Friday, August 28, 2009

Rockies Lose Third Straight, Need An Off Day

If they were pitching on the east coast people would be following their every moves. The major sports networks would be talking about them before each and every start. Instead, on a night where both teams are playing for their spots in the playoffs, they might get a blip in the nightly shows.

Ubaldo Jimenez and Tim Lincecum are as good, or better than any other pitcher in the league. Not just the National League, but all of the Majors.

After Jimenez out dueled Lincecum on Sunday at Coors Field, Lincecum showed what he is made of on a warm night in San Francisco. The Rockies lost 2-0, shrinking their lead in the Wild Card to just two games.

The offense is to blame for the Rockies recent struggles. Throw Friday night out the window. Facing Lincecum is tough on the best offenses ever assembled. No team in the league is going to have a good offensive night when Lincecum is pitching well, plain and simple. He has proven himself to be a phenomenal pitcher.

However, the truth is, the offense has been abysmal.

In the last eight games the Rockies have played, the opposition has scored first in every single outing. While that could be blamed on the pitching, the offense has to take some of the blame for not coming out of the gate strong. Scoring first builds confidence for a starting pitcher and changes the complexion of an entire game.

Garrett Atkins, mired in a season long slump, had his struggles hidden by the coming out party of Ian Stewart. Stewart has been a slick fielding third baseman who can hit a baseball a mile. Unfortunately for the Rockies, Stewart's swing has the tendency to get long. When it does he struggles to hit the inside pitch. Stewart's batting average is low, but his strikeout total is alarming. If his batting average were low, but he was still finding ways to get on base, or moving runners over, it may not be an issue. Strikeouts, however, are unproductive outs that do nothing but help opposing pitchers get out of trouble.

Chris Iannetta, touted by ESPN's Peter Gammons as one of the best catchers in the game before the season, has failed miserably. The soft-spoken catcher looks like a completely different player in '09. At one point in '08, former manager Clint Hurdle had to sit Iannetta down and tell him to be less patient. That is a rare conversation for a young player. Iannetta was walking all the time. His '08 on base percentage was .390, clearly making him a tough out.

In 2009, Iannetta is not seeing the ball as well. His batting average dropped below .220 on Friday, and his on base percentage for the season sits at .332, far below what would be expected of him in his second season as the everyday catcher.

This offense is one that will hit. They have scored more runs than all but one team, the Phillies, in the National League. While Coors Field is still a hitter's park, Citizen's Bank Park in Philadelphia is even more of a hitter's park.

The problem for the Rockies may be the fact that they are tired.

This is uncharted territory for the Rockies. In 2007 they were in the race, but they were not defending a lead. The Rockies were not on top of the National League Wild Card race until they beat the Padres in game 163.

This 10 game stretch has been the most nerve racking stretch possibly in the history of this franchise. Add in the fact that two straight nights involved the Rockies winning in walk off fashion, one of which ended at midnight, and the next coming the very next night.

If that was not bad enough, before the Rockies started their 10 game stretch against the Dodgers and Giants, the Rockies played a night game in the nations capital and did not arrive at home until 4:00 AM. Monday's off day may make the biggest difference for these Rockies. It will be the Rockies first day off spent in Denver since July 23rd.

Even after a three game losing streak to their biggest enemies, the Rockies are still in a position to go home with a four game lead over the Giants in the National League Wild Card race. That would require the team to win two tough games against Barry Zito and Matt Cain, but Zito is facing Jason Marquis, and Jason Hammel has pitched well against the Giants this season, and even better on the road, putting the Rockies in a position to possibly win the series.

1 comment:

  1. So, we had a running joke in the Modesto Press Box when Stewart was there.

    "Who bats after Ian Stewart?"
    "The other team"

    The guy can field. But, boy, can he strike out too.

    Good luck the rest of the series!