It is September. Usually that means fans of a team managed by Jim Tracy can let out a sigh of relief. That is because it means that Tracy can micromanage to his heart's content and still have enough players on the bench to make it work.
He proved everyone wrong on Tuesday night in a pivotal game at Coors Field.
It would be easy to blame Edgmer Escolona, the Rockies rookie pitcher who forgot to cover first base, for the loss. That mistake did cost the Rockies the game as a sacrifice fly scored the winning run. However, look deeper and the blame lies with Tracy.
Is the bullpen short on rest lately? Yes. Do some of the guys sitting out there need a night off. Absolutely. The bullpen has been taxed in recent days with the shortcomings of the starting pitching. On Tuesday, Jason Hammel gave up 10 hits and four runs in just four innings.
The bullpen is definitely short. However, since when has Jim Tracy cared about saving arms? All season long he has run reliever after reliever to the mound on back-to-back-to-back days. Matt Belisle has logged the most innings of any reliever in the game. Huston Street has been asked to pitch in non-save situations with the Rockies up by four or more runs in at least four occasions.
For the ultimate proof of Tracy's taxation on the bullpen, talk to Manny Corpas. If he won't tell you, ask Thomas Noonan, the surgeon who performed Tommy John surgery on the once promising righty.
So all of the sudden, with the Rockies in the heat of a playoff battle, Jim Tracy decides it is time to make sure his arms are adequately rested.
Tracy mistake number one; after Manny Delcarmen had worked a phenomenal 5th inning in relief, Tracy allowed him to bat in the bottom half of the inning. It was Delcarmen's first plate appearance in the big leagues. The reasoning makes sense. The Rockies had two outs and no one on base, so if they could get another inning out of the right hander it would be very beneficial. The problem with the logic, however, is that Tracy essentially gave up on the inning with a bench full of potential pinch hitters waiting to take a shot in a one-run ballgame.
Delcarmen quickly went down on strikes and headed back to the mound, where he pitched as well as could be expected for another 1-1/3 innings.
The odds of a pinch hitter coming up and getting a two-out rally may be slim, but why just give away the inning because there are two outs? One swing of the bat from someone on the bench could have tied the game.
Delcarmen batting for himself may have been unwise, but Tracy's biggest blunder came in the 9th. With the Padres sporting a two run lead, Tracy went to Escolona to pitch the 9th. This is the same Edgmer Escolona who made his Major League debut on Friday night in a blowout win. Tracy chalked up Escolona's mistake to being young and getting caught up in the moment. The question for Tracy is simple, why was someone who is young and susceptible to getting caught up in the moment in the game at that point?
The Rockies already faced a tall order in trying to score two runs off of Heath Bell in the 9th to tie the game, now they were forced to score three. That third run proved to be the difference as the Rockies mounted a furious rally. Why not go with Huston Street in that situation? These three games against the Padres should almost be treated as postseason games. Down by two runs in the 9th, a team almost always would act as if it were a tie game and bring in their closer in order to make sure the game gets shut down.
Had Street been able to pitch the 9th and get out flawlessly, the Rockies may have been playing in extra innings on Tuesday. Instead they went down 7-6, losing another game in the standings to the Padres and failing to gain a game in the wild card race on the Braves.
The Rockies seem to be playing with a sense of urgency, but Jim Tracy is managing as if they have three months to make up the gap.
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