the bargain.

Franklin Morales, who has been perfect since his call up in his new role out of the bullpen, failed to get his job done. He came in for Cook after a one out single given up by the redhead, ending his night. Morales walked two and gave up a base hit. He escaped without giving up a run of his own, but allowed the inherited runner from Cook to score, tying the game.

After the hit, Morales was lifted for Juan Rincon, who pitched brilliantly to Upton, getting a strikeout to end the threat.

Rincon went back out for the eighth inning, where he proceeded to give up a two-run home run to Miguel Montero, what ended up being the difference in the 6-5 loss.

The loss is difficult to swallow, as the Diamondbacks have proven once again to be the Rockies kryptonite. When Arizona plays the Rockies they turn into the team that found itself in the National League Championship Series in 2007.

The Rockies remain in the Wild Card lead in the National League due to the Giants loss in Atlanta, but the loss stings because the Rockies could have gained another game on their division rivals. Instead they sit just a half game up on San Francisco and are forced to win on Wednesday in order to take the series from the Diamondbacks.

The loss underscores the Rockies major issues this season. The offense is well rounded, and very deep. The rotation has been stable and kept the team in the game. Huston Street has been almost flawless in the closer’s role. What that leaves is the middle relief for the Rockies.

In June Joel Peralta seemed to plug the hole, getting big outs in close games in St. Louis and Milwaukee. His split-finger fastball was nearly unhittable. He faltered, however, and was optioned back to Colorado Springs before Tuesday’s game.

Morales has been masterful in his new role, but he struggled to find the strike zone on Wednesday. After not getting a couple of close calls at the plate, the lefties mechanics broke down and he failed to get the job done.

Juan Rincon has been a decent fill in for the Rockies, but the reality is, his best days are behind him. He was released earlier in the season by the Tigers and is hardly a dependable option is a tight game.

Jim Tracy’s post game comments also brought question to the Rockies shaky bullpen. He mentioned that Manny Corpas, who returned to action over the weekend, felt pain in his throwing elbow after dealing with a stressful inning on Monday.

The thought has crossed every Rockies fans mind, how good would this team be with a healthy Taylor Buchholz?

The fact is, this team is without Buchholz and needs help in the worst way. Dan O’Dowd has made it very clear that he is looking for help from all around the league. The problem is that with just 10 days before the trading deadline, 22 out of 30 teams still feel as if they have at least an outside shot at being a playoff contender, limiting the number of available arms.

The other factor that makes it difficult for the Rockies to get bullpen help is that every other team in the league is looking for bullpen help. The problem with bullpen pitchers is that they are in the bullpen for a reason. Pitchers do not dream of being a sixth or seventh inning guy. If they dream of being a reliever, it is being a closer and working the ninth inning.

Middle relievers are generally failed starters who could do a little bit of good work, but did not have the stuff to be dominate.

What that means for the Rockies is that they might have to figure out a way to get the job done with the talent that they currently have. One option in the minor leagues is recently re-acquired righty Matt Herges. Herges was released by the Cleveland Indians, but has an ERA in the upper threes and did a good job for the Tribe. His work in the 2007 run for the Rockies is tough to forget.

Other than Herges, the experienced depth is not available in the farm system or via trade. It may just mean that the Rockies offense needs to continue to crush the ball and keep the games out of reach.

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