Monday, May 17, 2010

Rockies can't turn the corner, lose to Cubs

Good teams find ways to win.

So what does that say about this Rockies team that continues to find ways to drop baseball games? Colorado did it again on Monday night, losing 4-2 in 11 innings to the Cubs, erasing any momentum that the team had built over the weekend.

Matt Belisle took the loss, serving up a two-run walk off homer to Aramis Ramirez. Belisle actually performed well, pushing himself to 2-1/3 innings. He battled not only the Cubs, but also the ever-moving strike zone of Jim Wolf, Brewers starting pitcher Randy Wolf's brother.

The loss threw away a good start from Aaron Cook, who looked to be himself again. Instead of playing around with a curveball as he has been in recent starts, Cook used his sinker to hold Chicago to seven hits in seven innings. He gave up two runs -one earned- while striking out three and walking one.

The loss falls squarely on the shoulders of the Rockies offense, namely third baseman Ian Stewart.

The big lefty came to the plate twice with the bases loaded and one out. Twice he failed to come through, the second time bouncing into a double play to end the 8th inning. The first time striking out in the fourth.

Anyone who has been around the game of baseball for any amount of time knows what a power hitter is supposed to do in a tight game with a runner at third and less than two outs. It is simple. Swing for the fences.

Rarely does a hitter actually try to hit a home run, but in a bases loaded, less than two outs situation, that is exactly what a hitter needs to be thinking. The reason is simple. It gets the hitter to be thinking about hitting something in the air. If the ball happens to find the seats it is a good thing, if the hitter just misses, the ball is a sacrifice fly.

In a bases loaded, less than two out situation, Baseball 101 says not to do two things. First, do not strike out. Get the ball in play and hope for something good to happen. The second thing, which is a cardinal sin, it to hit into a double play.

Stewart violated both of those rules on Monday night. It should be mentioned that playing baseball is difficult to do, and pitchers should get credit for getting strike outs and inducing double plays. However, if Stewart wants to become the elite player that his talent says that he can be, he needs to start delivering in situations like that. Especially when the game is tied.

The other mistake Stewart made in the 8th inning was bailing the pitcher out. Carlos Marmol had been brought in to record a five-out save for the Cubs. He was in a terrible position with the bases loaded and one out. He did not help himself when he walked Miguel Olivo with the bases loaded, tying the game. That is the same Miguel Olivo who has 106 career walks in parts of nine big league seasons.

If Marmol is going to walk Olivo on four pitches there is no reason that Stewart should be approaching the plate aggressively. Instead, Stewart promptly gave the momentum back to the Cubs, grounding into a double play to leave the bases loaded and end the threat.

While Stewart failed twice on Monday, it would be unfair to make him shoulder the burden of the loss. He was only part of the reason the Rockies did not win.

The offense as a whole completely underperformed. They made Randy Wells look like he could be a Cy Young winner.

The Rockies are mind boggling to figure out because they have so much firepower, they are so talented at the plate that they should strike fear into opposing pitchers. The Rockies have one of the top three lineups in the National League. However, they cannot seem to put it together when it matters. Even when they beat the Nationals three games in a row they put up more than four runs in only one game.

Since April 28th the Rockies have scored more than six runs only one time, on May 8th in Los Angeles. While six runs will generally produce a win, the Rockies have scored two or less five times in that span, and they scored four runs three times.

The point is, this team should be hitting better. They should be getting on base more often and they should be scoring more runs. The corner will be turned at some point. A team with this much talent will hit. The problem is, they are wasting games that they need to be winning while they wait for something to spark their bats.

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  1. I totally agree. The Rockies have been making just about every pitcher in the NL look like a Cy Young winner. The excuse "we ran into some good pitching tonight" starts to wear thin when overused, like the boy who cried wolf. The Rockies should be terrorizing pitchers, not making them all look brilliant.

  2. Mike,
    Frankly, the excuses are getting old altogether. Jim Tracy likes to say "we don't make excuses" right before he leads into an excuse. While last night was difficult to watch, I am confident that this team will find a way to put it together. The problem is, losing games like last night still count in the standings. It would be nice if the Rockies could quit playing like they are a mediocre team for the first few months of the season.

    Thanks for the comment.