Cook had a great night through five innings. He gave up one run on two hits through the first five frames, and then the flood gates opened. After two fluky base hits, one off of the glove of Mark Ellis and another bounder over third base, Cook's bid for a good night on the hill was over.
The Rockies former ace is who he is. He throws a sinkerball, one that is about four miles per hour slower than it used to be. When he is on, he gets ground balls. It is the perfect formula for success in the big leagues, especially when half of the games are at Coors Field.
The only problem with it, however, is that the ground balls have to be hit at the defense. On Friday night, Cook got ground ball outs through five innings, but then the ground balls found their way through the holes. Matt Holliday hit the definition of a Baltimore chop over Chris Nelson's head to score a run, Albert Pujols hit a ground ball that skipped off of Ellis' glove for a hit. The Cardinals took Cook's game and used it against him.
The St. Louis infield is notorious for having one of the hardest surfaces in front of the mound. They manicure the field that way because their starting rotation is full of fly ball pitchers. They don't need soft dirt in front of the plate. So when Cook comes to town, that hard dirt can be used the way that old turf fields used to be played. What normally would be softened by the dirt is now bounced high into the air, with extra speed, creating a few extra hits.
The reality is, the Cardinals did something that the Rockies have failed to do all season long. They figured out how to adjust their game to beat the opposition. Instead of continuing to hit the ball out of the park, or get under Cook's sinker ball, they simply started to go with what he was giving them. Why try to do something that won't work? Instead, hit the sinker ball into the ground, just hit it hard enough for hit to take a big hop.
In the fateful sixth inning, when both Pujols and Holliday came to the plate, the thought was that they could do serious damage with one swing of the bat. However, they remained focused on the task at hand and didn't try to be the hero. They simply hit a sinker into the ground that turned into an RBI single, adding a run to the scoreboard and keeping the inning going.
That type of maturity has been hard to come by for the Rockies. They haven't figured out that they don't always need the big hit or the big inning to win a game, they just need to go get the job at hand done.
The greatest evidence of that is when the big inning happens against their pitcher, the way it did on Friday night. Their game is so one-dimensional that they cannot figure out how to play when they are behind, therefore, they simply fold. It has happened countless times in 2011.
This Rockies team lacks maturity, and lacks baseball savvy. Those two issues are the main cause for their demise in 2011.