Saturday, August 22, 2009

Rockies Lose Opener Of Huge Series Against Giants

The bad news came early for the Rockies on Friday.

Shortstop and spark plug for the Rockies, Troy Tulowitzki, woke up feeling sick. Too sick to play on Friday night. In fact, too sick to even come to the ballpark. Manager Jim Tracy said that Tulowitzki had been throwing up all morning and that he was hoping he would be available by Saturday.

It could not have come at a worse time for the Rockies, who entered a four game series against the Giants, and a stretch in which they play 10 straight games against San Francisco and Los Angeles, a crucial run that will basically determine if the Rockies are for real.

The good news for Colorado was that they had a strong advantage in the pitching match up. Jonathan Sanchez was on the hill for the Giants, and despite throwing a no-hitter before the All Star break, has struggled winning only five games coming into the night in 21 starts. While Cook had struggled in his last two starts, much of it was blamed on an injured big toe that had held him back.

After throwing an extra bullpen session after a short outing against the Marlins, Cook declared himself fit to pitch, also mentioning that he had discovered some mechanical flaws in the film of his last outing.

With that in mind, it seemed to be a perfect night match up for the Rockies to set the pace for the series. In a four game series winning the first game is crucial because the team that wins the first game can falter a little bit and still be in a position to get a split. The team that loses instantly needs to play well to salvage a split.

Despite Cook's claims of being ready, he quickly showed that he had no business being on the mound on Friday night. He got a quick ground ball out to start the game, then proceeded to give up three runs before getting out of the inning. His pitches were up in the strike zone, something that a pitcher like Ubaldo Jimenez can get away with because he throws 99 MPH. A pitcher like Cook, who throws 91 MPH will pay for pitches like that, even against a poor hitting Giants team.

After settling down, Cook went out for the fourth inning, gave up a base hit, then summonsed Keith Dugger, the Rockies trainer. Dugger and manager Jim Tracy went to the mound and after speaking briefly with Cook, removed him from the game with what was later found out to be a sore shoulder. Sore shoulders and pitchers do not mix well. Cook will most likely end up on the 15 day disabled list, and could be replaced by Adam Eaton, Josh Fogg, or Jhoulys Chacin.

The loss of Cook is frustrating because it now becomes the third year in a row in which Cook has to be shelved down the stretch due to injury. In 2007 Cook missed much of the second half with a strained oblique muscle. Then in 2008 Cook had his All Star season derailed by a lower back issue. Now in 2009, with the Rockies firmly entrenched in the Wild Card race, Cook goes down with a shoulder injury.

In baseball there are very few must win games, but if there is such a thing, Saturday is that day. The Giants have Tim Lincecum on the mound for them on Sunday. Lincecum is a tall task for any lineup and is proving this season why he deserved to be the National League's Cy Young winner in '08. While the Rockies have Ubaldo Jimenez going that same day, it would be nice for the Rockies to have won the night before to ensure that even with a slip up against Lincecum they have a shot at splitting the series on Monday.

In order to make Saturday a successful day, the Rockies are going to have to find a way to get the bats going again. Ian Stewart looks completely lost at the plate, and with a chance to gain playing time back, Garrett Atkins has not been able to turn his season around. Chris Iannetta, known for his patience at the plate, is striking out at an alarming rate, and Clint Barmes has not pushed himself completely out of a devastating second half slump.

Strikeouts are still a huge issue. On Friday the Rockies fanned 12 times. It may be a matter of hitters once again trying to do too much. Another piece of evidence to support that is the fact that the Rockies are not hitting with runners in scoring position. On Friday they went a measly 2-for-9 in that department and left 11 men on the basepaths.

The Rockies look to Jorge De La Rosa to get the game back on Saturday. Game time is 6:10 MDT.

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