The Rockies were shutout in the finale of their three game series against the Mets at Coors Field on Thursday, 5-0. Jorge De La Rosa, who sparkled in the home opener six days ago, struggled to find the plate. The lefty walked five batters in six innings. He was overthrowing all of his pitches and never found the location on his slider.
Despite De La Rosa struggling the team was done in by what is becoming a common theme; poor defense.
If the Rockies aren't misplaying ground balls, or throwing wildly to first base, they are throwing to the wrong base or missing their cutoff man. It is the kind of defense that drives up pitch counts and losses baseball games.
In the top of the third inning with Mets pitcher Mike Pelfrey on third base, Ian Stewart fielded a ground ball and caught Pelfrey straying too far off of the bag, Stewart ran at Pelfrey, forcing him to head towards home. Instead of throwing the ball to catcher Miguel Olivo right away, Stewart continued running at Pelfrey, then threw late, causing Olivo to miss the ball, allowing the run to score.
Another defensive miscue will not show up in the box score. It occurred in the manager's office before the game. It is becoming increasingly clear that Melvin Mora has no business playing second base in the big leagues. The veteran has played the position in the past, but he is primarily a third baseman who can fill in at first when needed.
With one out and the bases loaded in the third inning Luis Castillo hit a hard ground ball to Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop. Tulowitzki quickly fired the ball to Mora, who made an extremely slow turn at second and missed getting the quick-footed Castillo at first base. Instead of the Rockies getting out of the inning, a run scored and the inning continued.
It has been made clear since before spring training began that Todd Helton would be getting several chances to rest throughout the season. When Jim Tracy talked about resting Helton, most fans did not realize that he meant that he would be resting several regulars on a regular basis, and all at the same time.
Clint Barmes, known for his grittiness, but more known for his stellar defense, has now found himself on the bench three out of the nine Rockies games. Rest is understandable, and getting everyone at-bats is important, but at some point the bad outweighs the good. Is it better for Melvin Mora to get four at-bats and give up two runs because of his defense so that he stays sharp at the plate? Or is it better to save those runs and find another way to keep Mora sharp at the plate? Jim Tracy's logic does not seem to make sense.
On top of that, the bad may outweigh the good as well when the fact is considered that De La Rosa was on the mound. A lefty who induces several ground balls should have a good left side of the infield to field those balls on the ground and get outs.
While no team has ever won a game without scoring a single run, the Rockies defense was responsible for taking the wind out of the team's sails on Thursday.
The problem with the defense being so inconsistent this early in the season is that the Rockies have prided themselves in fundamental baseball over the last several years. Good defense has been one of the main reasons that the Rockies have found themselves in the playoffs two out of the past three seasons. They are a good team, but they are not a good enough team to spot the opposition two or three extra outs every single game.
If the defense does not get sharp in a hurry, the Rockies are going to find themselves losing games that they should be winning. In the National League West, where every game is going to matter, losing games that were within grasp could have dire consequences.
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