The Rockies looked like they were going to ride the wave of momentum that they were building up over the course of the first week of the season. Jason Giambi, who was put into the lineup less than 20 minutes before the first pitch because Todd Helton had back stiffness, drilled a three-run home run to right field.
That was it for the Rockies, however, as they failed to score another run in a game that went 14 innings. The Pirates won on a 2-out fly off the right field wall by Pedro Alvarez.
It was a performance that brought fans back to a year ago, when the club struggled to score runs on the road. The reason for the lack of scoring wasn't due to great pitching from the Pirates. It was due to a lack of execution on the Rockies part.
With the game tied at three, the Rockies failed to score when they had runners in scoring position in three separate innings. They failed to score a single run even once.
Losing an early-season extra inning game in Pittsburgh is not the end of the world. After four impressive wins in a row, it is hardly time for the Rockies to panic.
Part of the issues for Colorado in 2010 came when they allowed a bad game at the plate to snowball into the next few games. This game, ending after midnight in Pittsburgh, should be a good test for the Rockies. If they can find a way to shake off a tough loss and get back to the basics on Saturday, they could do more than just win a baseball game, they could build road confidence that will give them a boost throughout the season.
The game on Saturday was already one that had some question marks coming in. Greg Reynolds, called up due to Ubaldo Jimenez's bad thumb, is making his first Major League appearance since 2008. He struggled in his first 14 appearances, then dealt with injury for the next two seasons.
The expectations are already high for Reynolds to perform, but now, after the entire bullpen was blown through, including three innings from Huston Street, the Rockies are in desperate need of Reynolds to at least give them several good innings on Saturday. If the Pirates start to hit him and score runs early, he may be forced to take one for the team and find a way to grind through five innings.
What Friday night's game comes down to is the fact that a team has to execute. There is no excuse for not scoring a run when a runner is on third base with no one out. Despite the fact that in that inning, with Herrera on third, Carlos Gonzalez was robbed on a hard-hit ball to shortstop, and then Ty Wigginton was robbed of a double down the line. However, in between those two at-bats was a strikeout from Jose Morales. In that situation, the hitters have to find a way to get the ball into the air and get the run to the plate.
Lost in the disappointment of the final results will be the performance of Jonathan Herrera. Herrera is essentially the 25th man on the team, however, on Friday night he went 3-for-6 with a double in the 11th inning, and a hustle infield single in the 1st inning that allowed Giambi to come to the plate and knock the ball out of the park.
He did struggle to get a bunt down in the late innings, but overall, his performance reinforced the fact that the 2011 Rockies are as deep of a team as the Rockies have ever fielded.
The good news for the Rockies is that they get a chance to prove that 2010 is over and that this team is going to be better on the road.
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