Thursday, August 6, 2009

Rockies Lose Finale to Phillies, Weaknesses Exposed

The Colorado Rockies followed up a tough night against a rising star with a tough day against a Cy Young winner.

After being shut out and losing by a touchdown the previous night against rookie lefty J.A. Happ, the Rockies looked as if they would respond with an offensive explosion after Dexter Fowler led off the game with a double, then moved to third on Seth Smith's base hit and scored on Todd Helton's sacrifice fly.

With one out in the first inning, the Rockies offense had finished their scoring effort for the day.

While Aaron Cook pitched decently, it was not good enough against a defending Cy Young winner in Cliff Lee. After giving up three runs in five innings, Cook left with a sprained big toe, something that should not hold him out of his next start.

The loss underscored a bigger problem that the Rockies have been dealing with.

While Cook has already won 10 games on the season, his second half numbers hardly resemble the numbers that he posted in the first half. Going into Thursday's game opponents were hitting Cook to the tune of a .308 batting average, his WHIP (walks and hits divided by innings pitched) is 1.500.

The most disturbing trend for Cook has been his inability to hold leads. Going back to his Independence Day start against the Diamondbacks, Cook has given up the lead in five out of six starts. While the Rockies have won four of those six games, the trend is disturbing.

While it is tough to win a baseball game when only scoring one run, Cook failed to pitch a shutdown performance. After the Rockies scored in the first inning, Cook immediately gave up a run to the Phillies in the bottom half of the inning. While the Phillies have a potent offense, an inning in which Cook set the tone that he would be difficult to hit would have gone a long way. Instead, he quickly gave up a double and the lead.

If Cook would have gotten a 1-2-3 inning, the offense would have had confidence to know that they could relax and continue to hit against Lee.

If the Rockies hope to contend, they are going to need their ace to pitch like he is one. He needs to bare down and use his sinker to get the opposition to hit the ball on the ground. Instead, Cook tries to mix in his curveball, which has the tendency to be left up in the zone and hit hard.

The other glaring weakness goes without saying.

Since July 18th, Clint Barmes has gone 4-for-52, dropping his average to a season low .245. His offense has become a black hole for the Rockies. While manager Jim Tracy has insisted that Barmes' slumping bat should be in the lineup due to his glove work at second base, his offense is getting to the point that the Rockies are losing games due to his inability to continue scoring runs.

When Barmes struggles, the reasons are obvious. Instead of hitting the ball where it is pitched, Barmes tries to pull everything. That means that he is not waiting on the ball, he is getting out on his front foot and failing to hit the ball solidly, if at all.

There is no sense in not sitting Barmes down for a day or two. If his defense is the reason to keep him in, why not give seldom used Omar Quintanilla a start or two. He is well known for his excellent glove work and while he struggles to get into a groove at the plate, there is no reason not to give him a shot.

Despite the loss, the Rockies completed the 10 game road trip with a 5-5 record. They return home right in the thick of the Wild Card race, and within striking distance of the Dodgers for first place in the National League West.

The Rockies head home to play a very important four game series against the Cubs. It is a battle of two Wild Card contenders who are looking to make a statement. On Friday the Rockies send Ubaldo Jimenez to the mound to face Carlos Zambrano, game time is 7:10 mountain time.

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