Coming home was supposed to be a relief. After all, the Rockies finished a home stand 8-2 before heading into the All-Star break. The ability to win at home was a welcomed sight after a 2-9 road trip essentially derailed their playoff hopes.
In as much of a must-win game as there can be in July, the Rockies played with little passion, failing in nearly every situation, and losing to a lowly Pirates team 4-2.
The biggest gut-wrenching move came in the 8th inning when Ryan Spilborghs led off with a double to deep left field. The Rockies had just seen their deficit move from one run to two the previous inning, making Spilborghs double very important.
Instead of being content with a double, however, Spilborghs tried to stretch it to a triple, and was thrown out by a foot at third base for the first out.
The move goes against everything that players are taught from the first day they take the field. Never make the first or third out at third base. The reason is because with no one out, the odds are very good that a runner at second base will score before the end of the inning.
The decision was especially gut-wrenching because of the two-run deficit. Spilborghs run essentially meant nothing. He needed to be on base so that if a player were to homer, the game would be tied. Instead, it changed the course of the inning--which saw the Rockies two best hitters in Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez go down immediately after Spilborghs blunder.
If the play looked familiar it is because on Saturday in Philadelphia, with the Rockies down six runs and in desperate need of base runners, Dexter Fowler made the exact same mistake.
The blunder highlights a deeper issue that has been plaguing the Colorado Rockies for their entire 2010 campaign... Sloppiness.
From the get-go the Rockies, long known for their little league-like emphasis on fundamentals in spring training, have looked more like an undisciplined group of rec league baseball players than a finely-tuned Major League team.
Bad defense has cost the Rockies several games. Going back all the way to the beginning of the season when Jim Tracy continued to choose to use Melvin Mora at second base on the same days he used Jason Giambi at first. The lineup was commonplace when Aaron Cook, at one point a phenomenal sinker ball pitcher, on the mound.
Errors haunted Ubaldo Jimenez in his start in Florida, a mental error from Rafael Betancourt haunted the Rockies in the finale in Philadelphia, and another mental error potentially cost the Rockies the game on Tuesday night against an awful Pirates team,
While the Rockies flirted with contention, the fact is, they have yet to hit on all cylinders yet in 2010. That is because they play an undisciplined brand of baseball that hopes for wins instead of playing disciplined, with a sense of accountability that makes a team play as a group instead of a bunch of individuals.
The Rockies have finally fell to where they belong. They may have the talent to win the National League West, but they do not have the discipline to do it. They continue to make the same mistakes over and over and over again. At some point they have to learn from their mistakes, or deal with the consequences of making them.
In this case, the consequences are finishing in fourth place in a very winnable National League West race.
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