Saturday, July 18, 2009

Tough Night Spoils Rockies Chance at Wild Card Lead

The Rockies knew that going into tonight they could attain something that no one would have believed seven weeks ago. After Friday night's victory the team was just a half game behind the Giants in the National League Wild Card race. With the Giants loss on Saturday, the Rockies had an opportunity to take the lead.

It was not meant to be as the Rockies offense never quite made it to Petco Park in San Diego.

After a Brad Hawpe RBI double in the first inning, the Rockies offense was done for the night. In fact, they only got three more hits in the remaining eight innings. They left 13 men on base throughout the night in the 3-1 loss.

A couple of times the offense had threats. In the fifth inning with runners at first and second and no one out Hawpe hit the ball sharply to Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez who threw to second to begin a double play.

The Rockies still had a runner at second base for Troy Tulowitzki who hit a ball on the screws, but was swallowed up by the expansive center field that is Petco Park. Tony Gwynn Jr. caught the ball on the warning track in deep right-center field to end the inning.

On the mound Jason Hammel did a nice job without having his best stuff. He loaded the bases in the first inning and walked in a run before getting out of the jam. He threw 37 pitches in the first inning alone.

After a tough opening frame, Hammel settled down for the most part, working with a little bit of traffic, but coming out untouched. In all he pitched 5-2/3 innings, giving up only the one run on five hits and three walks. He struck out seven, but hit three batters.

Hammel most likely would have finished the sixth inning, but seemed distracted after a scary moment in which he drilled Edgar Gonzalez in the head with a fastball. Gonzalez immediately went down, clutching his head in pain. He was carted off the field, but luckily all signs point to him being ok. Hammel walked the next hitter and manager Jim Tracy elected to remove Hammel from the game.

With the score knotted at 1-1, reliever Joel Peralta suffered a slight setback. During the Rockies run back into contention, Peralta has had only one tough outing. Saturday night makes that number go to two.

Leading off the seventh inning, Chase Headley, a Colorado high school product, drilled a solo home run to make the score 2-1. Peralta then gave up two more hits and another run to seal the Rockies fate.

It was a tough loss for the Rockies considering the fact that they had a chance to move ahead of the Giants and stay within seven games of the Dodgers. However, all things considered, it was the type of game that happens to every team in Major League Baseball throughout the course of a season.

The offense is not going to be able to go out and score 7-10 runs every single night. Padres pitcher Kevin Correia has been showing signs of becoming a good pitcher as of late. In his second to last outing he shut down the Dodgers for seven innings. At one point he had a scoreless inning streak that stretched into 20 straight innings.

Baseball is not a game where the better team is always going to win. Often times a dominant pitcher can go out and beat even the best of lineups.

Jason Hammel did a good job of keeping the Rockies in the game, but he was just a little bit worse than Correia.

Games like Saturday night's become frustrating when a team is not winning and had a good enough outing from a starting pitcher to win that night.

Instead for these Rockies they know that while they missed a chance at overtaking the Giants, they have already taken the first two games of the series with the Padres and have a chance to take three out of four before heading home to try and get some revenge on the Diamondbacks.

The Rockies are a good baseball team and they know it. Games like Saturday will happen. The key to success is thinking long term while playing one game at a time. That means that they need to try and win every single game, take advantage of every single opportunity within a game to get a win, but to keep their heads up when a night like Saturday happens.

The Rockies go for the series victory on Sunday with their All-Star Jason Marquis on the hill. Game time is 2:05 Mountain Time.

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