Sure, they may be talented. This is undoubtedly the most talented team the franchise has ever put on the field. The problem? Execution.
The Rockies lost 4-3 in 10 innings on Friday night, ensuring no fans will be chomping at the bit for playoff tickets.
Huston Street blew yet another two-run save. It seems as if he has blown every opportunity he has gotten lately. Even his save in Los Angeles came when Dexter Fowler and Troy Tulowitzki threw Reed Johnson out at the plate for the final out.
Street's problem is not mechanical. His pitches are working fine. He acknowledges that and everyone following the team continues to repeat that. His problem has nothing to do with what his pitches are doing, his problem has everything to do with where his pitches are.
Street continues to nibble. For whatever reason, he is not trusting his ability to get outs, so he is trying to get batters to swing at pitches off of the plate. That has resulted not in strikeouts, but in walks. After a base hit in the bottom of the 9th inning, Street walked the tying run, which eventually came around to score when Street was forced to throw a good pitch to Miguel Montero.
The rage in Rockies nation will be directed at Street. That is the easiest person to point a finger at. That is the guy in the spotlight when the game slipped away. However, that anger is misdirected.
The Rockies offense, facing an inferior pitcher in Ian Kennedy, continued to get runners on base. Then, as the story has gone all season long, they failed to execute the little things in the game and could not score runs.
Colorado collected 12 hits. They scored three runs. They had opportunities in the 1st inning, 2nd inning, 5th, and 6th inning.
One of the most pivotal moments came in the 6th inning when Todd Helton belted a double to lead off the inning. When a runner is on second base with no one out, he needs to score. Teams who execute fundamentals score those types of runs. What did the Rockies do?
Chris Iannetta, a catcher who has had nearly four full seasons to reach his potential, swung at a first pitch and did what he does best, hitting a high pop fly that landed in left fielder Gerardo Parra's mitt 20 feet beyond the infield dirt. With one out, the run should still score. Basically the team had two chances to get a base hit and score the run.
Clint Barmes stepped to the plate and got down in the count 1-2. On the next pitch Helton made Barmes' job easier. The 37-year old grizzly veteran made a great read on a ball in the dirt and took off for third base. He barely beat the throw, sliding awkwardly to avoid the tag, but knew how important it was to be at third base.
Barmes then found himself in a place where he could score a run by basically doing anything. If he hit a grounder to the right side, the run scores. If he hits a pop fly to the outfield, the run scores. A base hit scores a run. Essentially, anything but a bullet to an infielder and a strikeout should score the run. So what did Barmes do? He swung at the next pitch, which was above his eyes, striking out. Esmil Rogers bounced back to the pitcher and the threat was quickly averted.
Watching Clint Barmes flail at the plate should make any Rockies fan wonder if the club designated the wrong guy for assignment. Watch the Little League World Series and you will see far better swings than Barmes brings to the plate. The book on Barmes is very thin. Sliders away, and fastballs way up. Everyone knows the book, everyone watching the game knows what is coming when No.12 steps to the plate. Everyone except for Barmes.
Despite a flurry of sliders, Barmes looks like a slow-pitch softball player, getting so far out on his front foot that even if he makes contact the best that can happen is an infield pop up.
The problem is that Jim Tracy runs a lineup that features a huge hole at the bottom. Any rally that the club starts has the brakes put on it when those three come to the plate.
The fact is, the Rockies are done. They are not mathematically done, but they are mentally done. To be more precise, the Rockies are not done because they never started. The club never got going. They have gotten away from what was a fixture of Rockies baseball, fundamental play. The defense has been sloppy all year, the at bats have been sloppy, and the coaching has been atrocious.
If the Rockies hope to compete in 2011, they have their work cut out for them.
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