Saturday, May 29, 2010

Aaron Cook must put his foot down against Dodgers

The Los Angeles Dodgers are becoming the Atlanta Braves of 1993, '94, and '95. The Rockies simply cannot find a way to beat them.

Riding a season-high four game winning streak, the Rockies looked like they might break through and put themselves in a position to win a series against the Dodgers. With Jeff Francis looking solid on the mound, the Rockies put four runs up against their rivals.

All the Dodgers needed was a four run sixth inning, which saw Manny Ramirez hit a two-run home run to deny the Rockies a chance to move into second place in the National League West.

Francis looked good early, but the wheels started to come off in the fifth inning when he allowed a run. The job was finished in the sixth when he could not navigate his way through the heart of the Dodgers order for a third time.

In all, Francis pitched 5-1/3 innings, giving up five earned runs on five hits. He struck out two and walked one.

The bullpen, a group that has exceeded expectations ten-fold, did another phenomenal job of stopping the bleeding. Matt Daley, Matt Belisle and Joe Beimel combined to pitch 3-1/3 innings of one-hit baseball. The performance of Belisle in particular has been a pleasant surprise for many Rockies fans.

The ninth inning featured a frustrating moment, as Clint Barmes, the player who seems to be so polarizing, failed to move pinch runner Dexter Fowler, the tying run, to 2nd base with no one out. With Fowler's speed, Barmes simply needed to bunt the ball in play, there is very little chance that Fowler could have been thrown out at 2nd base.

Barmes had hit a home run earlier in the night, putting the Rockies up 4-0. Once again, however, instead of being the hero on a night when he hit a home run, he becomes a goat. The failed bunt attempt and eventual strikeout, allowed the Dodgers to keep their outfielders at "no-doubles" depth, meaning they were playing extremely deep. When Melvin Mora lined a Jonathan Broxton pitch down the right field line, it most likely would have fallen had Fowler been at 2nd base. Instead, it was caught for the second out of the inning.

The loss was a heart breaker for the Rockies, but the key is to take the game on Saturday. Winning on Saturday boils down to one simple thing. Aaron Cook must turn the corner and start pitching the way that he is capable of. He must go back to what has put him on top of the all-time Rockies win list. He must throw his sinker early and often.

Cook's season has been downright pathetic. Through nine games, Cook sports a 5.40 ERA and just one win. He pitched well in Chicago while picking up a loss. However, the most recent start for Cook was one that is extremely worrisome. Heading into the fifth inning in Kansas City on Sunday, Cook was staked to a 9-0 lead. The game was over. All he had to do was throw strikes.

Two outs and four runs later, Cook was walking back to the dugout, with no chance of picking up a win and looking extremely foolish.

For some reason, the redhead has seemingly tried to reinvent himself. He has had success in the big leagues because he throws a great sinker. However, through the first quarter of the season in 2010, Cook has been experimenting with a curveball and a four-seemed fastball.

The curveball has been extremely hitable, if he gets it across, and the fastball lacks the movement or velocity needed to be a viable Major League pitch.

Saturday is the day that Cook needs to go back to what made him so good in his career. He needs to go back to what got him to the All-Star game in 2008. He needs to go back to pounding the lower half of the strike zone with his sinker. The curveball needs to be abandoned altogether. Frankly, it is a terrible pitch.

A sinkerballer like Aaron Cook is not into deception. Someone with a sinker like his should throw the pitch even when everyone in the stands knows that it is coming. With the movement that he gets on it, the best most players can do is hit the ball into the ground, which is exactly what Cook should be looking to do.

If Cook goes back to the sinker he will be in good shape. If he decides to continue down the road of reinventing himself, it could be a long night for the Rockies.

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1 comment:

  1. That was a painful game. Let's not give Tracy a pass either. Francis should have been hooked sooner. Last time Francis pitched, Tracy grabbed him in a similar situation early in the 6th and they got out of the inning. He was getting shelled in the 6th and should have been pulled. Then all the other stuff you talked about wouldn't have mattered. It is frustrating how the Dodgers own this team.