Houston starter Felipe Paulino, sporting a 0-6 record with a 5.72 ERA, was the latest National League pitcher to throw the game of their life against the Rockies. He went six innings, giving up just two runs on two hits. He walked five and struck out four.
On Wednesday, the hero ended up being the goat.
Clint Barmes led off the 7th inning with a no doubt home run to left field. It was a sigh of relief, as the Rockies looked like they might finally be breaking through. It was Barmes' first home run since the home opener on April 9th, a streak that spanned 110 at-bats.
An inning later, with Esmil Rogers about to retire his sixth straight batter to end the eighth inning, Barmes booted a routine ground ball off the bat of Tommy Manzella. The ground ball would have finished off the 8th inning, giving the Rockies a chance to scratch a run across in the 9th. Instead, the inning continued, and a young Rogers could not shake off the error. He walked Brian Cash, then gave up a pinch hit single to former Rockie Cory Sullivan that scored Manzella. After walking Michael Bourne, Rogers got behind Jeff Keppinger 3-1 and served him up a center-cut fastball. Keppinger drilled the ball down the left field line, clearing the bases and finishing off the Rockies.
The argument can be made that Rogers needs to pick his teammates up, that he needs to bear down and get the next out. Those statements are very true. However, the fact is, if Barmes makes the play, the Rockies are out of the inning with the score tied. Rogers is a young pitcher. He has made less than 10 Major League appearances, to suggest that he should be able to ignore the error and get the next batter is assuming that he is more experienced facing Major League hitters. His job is hard enough simply trying to get outs, let alone extra outs.
Barmes' error was just the latest way that the Rockies have given a game away. It seems that this team is intent on starting out slow, regardless of how many chances the opposing teams give them.
Once again, the offense was stale. Three runs is unacceptable. Wednesday marked the fourth straight game that the Rockies have scored three or less runs. They haven't scored more than six runs in a game since early May when they scored six runs in the first inning in Los Angeles.
What is the problem with the offense? Everyone knows that this team is talented. Everyone knows that this lineup should be feared by opponents. Instead, it is lackluster. It allows mediocre pitchers who are struggling to keep their jobs look like they should be contending for the Cy Young.
At what point does the problem fall on Don Baylor's shoulders? The hitting coach has escaped a full year's worth of failing when it counts. The Rockies are awful with runners in scoring position. They strike out too much, and hitters are not in typical slumps, they look lost at the plate and are mired in horrendous slumps.
Ian Stewart has been told so many different things that he has no chance at the plate. Troy Tulowitzki and Barmes are so jumpy at the plate that they don't let the ball travel deep enough to put a good swing on it.
At some point, this must fall back on the hitting coach. Yet for a year plus, Baylor has avoided criticism and found a way to avoid being a target,
It might be time to make a statement to this team. A statement that goes beyond sending a player who is struggling down to Triple-A. It may be time to get rid of an intricate part of this team, someone like Barmes, or possibly firing Baylor. It may be jumping the gun, but expecting a team to suddenly find its way for the third time in four years may be asking too much.
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