Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Colorado Rockies lose again, slide continues

Nothing new to say. The Colorado Rockies wrote the same story with their bats that they have written all month long.

On Tuesday, the Rockies scored two runs, and once again, got obliterated by the hapless Dodgers, who are now one game away from sweeping the Rockies and leapfrogging them in the standings all at once.

What is the issue? At this point, pull a reason out of a hat and it will be just as good as any reason that anyone following the club has had to this point. It doesn't make sense. The talent level on this Rockies club is very good. It is good enough to be in the playoff race. It might be good enough to do damage in the playoffs. On paper, this Colorado Rockies team should be their best ever.

However, paper doesn't win baseball games, and talent only gets a team so far. Mentally, this team is a mess.

Obviously it is hard to predict what is going on inside the heads of 25 different guys, plus a whole coaching staff, but the reality is, the body language of this team speaks 1000 words. This team is mentally defeated before they step on the field.

In April, the Rockies couldn't seem to play excellent baseball, yet continued to find ways to win. They battled from behind. They scratched and clawed their way back into games. When an opponent scored, there was a feeling that the Rockies would counter-punch.

The feeling on May 31st couldn't be more polar opposite. When the opponent scores, the Rockies curl up into a ball and hope for the best. In April, Jim Tracy looked confident that his team would fight back and win. Now, the look on his face is eerily similar to that of former Broncos and Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips, who owned the same confused look before getting shown the door.

Tracy isn't going anywhere. The Rockies front office believes in him. However, continuing to run out ridiculous lineups isn't winning him any fans. On Tuesday it was Ty Wigginton in right field. The bulky right hander is a questionable defender in left field, and really should only be used their in case of emergency. So trotting him out to right field is absolutely unacceptable. If nothing else, put Wigginton in left field and shift Carlos Gonzalez to right field.
Tracy has to do something, but tinkering with the lineup is going to do nothing but keep everyone from getting locked in. He needs to decide on one, and leave it. Let the bench players figure out how to be bench players.

If things didn't seem bad now, don't look. Ubaldo Jimenez is scheduled for the Rockies in the finale on Wednesday night. One year ago, that would have provided the club with it's greatest hope for avoiding a sweep. Right now, it seems to ensure it. Jimenez is still lost. At this point, an injury may be a relief. At least it would explain the lack of velocity and command that the former ace has dealt with so far. If Jimenez fails to notch a win, or at least keep the Rockies in the game long enough for them to pick up a win, it may be a new low for the Rockies franchise, and it may be a low that is extremely difficult to recover from.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Is May over yet? Colorado Rockies drop 20th game of the month

Twenty losses in May. Twenty. With one day to go.

It almost takes effort for a Major League team to lose 20 games in a month. The nature of baseball would suggest that just by showing up a team should be able to avoid losing 20 games in any month. There is no reason a team should lose 20 games in a month.

Stretched out over the course of a full season, if the Colorado Rockies played the way they have played in May, they would lose 120 games. That would be one for the record books. That would be a huge disappointment, even if they were the worst team in baseball.

What is so maddening about it is that the Rockies are not the worst team in baseball talent wise. They are nowhere near the worst team in baseball. In fact, they were picked by many experts to be the best team in the National League West, better than the team who hoisted the World Series trophy at the end of the 2010 season.

Those following the club feel as if they are stuck in a horrible remake of the movie Groundhog Day with the Rockies playing the role of Bill Murray. The alarm keeps going off everyday, but the results stay the same.

The ironic thing about the Rockies is that they struggle the most when they have the other team on the ropes. They consistently let the opposing pitchers off the hook when they have a chance to cut their throats. On Monday, the Rockies did it again, racking up 14 hits and scoring only one run. It doesn't even seem possibly to have that many hits without more runs scoring.

Amazingly, the Rockies went 1-for-14 with runners-in-scoring-position. For whatever reason, the Rockies batters feel pressure when they step to the plate with a chance to hurt the other team. They don't realize that the pressure isn't on them, the pressure is on the pitcher to make good pitches and get a guy out.

Instead, hitters like Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez continually expand their strike zone and swing at pitches well off the plate. The results are harmless ground balls that find mits and create outs. If those two in particular would realize that they need to wait for their pitch and drive it when they get it, they would be on top of the league in hitting. Instead, they continue to bail out the opposing pitchers and leave men on base.

When a team loses 20 games, fan bases get upset. They start pointing fingers, and generally a finger gets pointed in nearly every direction. Is it Jim Tracy's fault? Maybe. He definitely hasn't found a way to light a fire under these Rockies in quite some time. Maybe he needs to get more aggressive. Maybe he needs to have his pitchers throw a pitch behind a batter after a hitter pulls a move like James Loney did on Monday and watches his home run for three seconds before he starts running. Instead, the Rockies play nice-guy and let other teams walk all over them. That falls on Tracy.

Is it Carney Lansford's fault? Maybe. His approach certainly has the Rockies looking like nothing more than a mirror image of a homer-happy team that failed to reach expectations in 2010.

Is it Bob Apodaca's fault? Maybe. If Ubaldo Jimenez doesn't have a win by June and there is no injury to speak of, some blame has to fall on his coach of five seasons.

Is it Dinger's fault? Maybe. His annoying antics behind home plate rank him as possibly the worst mascot of all time.

The fact is though, it is the whole team's fault collectively. Losing 20 games in one month is a team effort. There is no one man who can take the blame for a team failing in so many games.

The reality is, this Rockies team needs to figure out how to get over the mental hump that is plaguing them from the top to the bottom. If they don't figure it out soon, they may need to start making plans for a postseason run in 2012.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Colorado Rockies can't carry momentum into Sunday

The way that this 2011 Colorado Rockies team has played has been nothing short of insane. They struggle for five straight games, then light up one of the National League's top pitchers so far.

Most would think that some of that momentum would carry into Sunday's action, but instead, it was back to business as usual. The Rockies offense scored three runs, two of which were driven in by a guy who wasn't with the club a week ago. The guys who are supposed to be carrying this team are failing.

Sunday's game showed why the Rockies need the offense to take charge. It is easy to forget that Jhoulys Chacin is just 23-years old. He is going to have hiccups in the road. Most 23-year olds have hiccups that include pitching his team out of a game. Chacin's hiccups are limited to giving up home runs, something he has struggled with in 2011, and being inconsistent throwing strikes.

Chacin has shown how good he can be, and how good he will be. However, to expect that the 23-year old will be able to carry a team that has lost their ace to issues that remain to be named, and a no. 2 starter to Tommy John surgery is quite the expectations for a kid of Chacin's age.

Obviously, at this point, the Rockies need Chacin to take the next step forward. He is being forced into an ace role that he might not quite be ready for. If the Rockies are going to make the playoffs, they are going to need Chacin to continue his growth even beyond the levels that the club has seen him take so far in 2011.

At some point, the Rockies offense has to take an even bigger step forward. They need to pick up the slack left behind from an ineffective Ubaldo Jimenez and a lost Jorge De La Rosa.

For all of the Rockies May struggles, they sit just 3-1/2 games out of first place in the National League West, and just three games behind the San Francisco Giants. There are very few people out there who actually think that the Diamondbacks will continue their current hot streak, which means that if the Rockies can outplay the Giants, they still have a decent chance at making the playoffs.

But talking about the playoffs in May is premature. Figuring out how to win as a team is the most important thing for the Colorado Rockies right now, and they are struggling with that, and don't look like they are going to figure that out anytime soon.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Juan Nicasio impressive in Colorado Rockies debut

The excitement of the Colorado Rockies finally breaking out and putting up a big number against a good pitcher was great to see. The team needed it, the fans needed it.

However, the offensive output might not be the thing that Rockies fans should be the most excited about.

Juan Nicasio, one of the Rockies top prospects, was called up from Double-A Tulsa to make his Major League debut in the wake of Jorge De La Rosa's arm injury. All he did was throw seven innings without giving up an earned run. He gave up just six hits to the same Cardinal lineup that rocked Ubaldo Jimenez for 12 hits the night before.

Nicasio showed poise in a time when the Rockies were the most vulnerable. Despite the fact that it is still May, the club was in the midst of a free fall that could have had long lasting effects, had the club dropped a fifth straight game at Coors Field, a place where they generally get a reprieve from the lonely road.

One game is far too early to crown a young pitcher as a quality Major League pitcher. However, if Nicasio can live up to his billing, and do a formidable job of filling in for De La Rosa, it could go a long way for the Rockies.

With a lineup that has been stuck in first gear for the majority of the season, an ace who is winless heading into June, and the club's only left-handed starter hoping to make his next start sometime around the All-Star break in 2012, the Rockies were a club looking for someone to step up and help the team win.

With the team in trouble, Nicasio answered the call and showed that the talent coming up through the farm system is as deep as it ever was. There certainly is still going to be some growing up to do for Nicasio, and at the Major League level, sometimes that means some tough outings, but the 25-year old, equipped with an upper-90's fastball looks like he has the talent to stick around on the big league roster and give this Colorado Rockies team a chance.

As for the game, Chris Iannetta showed what he is capable of at the plate. He blasted two no-doubt home runs to left field, and another two-RBI single to center. If Iannetta can continue to be a threat at the plate consistently driving in runs, he might be the key to igniting a lackluster offense.

In addition to Iannetta's offensive firepower, Eric Young Jr.'s contributions should not be left out. His first inning base hit, a routine grounder that was bobbled by Cardinals shortstop Ryan Theriot, was a big moment in a 15-run game. Had EY's speed not caused a rush transfer, the first inning easily could have been a different story. With Young on first, Jaime Garcia had to be a little more careful with Dexter Fowler, which created a walk, and the Rockies were off to the races.

Had Young been out at first, Fowler's at-bat could have been completely different, and the Rockies six-run inning could have been much different. Young's speed could bring a whole different dimension to the Rockies offense.

The Rockies look to win their first series in almost two weeks on Sunday. Jhoulys Chacin takes the mound against Kyle Lohse. The matchup favors the Rockies, and they may be able to build some momentum heading into a west coast road trip.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Time for Apodaca to take heat for Jimenez's struggles

Ubaldo Jimenez is in the middle of a storied collapse.

After starting the 2010 season 15-1, Jimenez has limped to a record of 4-12 since starting the 2010 All-Star game, including an 0-5 record so far in 2011. His record is terrible, but his lack of dominance is far more concerning than the record.

Jimenez, Jim Tracy, and the Rockies front office continue to insist that the former-flame throwers issues have nothing to do with injury. They insist that it isn't mental, and they insist that he is turning the corner.

The only thing that Rockies fans have been able to figure out is that none of what the Rockies have been telling them seems to be true. Jimenez continues to not just look like he has lost it, he looks like he has no business being on a Major League mound.

In 2010, watching Jimenez was nerve-racking because there always seemed to be a chance for a complete-game shutout. In fact, when a run crossed the plate against the Dominican, it was a huge disappointment. One year later, and Rockies fans would kill for a game in which Jimenez gave up less than five runs, let alone threw a shutout.

As Jimenez enters June before he picks up his first win, tough questions have to be asked.

It is clear that the Rockies franchise is in love with pitching coach Bob Apodaca. He is credited with reviving the careers of many has-been pitchers who have found new life in the thin air of Colorado. He has been praised for the success that the post-humidor Colorado Rockies have had.

However, the reality is, the Rockies have watched two former All-Stars suddenly forget how to pitch under Apodaca's watch.

Aaron Cook was one of the best pitchers in the National League when he took the mound at Yankee Stadium in the midsummer classic of 2008. Those three scoreless innings that he threw may have been the final highlight of Cook's fizzled out career.

Since Cook's appearance in New York in '08, he has been anything but an All-Star. Despite several injuries, Cook was ineffective in the times where he was healthy. In 2010, the right-hander blew 13 leads that his offense gave him. He was completely undependable.

Cook's struggles have gone unfixed.

The fear is that Ubaldo Jimenez may be in the same boat. For two months now, Jimenez has been dealing with "mechanical issues" that are causing him to lose his trademark 99 MPH fastball with movement. He is now throwing a flat fastball that is only traveling in the 93-94 range.

If Jimenez is having mechanical issues, and the problems truly are not due to a mental issue, or an injury, then what is taking so long to fix? Why haven't we seen any improvement. Even with a very good start against the Brewers on Sunday, Jimenez is still lacking the velocity.

When does Apodaca start taking some heat for not being able to help two of his All-Star pitchers through their issues?

Carney Lansford, a Colorado Rockies employee for less than four months, is already hearing fans call for his head after the rough stretch that the offense has gone through. Why does Apodaca continue to get a free pass from the media, and fans when it comes to the struggles of some of the Rockies pitchers?

Colorado Rockies struggles continue

It used to be that on the road, Rockies fans held their breath and waited for the road trip to end, hoping for a respectable trip.

Unfortunately for the club, those struggles have bled over to Coors Field. The Rockies continued their offensive struggles on Thursday, with a 6-3 loss to the Diamondbacks.

Watching the Rockies on Thursday night was a frustrating task. The body language of the club does not look like a team ready to win the National League West, it looks like a club who has accepted defeat. It looks like a team that is down 13-1 in the eighth inning and is just going through the motions.

The Rockies are resorting to their cleanup hitter and the new face of the franchise bunting with two outs in the sixth inning, down by three runs.

After the game the Rockies designated Jose Lopez for assignment. To fill his spot, the club called up Eric Young Jr. The move is about three weeks too late.

The Rockies sometimes get so caught up in having a deep farm system that they let guys who have value sit in Triple-A for far too long. There is much debate amongst Rockies fans as to whether or not Young Jr. is good enough to cut it long term in the big leagues. However, there is only one way to figure that out, and that is to call Young up and put him in the lineup.

Even if Young isn't good to play in the big leagues, he may bring the fire that this club needs to get going. While his defense is questionable at the big league level, his hard work and fire for the game are not.

The Rockies have been playing lackluster baseball for nearly the entire month of May. They seem defeated, and they seem to be in their own heads both in the field and at the plate. For a team that started out as hot as these Rockies did, they have squandered a lead and a confidence that seemed to have them as the shoe-in for their first ever National League West championship. Instead, they are in third place and look like they have no business being on a Major League field, let alone being in any playoff race.

This team is frustrating to watch because their talent level is so high that there is no way that they should be playing this poorly. For whatever reason, year-after-year, this Rockies franchise continues to struggle, not against opponents, but against themselves.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Same old story for Colorado Rockies

Not much new coming out of Coors Field. Same old, same old.

The Colorado Rockies can't hit. On Wednesday they lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks 2-1 in another lackluster offensive effort against a pitcher who had no business looking like an ace.

Jason Hammel continues to pitch well, although he also continues to have a tough time picking up a much-deserved win. On Wednesday he pitched seven innings giving up two unearned runs on five hits. He struck out five and walked just two.

The runs scored because Alfredo Amezaga made an error in the sixth inning that led to the runs. The next logical question is why Amezaga was playing in the sixth inning at all. Suddenly he seems to be Jim Tracy's golden boy. He has started three-of-the-past-four games. Even more unbelievable is that when the Rockies offense is in a free fall, Tracy made the decision to leave Troy Tulowitzki on the bench.

Tulowitzki played both games of the doubleheader on Tuesday, so he most likely was tired. However, if fans know one thing about their All-Star shortstop, it is that he kicks, screams and pouts if his name isn't in the lineup card. The kid wants to play.

Even if Tulowitzki's offense hasn't been up to the level that it was in 2010, there is one thing that hasn't taken a day off, and that is his defense. Clearly his glove would have been beneficial on Wednesday, as Amezaga, a minor league free agent signed by the Rockies in February, made an error that cost the team the game.

Tracy continues to tinker with different lineups. He continues to try to get things going. The reality is that Tracy needs to continue to run out a consistent lineup day in and day out. He plays around with his hitters too much, and changes lineups every single day.

The Rockies are going to continue spinning their wheels until Jim Tracy takes a stand and puts his best eight players on the field everyday.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Colorado Rockies lose Jorge De La Rosa, split doubleheader

Splitting a doubleheader against the Diamondbacks on Tuesday is an afterthought.

The Colorado Rockies got horrible news between game one and two. Jorge De La Rosa, who had to be removed from the opening game after just 2-1/3 innings. He went to the hospital for an MRI, where a the tests revealed a torn ulner collateral ligament, the worst case scenario.

De La Rosa will most likely have to undergo Tommy John surgery, missing at least one full year.

The injury seriously jeopardizes the Rockies playoff chances for 2011, and also could have an impact on the teams 2012 chances.

The injury shows why it is never a good time to excuse losses with the excuse of it being too early. Of course, in baseball, with 162 games, panicking early is a bad idea. However, after a start like the Rockies had, they could easily have been leading the National League West by four games at this point. That would not have given them an amazing amount of breathing room, but now they are looking at a three game deficit without arguably their best pitcher so far.

The news from the field on Tuesday was mixed as well. The Rockies came out and looked like they might just be finding themselves in game one. Carlos Gonzalez smacked two home runs, and looked as if he is regaining the form that made him a triple crown threat in 2010. His second home run was hit as hard as a baseball can be hit and landed in the trees beyond the center field fence.

Seth Smith also continued his hot-hitting, knocking a solo home run, and then a run-scoring double to help the Rockies to a blowout win.

Although playing back-to-back games takes its toll, with Jim Tracy at the helm, forget getting a formidable lineup in game two of any doubleheader. Game two featured a starting lineup with Alfredo Amezaga in the leadoff position, the second time that he has started in three games, and new starters at every position except for Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, and Dexter Fowler.

In a doubleheader it makes sense to go with two different catchers. For the Rockies, it also makes sense to give someone else a start at first base in game two so that Todd Helton doesn't get worn down. But with the way Smith is hitting, and the momentum that the original lineup built, it makes no sense to essentially go with a different group of starters.

Even with the Rockies facing a lefty in Joe Saunders in game two, with Smith hitting as well as he has been, there is absolutely no reason why he should be sitting on the bench. Playing two games in one day is difficult, but by no means is it impossible. On top of that, Jason Giambi, who has been hot at the plate, does not need to be getting several starts in a week. He needs to be an effective pinch hitter without making two starts per week.

Giambi's 40-year old body is probably not suited to play the field anymore, as was evidenced by his sixth inning departure with injury.

Jim Tracy does his best to keep everyone fresh, but sometimes it is to the club's demise. With a lead in the race, there may be an excuse to give up a game here or there to keep guys fresh, but not when the offense is struggling, and especially not when the club just scored 12 runs in a game and looked like they were gaining momentum.

Colorado Rockies need lineup stability, not shakeup

The Colorado Rockies are back to business as usual.

After a 7-1 road trip to start the season, the Rockies have fallen back into their old habits, struggling to score runs away from Coors Field.

With the Rockies having a day off following their latest terrible road trip, which included a three-game sweep at the hands of the Milwaukee Brewers, the talk has been about the need for Jim Tracy to make drastic changes in the lineup.

Fans think that Dexter Fowler can't hit leadoff, so he should be moved down. Chris Iannetta should not hit eighth because his ability to take walks is not being fully utilized because he hits in front of the pitcher. There are plenty of other scenarios that people are throwing around as ways to shake up the lineup.

In reality, however, the Rockies don't need to shake up their lineup, they need to stabilize it.

The problem for the club right now is that Jim Tracy has too many tools at his disposal. It is too tempting to try and run Jose Lopez out there to see if he can give some home run pop on a certain day. It is too tempting to give Jason Giambi four at bats to prove that he can still be a big force in the lineup. It is also really hard to relegate a guy like Ryan Spilborghs to strictly bench duty.

If the Rockies want to win, however, they must declare a lineup. They must declare starters at each position, and give those players the vast majority of the starts at those positions.

If Ty Wigginton is the guy at third base, then make him the guy. Don't start him at third base for two straight days, then sit him in favor of Lopez, then insert him into left field to try and get Lopez jump-started.

Don't run Jonathan Herrera out to second base for four days, then let Alfredo Amezega start the fifth day, then slide Lopez over because Wigginton needs to stay in the lineup and will be at third.

If Seth Smith is hot, don't put him on the bench because the team is facing a lefty, and Spilborghs might have a good chance that day. Simply let Smith hit.

The problem that the Rockies have on offense is much the same that a Clint Hurdle-bullpen has. No one knows their role. Jim Tracy essentially has 11 starting players for eight spots. Instead of declaring eight guys as starters, and allowing the other three to work on their roles as late inning pinch-hitters, or defensive replacements, Tracy tries to shoe-horn them all into starting roles.

Doing that creates a lack of rhythm from the lineup. Instead of a few guys getting hot and propelling the lineup, no one is hot because no one has consistent playing time.

Tracy wants his players to stay sharp, but by giving everyone consistent starts, he doesn't allow anyone to get extremely hot.

That is not to say that everyone shouldn't get the occasional start. Everyone needs a day off every now and then. However, not everyone needs a day off every week.

Players like Alfredo Amezaga should not get four starts a month. He should get somewhere in the range of 10-12 starts a season, if he is with the club the whole year. There is a reason he was a minor-league free agent who wasn't signed until February.

The Rockies have touted themselves as being the deepest team in baseball, but there bench has largely underperformed. Part of that might be that no one on the bench sees themselves as a bench player, they see themselves as a starter who didn't play that day. Making a pinch hitting appearance isn't something that they prepare for, because they are a starter in their mind. They haven't adjusted to what their role on the team is.

Sure, it is tough to face Major League pitching when it is a week or more between plate appearances, but that is why there are players who have made a living coming off of the bench. The Rockies don't need depth as far as talent goes, they need depth at every position, and that includes pinch-hitters. Right now they don't have any pinch-hitters. They need guys who see that as their role and prepare for it.

If the Rockies were to pick out their best eight starters and stick to it, with the exception of a few moving parts for days off and knicks and bruises that require a day off, then they may be able to develop a rhythm and finally start getting some hits on the road. Right now, they are simply trying to figure out what their role is, and no one knows.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Ubaldo Jimenez looks better, but offense fails to show up again

The Colorado Rockies dropped another game on the road on Sunday, completing another disappointing trip.

The Sunday version included the Brewers completing a three-game sweep of the Rockies with a 3-1 victory. Once again, Ubaldo Jimenez failed to pick up a win. He went eight innings, giving up just three runs on two hits. He walked five batters and hit another.

The complete game by Jimenez was the second complete game loss for a Rockies pitcher on the trip. The right-hander looked better, but his command is still lacking. Jimenez is getting better, but the drop in velocity is concerning, and has removed his greatest weapon. Hitters can now catch up to his fastball when he usually was able to throw it by a hitter at any given time.

Even with Jimenez not at 100 percent, he was able to put the Rockies in a position to win the game. Giving up three runs, when the offense that the Rockies possess, should be plenty to give the Rockies a victory.

Instead, the club could only scratch out one run on four hits, none of those hits coming in the eighth or ninth inning, when getting a runner on base meant the team was one swing away from tying the game up.

The struggles are baffling. The Rockies have added a curveball machine to their baggage, they have changed hitting coaches, they have made a larger focus on hitting on the road. For all of the changes, the Rockies performance on the road is the one constant.

Is it time for Jim Tracy to stop playing around with the lineup? On Sunday, Alfredo Amezega hit in the leadoff spot and played second base. Jose Lopez was in the lineup again, along with Ryan Spilborghs in right field. Spilborghs generally takes on the task of facing tough lefties, as the Rockies saw with Randy Wolf on Sunday.

It is important to keep bench players fresh and ready, so that when they are called upon, they are ready to go. However, when the club is staring at a three-game sweep at the hands of a team who is inferior to them talent wise, is it worth taking one of the most consistent bats in Jonathan Herrera out of the lineup?

With Seth Smith hitting as well as he has been, even with a tough lefty on the mound, is it right to put Spilborghs in the lineup?

Maybe the Rockies struggle on the road because there is no consistency. Most teams seem to have a set eight guys who play everyday, with the exception of a day off every here and there. With Jim Tracy, the lineup seems to be a constant shift. The Rockies have great depth on their bench, but maybe they would be better served with a few less talented players who were not as much of a temptation to play.

That may or may not be the problem, but at this point, the struggles are baffling. It makes no sense that the club continues to fall flat on their faces away from Coors Field. It just doesn't make sense.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Colorado Rockies struggles on the road continue

It seemed like the Colorado Rockies had turned the corner. It seemed like they had finally figured it out. However, after a 3-2 loss in Milwaukee, the club has lost 8-out of-the-last-10 on the road.

On Saturday, the team couldn't find a way to help Clayton Mortensen, a huge surprise fill-in, his second win of the season. Despite giving up just three runs--two earned--in 6-2/3 innings, the righty was saddled with the loss.

The offense, once again, was the culprit. The club mustered only six hits, four in the first eight innings, and scored just two runs, not enough to win. Although the Rockies threatened in the ninth, scoring a run on Troy Tulowitzki's triple, the team couldn't cash in the tying run to give themselves a shot.

The Rockies started the season with huge promise away from Coors Field. They started the season with a 7-1 road trip through Pittsburgh and New York, two places that they have traditionally struggled. After finishing the 2010 season with just a 31-50 road trip, winning on the road had become one of the main focuses in spring training.

It seemed early on that the focus had worked. Instead, after the successful trip to begin the season, the Rockies have slumped back to where they were a season ago.

The Rockies have tried everything, including bringing a curveball machine on road trips with them to help minimize the effects of leaving Coors Field. Yet, despite their best efforts, the same struggles continue to plague the team. The offense cannot seem to put runs on the board.

On Saturday, the Rockies had a slight excuse. They faced Shaun Marcum, the newly acquired starter for the Brewers. He has been impressive, posting six wins to just one defeat in his National League debut. His ERA stands at just 2.37.

The issue for the Rockies is that when they face an average pitcher, their bats act like they are facing an ace. To win on the road, they must take advantage of pitchers that are not dominant. Then, when the face ace-type pitchers, they will have leeway to drop a tough game.

There is still time for the Rockies to turn things around away from Coors Field, but they must be careful to not fall into the same routines that turned into a bad streak into a bad season as it did in 2010.

The Rockies try to avoid the sweep on Sunday at 12:10 Mountain time on Sunday. The club sends Ubaldo Jimenez to the mound, still searching for his first win of the season.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Colorado Rockies rally twice, but lose late

The Colorado Rockies lost a wacky game in Milwaukee on Friday night 7-6 in 14 innings.

The game featured a home run from Jason Hammel, Troy Tulowitzki's first career ejection, two extra inning leads for the Rockies,a pinch hitting appearance by Jhoulys Chacin and three blown saves.

Colorado rallied twice in extra innings, giving themselves the lead, but both leads were blown, the first time by Huston Street, and the second by Felipe Paulino.

In all, the Rockies blew three saves in the game, with the struggling Rafael Betancourt giving up a home run to Casey McGahee to knot up the game at four in the eighth inning.

Once again, Hammel was on the victim of blown saves. He pitched 6-2/3 strong innings, giving up three runs, only two earned, on eight hits. He walked two while only striking out one Milwaukee batter.

The loss is tough to swallow, not only because of the blown leads, but also because the Rockies had gotten to former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke. The ace pitched well, but was victimized by the resurgent Jason Giambi, who homered for the fourth time in two nights, blasting a solo shot to left field.

Much of the anger from the Rockies fan base is going to be directed towards Felipe Paulino. The embattled righty once again was the loser, giving up a two-run, walk-off home run to Prince Fielder. However, Paulino isn't the one who is at fault. The fact is, Paulino's numbers from both 2010 and so far in 2011 prove that he is not a talented enough pitcher to be in the big leagues.

Paulino is equipped with an upper-90's fastball. An arm like that is very intriguing. However, he consistently misses location, walks batters, and then serves up fastballs that are hit extremely hard, often landing in the seats.

The reality is that Paulino is simply not a good enough pitcher to be in that type of role. He is a converted starter, so there is some wiggle room for an adjustment. However, a quarter of the way through the 2011 campaign may be enough to see that he isn't cutting it.

Going into his appearance on Friday, Paulino's batting average against was .379. That doesn't bode well for the Rockies in any situation that doesn't include a large lead. It certainly doesn't bode well for the Rockies in a pressure situation.

The problem for Paulino is that he is out of options, meaning the Rockies cannot send him to Triple-A without exposing him to other teams. At this point though, he is hurting the team by taking up a roster spot that could be used by a reliever that is effective and gives Jim Tracy a viable option out of the bullpen.

It isn't Paulino's fault. He is simply pitching with the talent that he has. At this point, it is time for Dan O'Dowd to pull the trigger on a bad move and cut his losses before it continues to take it's toll on the team.

On the encouraging side for the Rockies, the offense continues to show fight. They didn't quit, even when facing a former Cy Young winner. On top of that, they also continued to fight after their pitchers had blown leads twice. The attitude is clearly a winning one, which may not have resulted in a win on Friday night, but will help the team win more games on the road over the course of the season.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Jason Giambi smashes the Colorado Rockies to victory

With 416 career home runs coming into Thursday, Jason Giambi had never hit three in the same game. That changed in his first three at-bats, as the lefty-slugger knocked three no-doubt bombs to right field, propelling the Colorado Rockies to a 7-1 win over Philadelphia.

Giambi had watched video of some of his past at-bats and realized that he was crouching over more than normal. The adjustments paid off in a huge way, giving the Rockies a win in a place where they had lost 11 of-their-previous 12 games.

The night almost didn't happen, but stiffness in Todd Helton's lower back forced Jim Tracy to make a decision. He could either start Ty Wigginton at first base, or give a struggling Giambi a chance to get a few at-bats.

Credit Tracy for an excellent call. The button he pushed at the last minute gave the Rockies all seven RBIs, and helped Jhoulys Chacin to his fifth win.

Lost in the three homer game from Giambi was yet another step forward from Chacin. The righty was staked to a big lead, but was able to navigate his way through the Phillies potent lineup with ease. The Venezuelan right hander gave up just four hits and one run in seven innings. He struck out nine Phillies, while walking just one.

The 23-year old has an ERA that sits at just 2.70, and is quietly making a case for an All-Star appearance.

Giambi's game was huge for the Rockies. Much of their offseason was spent boasting about their depth. They felt that they were so deep that they could re-sign Giambi, and use him primarily as a late inning pinch hitter. However, the bench for the club has vastly underperformed, prompting questions as to whether Giambi was a fit with the club.

He has struggled in the late-night role. He didn't seem to have the same confidence at the plate when he hadn't seen a pitch in a week. With Ty Wigginton able to spell Helton at first base, there didn't seem to be a need for a struggling 40-year old Giambi.

If Giambi has figured out his swing, and the evidence of that won't come in one night of good swings, then the Rockies will be in good shape. It will give the Rockies another threat to put some runs on the board, especially in close games, where the team hasn't fared extremely well.

After the game, the Rockies traded struggling lefty Franklin Morales to the Red Sox for a player to be named later, or cash. The move was well-overdue, but the move still represents a turning point for the club.

Morales struggled as a reliever. He couldn't seem to find the strike zone, and patience was wearing thin, not only in the stands, but in the front office as well.

It was time for the Rockies to move on, but Morales still represented a huge portion of a memory that Rockies fans will forever be grateful for. WIthout Morales stepping onto the scene in late 2007, the Rockies don't go to the postseason. They don't win 14-out of-15, and they don't win the pennant.

Despite his struggles, Morales should not be remembered by Rockies fans as a failed reliever, but as a pitcher who set the Rockies scoreless innings streak as a 21 year-old just getting his feet wet in the big leagues.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Colorado Rockies lose pitching duel in Philadelphia

Don't blame Jorge De La Rosa for the Colorado Rockies loss on Wednesday in Philadelphia.

The lefty pitched perhaps his best game of the season, but came up just short, as Cole Hamels was slightly better on the other side. De La Rosa went eight innings, giving up just five hits and two runs, only one of which was earned.

The offense, which has been listless over the last few weeks, only scored one run on Hamels, but this is truly a time when it's fair to credit the other guy on the mound for having great stuff. The Rockies scored only one run on two doubles in the seventh inning. The first double came from Carlos Gonzalez, who came within a foot of a solo home run. Then, Todd Helton roped a double to left field that scored Gonzalez.

That was all the offense the Rockies could muster off of Hamels, who had his best stuff.

In a pitcher's duel, little things are what win and lose games. Despite Chris Iannetta making huge progress in the offseason both with the bat, and behind the plate, he made two huge mistakes on Wednesday.

Both runs came partially because Iannetta missed pitches. In the fifth inning, Iannetta was charged with a past ball, which put a runners on second and third base. A base hit to left field scored the runner from third, but the ball was hit hard enough for Raul Ibanez, the runner at second, to stay at third base with Gonzalez's arm in left field. Had the runners not moved up, the run most likely stays at third base. Hamels then bounced into a double play that ended the inning, and would have kept the runner at third.

In the eighth, Iannetta failed to block a change up in the dirt from De La Rosa. It went into the books as a wild pitch, but Iannetta failed to drop down to block the ball, he reached for it, and watched it skip away. A shallow fly ball to right scored the run, which ended up being the winner.

To beat team's like the Phillies, especially when their pitcher has his best stuff, the Rockies need to play a near-flawless game. Two small mistakes can cost a game.

The loss hurts the Rockies, but even with just one run, it had the feeling of a team who was fighting. They took good at-bats, and they didn't roll over. That is good to see from the Rockies, especially on the road. Tough pitchers are going to happen. The key is to beat the pitcher's who aren't elite, and try to scratch out enough runs against good pitchers to pick up some wins.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Polarizing Colorado Rockies must ride momentum

Forty games into the 2011 season and one thing is certain. This Colorado Rockies team is not average.

Through the first 20 games of the season, the Rockies were the best team in baseball. Without hitting on all cylinders, the team was finding ways to win and bringing hope to a fan base that has watched the team struggle out of the gate in four straight seasons.

The next 20 games, however, were the exact opposite of the first 20 games. The Rockies couldn't find a way to win games. Their prized offense struggled to hit the ball against even the most pedestrian starters. On the few occasions that the offense did succeed, the defense or bullpen failed.

What we know through 40 games is this. The Rockies are not going to be a .500 team. They are going to either play really well, or really poorly, depending on which way the momentum swings.

Part of the reason for the swings has to be due to the up-and-down play of Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. When those guys are getting on base, the team is scoring runs and winning games. When those guys struggle at the plate, the rest of the lineup can't seem to pick up the slack.

If this team is subject to big swings, then it is important for them to make the most of their hot streaks. That means not being worried about who their opponent is.

Case in point comes on Wednesday, as the Rockies travel to Philadelphia to play the much-hyped Phillies. The Rockies are coming off of a huge two-game sweep of the Giants. In May, there will never be two bigger games than the Rockies played to begin the week.

The Rockies must not have a let down following a big series with the Giants. They must use the wins as a spring board to launch them into the latest hot streak that gives them some breathing room once again in the National League West.

If they suffer a hangover from the series, they are in danger of another crippling road trip much like they suffered in Arizona and San Francisco two weeks ago.

The fact is, championship teams find ways to win against good teams. They don't worry about who is taking the mound for the opposition. Winning teams have a swagger and a confidence that it doesn't matter who the other team is, that they are good enough to beat them on any given night, regardless of the pitcher on the mound.

If the Rockies want to take the next step and become a contender, rather than just a team that has the potential to get hot, then they must find a way to win on the road, and they must not be intimidated by big-name teams and big-name pitchers.

The good news for the Rockies in Philadelphia is that they don't have to face Cliff Lee or Roy Halladay. They face lefty Cole Hamels, who the Rockies have handled in the past, and right-hander Joe Blanton, who is the "other guy" in a highly touted rotation.

The Rockies need to find a way to keep the bats going and pick up some wins on a tough road trip.

Gonzalez, Fowler combine to stun Giants and lead Colorado Rockies to victory

The excuse of it being early must have gotten old to the Colorado Rockies, too.

On Tuesday at Coors Field, the Rockies completed a mini-sweep of the San Francisco Giants, taking both games of a two-game series. Again, the hero was Carlos Gonzalez, who drove in the go-ahead runs against Javier Lopez in the bottom of the eighth inning. The Rocks held on to win 5-3.

The wins came at a perfect time for the club. After dropping six consecutive series, they were closer to .500 then to the winning team that blasted out of the gates in April.

It was good to see a sense of urgency from the club. After two straight weeks of excuses from Jim Tracy about it being early, the Rockies saw their opportunity to smack the Giants in the face, and they took advantage.

In January, at Rockies FanFest at Coors Field, several members of the club made it very clear that they saw the Giants as their top rival. They expressed disgust at them winning the World Series, and made claims about having them in their sights. With those expectations set, the Rockies looked like they were all talk and no action through the first six games against the champs.

After starting out 1-5 verses San Francisco, including a sweep at AT&T Park in which the Rockies looked like they forgot to show up, the team was in need of a statement.

When the Rockies had their chance to roll over, they didn't. In both games, the Rockies battled two of the National League's best pitchers. Instead of succumbing to them, the team continued to fight, and eventually worked their way back into each game.

The Giants pitchers certainly helped, committing errors in both games during the crucial inning, however, the way the Rockies played showed that when the ball is in play, good things can happen.

Carlos Gonzalez will grab the headlines, but Dexter Fowler's nine-pitch at-bat in the eighth inning should not be forgotten. With no one out, and runners on first and third, he battled, eventually driving a double to the gap in right-center. Had the ball not skipped over the wall, Fowler would have had a two-run double. Instead, he plated the tying run and put the Rockies in a position to win the game.

Coming into the game was the season-long concern of former ace Ubaldo Jimenez. He wasn't perfect, but it was a huge step in the right direction. His only huge mistake came on a 3-0 pitch to Pat Burrell that was driven into the left-center gap, scoring two runs and giving the Giants a lead that looked like it would be enough with the way that Sanchez was pitching.

In all, Jimenez went seven innings, giving up three runs on eight hits. He struck out seven and walked just one, a marked improvement from his last time out when he walked seven Mets.

Velocity is still a concern for the righty, who was still hovering around the 94 MPH mark throughout the game, but his command was much better, signaling big improvement. Time will tell if his dip in velocity is due to his mechanics still being a work in progress, or something no Rockies fan wants to consider, a shoulder injury.

The win gives the Rockies the top spot in the National League West once again. It also gives them some breathing room and momentum as they head into a five-game road trip through Philadelphia and Milwaukee. The Phillies are the cream of the crop in the National League, and the Brewers are tough to beat at home, where they will have Zach Grienke starting on Friday.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Carlos Gonzalez ensures Colorado Rockies victory with three-run bomb off of Lincecum

As early as it is, this game was pivotal to the Colorado Rockies season.

The club made a point in the offseason that they were gunning for the Giants, angry that they had won the World Series, even though the Rockies felt they had the more talented team.

A mess in every aspect of the game, the Giants coming to town represented a worst-case scenario. Then, things took an ever darker turn when the clouds over Chicago proved too much for the Giants and Cubs to complete their series on Sunday, leaving Tim Lincecum to start the opener of a two-game set at Coors Field.

It was a chance for the Rockies to show what they are made of, and they answered the call.

The Rockies, with the help of a Lincecum throwing error, defeated the World Champions 7-4 at Coors Field, despite being down twice in the game.

At a point in the game when the Rockies-of-the-past-two-weeks would have packed up and waited until tomorrow, the Rockies battled. Despite a base running error costing the Rockies a run on a Jonathan Herrera base hit, the club kept fighting. Despite Carlos Gonzalez going down 0-2 in the following at-bat, he continued to battle. After working the count to 2-2, Gonzalez launched a three-run bomb deep to center field, giving the Rockies a 7-4 lead that they wouldn't relinquish.

The club had a closed-door meeting that lasted 25 minutes before the game. Whatever was said seemed to have an effect. Facing a two-time Cy Young winner should have intimidated a team that has struggled with the most average of pitchers over the past two weeks, instead, the Rockies rose to the occasion.

The Rockies have a chance to sweep the Giants in their brief two-game series. At this point, however, the team would not complain about a sweep any way that it would come, especially against the Giants.

Don't discount the work of Clayton Mortenson. The Triple-A fill-in is making a run at the permanent roster. He coughed up the lead in the top of the sixth inning, but pitched well enough to keep the Rockies in the game. He went six innings overall, giving up four runs on seven hits. He walked two and struck out four. The performance was better than it looks on paper. His sinker gives fans a glimpse back to what Aaron Cook looked like in 2008 when he landed in the All-Star game.

The game was a big first step for this Colorado Rockies club. They didn't quit when they were down, even late in the game. Even with Lincecum not having his best stuff, the Rockies were able to take advantage, which is something that they haven't been doing of late.

If the Rockies want to crawl back into the NL West driver's seat, it is going to take consistent performances from the offense and pitching staff like they got on Monday.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Rock Bottom: Jim Tracy manages Colorado Rockies out of game yet again

The Colorado Rockies have reached a new low.

After giving up a six-run lead on Saturday, the Rockies came out with a lackluster performance on Sunday ended in a 8-2 loss, dropping their six straight series.

The offense once again failed to show up, but the reason for the pressing at the plate has become clear.

Jim Tracy is showing exactly why he was fired in Los Angeles and Pittsburgh. His bullpen management is awful. When the Rockies are on the negative side of the game, they may as well pack it in in the late innings.

Tracy is a man who is extremely detailed. He thinks of every possible scenario long before it ever comes to play. That was an endearing part of his game when he managed the Rockies out of the hole that they dug when he took over in 2009. Now, it seems to be his most annoying characteristic.

On Sunday, Tracy thought deep enough into the game that he wanted starting pitcher Jason Hammel to be able to pick up a win. Chris Iannetta has struck out to end the sixth inning, so, with Hammel due up to lead off the seventh, the manager decided that he could pinch hit for him and that he would have a chance to pick up the win if he just made it through the seventh.

That move makes sense if the guy is throwing a shutout, or has given up one run and his offense hasn't gotten going. However, Hammel was laboring through his outing. At the 100 pitch mark, Hammel had thrown just 60 strikes. That isn't a terrible ratio, but by no means was he dominant.

By giving Hammel a chance to win the game, he ensured that he would lose it.

After Hammel gave up a couple of hits, Tracy went to the bullpen, calling on Franklin Morales, who promptly served up a two-run double to Will Venable. One pitch and Morales was done. Tracy went to the other gas can in the bullpen, Felipe Paulino. Paulino gave up three hits and one run, plus the run that was on base charged to Morales. Suddenly, with a five-run seventh inning, the Rockies were down 8-2 instead of 3-2.

More baffling was the fact that Tracy went to Matt Reynolds in the ninth inning, when the game was over. Why not go to Reynolds when the club is only down by one? Why trust Morales any longer to face lefties?

To Tracy's credit, playing with a five-man bullpen is next to impossible in the big leagues. He has to put some faith in the Paulino and Morales, simply so that Matt Belisle and Matt Lindstrom's arms don't fall off. However, in the past two weeks, those two pitchers have pitched the Rockies out of four games. Continuing to go back to them in pressure situations is simply stupid.

The excuse for keeping Morales and Paulino around is that they are out of options. That means that in order to get them to the minor leagues, the Rockies have to expose them to all of the other teams first. At this point, however, why allow them to continue to pitch their team out of games simply because they want to keep them in the organization? It makes more sense to let someone go for nothing and not have them be a risk on the field, then to simply let them play horribly and hurt the team. Those decisions are tough to make, but at some point, they have to be made.

There is no excuse for the hitter's lack of production. However, an offense that is already scuffling is going to feel that much more pressure to put up a huge number when they are down by a run or two because the bullpen pitchers that are going to be coming in, even with a one or two run deficit, they feel like they have to score six or seven runs to be in it.

This team is reeling, and Jim Tracy making the same move that contains no logic over and over again is not going to endear him to the players in the clubhouse. It is time for whoever is pulling the trigger on the Morales-Paulino combo to be called out, whether that is O'Dowd, or Tracy, and that decision needs to be made. It's either that, or risk throwing away the season.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Colorado Rockies blow six run lead in the rain

Let's start with the good.

It's too hard to analyze all of the bad that happened to the Colorado Rockies as they blew a 7-1 cushion at Coors Field on a frigid, rainy Saturday at Coors Field.

The good:

Todd Helton is proving the critics wrong, continuing to be a force in the Rockies lineup. He hit another home run on Saturday, this time to straight away center field. The ball had the sound off the bat of vintage Helton. Number 17 is clearly healthy. With a .319 batting average, it has to be wondered how far along Helton would be in his Hall of Fame case had he been healthy over the past three seasons.

In addition to Helton's offense, his defense is as good as ever. On a damp day, Helton robbed at least two doubles off of Padres bats. He was diving and flashing leather all day long. Good to see for Rockies fans.

Another good thing is the bats coming back to life. It is no coincidence that as Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez return to form, the offense has started scoring runs. On Saturday, Gonzalez smacked a no-doubt home run into the mezzanine in right field. The bullet came on a slider, a pitch the Venezuelan has been struggling with over the past few weeks.

Both Tulowitzki and Gonzalez went 2-for-5 with two RBIs apiece.

The third piece of good news is the pitching of Matt Lindstrom. The Astros willingness to allow the Rockies to pick him up for next to nothing is baffling. He gave up a two-run homer to Carlos Beltran on Thursday, but who didn't? Beyond that, he has been next to perfect, sporting a 1.59 ERA after his scoreless seventh inning.

As far as good goes, it stops right there.

The bad:

Even before the Rockies gave up a six-run lead, the were making mistakes. A cardinal sin in baseball is to make the first or third out at third base. Troy Tulowitzki, not known for his excellent base running skills, did a great job of driving a ball into the gap to score two runs in the third inning to give the Rockies the lead. However, as the Padres sent the ball back into the infield, Tulo took a look into the outfield and headed for third base. He was thrown out by three steps and headed back to the dugout. Immediately following the putout, Helton hit his home run, which ended up being a solo shot. Doing the little things right is what makes a good team. On Saturday, that run mattered, even with the Rockies getting a big lead.

The weather was also bad. It is not an excuse, but when the Padres scored four runs in the seventh inning, the rain was dumping down and the wind was blowing. The Rockies made two errors on balls that were wet, and footing that was next to impossible. The team has to find ways to win, but the momentum shifted at that point, and it chased Jhoulys Chacin from the game.

In addition to the weather, Huston Street was also bad. It was clear in the ninth inning as Brad Hawpe launched the game-winning home run that he had watched Street pitch for two seasons. Hawpe was sitting on a change-up and he got it. He deposited the 79 MPH pitch into the seats above the Rockies bullpen, something Rockies fans were no strangers to.

Street had whiffed Hawpe on two previous change-ups, and going back to it made sense, but Hawpe was sitting on it, and crushed it.

On a miserable day at Coors Field, the Rockies made it even more miserable, blowing a huge lead, and a chance to go into Sunday with the possibility of a sweep.

Instead, the club faces the chance of losing their sixth consecutive series.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Colorado Rockies offense finally breaks through

It's about time.

After three weeks of scuffling at the plate, the Colorado Rockies finally broke through. On Friday night the Rockies scored 11 runs while collecting 16 hits. Both of those numbers are season highs for the club.

Perhaps the best news was that both of the Rockies sluggers, Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, had good nights at the plate. Gonzalez only went 1-for-4, but the hit was a triple on a breaking ball that Gonzalez waited on, and smacked into the right-center gap. He also collected another walk, showing better plate discipline.

Tulowitzki broke out in a big way. He went 3-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs.

When those two hitters are swinging hot bats, the Rockies are going to be a tough team to beat. They are the key to the rest of the lineup seeing good pitches, and having runners in front of them to drive in. On Friday, the Rockies got hits from every spot in the lineup with the exception of Chris Iannetta, who went 0-for-4.

Despite a loss on Thursday, there were hints of life from the offense. They scored five runs, which isn't a huge amount, but seemed like they were breaking free from the thous of maxing out at two or three runs per game.

With the Giants retaking control of the National League West, the Rockies need to get the bats going, even though it is only May. As the club has found out in recent years, digging a huge hole is the toughest way to get into the playoffs. They did a good job of staying out of a hole in April, but they have nearly used every bit of leverage that they bought themselves early in the year before the middle of May has arrived.

The Rockies have needed their offense. The reasons are obvious, but Friday's pitching performance shows exactly how important it is to put a big number up on the board. Jorge De La Rosa did not have his best stuff. Despite getting an early lead, the lefty allowed the Padres to stay in the game. He gave up five runs in 5-2/3 innings. The Padres smacked nine hits in those innings, including a Cameron Maybin home run. De La Rosa only struck out three, while walking three.

Over the past three weeks, this game would have been a blowout. Instead, when the offense shows up, the club is able to pick up a win for the both De La Rosa and the Rockies. The pitchers are not going to be able to be perfect all year long. They are going to have rough outings, and knowing that the offense is going to find a way to get something going behind them gives them the best chance to pitch without the pressure of having to walk a fine line.

The Rockies come back with a rare day game on Saturday, first pitch is at 1:10 with Jhoulys Chacin taking the hill on the Colorado side, going against Aaron Harang of the Padres. The Rockies should have the edge in this one, which would go a long way in erasing the memories of a bad offensive stretch for the club.

Colorado Rockies have lost their swagger, time to shake up the bullpen

The "it's still early" excuse is starting to get old.

As the beginning of May becomes the middle of May and as the Colorado Rockies continue to struggle to find ways to win ballgames, the only thing that the Rockies are doing early is playing their way out of first place.

The club got out to a fast start, inspiring bandwagon fans to dig out their old 'CR' hats and head to the ballpark. Instead of justifying those fans ticket purchases, the club has squandered away their lead. They have done it mostly through poor hitting, but also with poor management decisions, which has led to lost ballgames.

The fact is, when the club raced to an 11-2 start, they were not hitting on all cylinders. Ubaldo Jimenez struggled, then went on the disabled list with a torn cuticle. Carlos Gonzalez was lost at the plate, and the club was getting next-to-nothing production from third base.

They were, however, finding ways to win ballgames. Even when they got down by a few runs, they had a look to them that suggested that they would find a way to get back into the game. Most nights, they did just that. In New York against the Mets, the team was down early in all four games. They swept the series thanks in-part to a winning mentality.

With that same Mets team just leaving Denver, taking two-of-three games, the Rockies looked like a completely different ball club. When the Mets scored a few early runs, the Rockies failed to battle back. Even on Thursday, when the Rockies answered in every inning that the Mets scored in until the ninth, the team couldn't get it done when it mattered, with runners on base.

Part of the issues come from a bullpen that is very good on the plus side, but equally as bad on the negative side. When the club is winning, Matt Lindstrom, Rafael Betancourt and Huston Street have, for the most part, closed the door. Street has dealt with traffic, but has been able to wiggle out of it more often than not.

The flip-side of that is who Jim Tracy chooses, or is forced to choose, when the team is down late in the game.

Felipe Paulino, acquired from the Astros for Clint Barmes, was essentially a hard-throwing starter who had failed at the big league level. The thought behind him was that he might make an effective one-inning guy. That plan is not working out, as Paulino has a 6.94 ERA in 15 games.

On the left side, the Rockies turn to Franklin Morales. Say that name to Rockies fans and the reaction generally isn't pretty. It's tough to give up on a lefty, especially one who possesses the talent that Morales does. However, it seems clear that, despite some early season success, Morales is never going to turn the corner. His ERA is at just 3.21 on the season, but his eight walks in 14 innings is the issue. On top of the eight walks, is the fact that Morales is rarely ever ahead in the count. His control simply isn't something that looks like it will be fixed anytime soon.

The answer for the Rockies? It's time for a change. A team cannot win baseball games when they essentially have a five-man bullpen. It's time to go get Matt Daley, the Sky Sox most dependable righty out of their 'pen, who has given up just one earned run in his 14 appearances, in a Pacific Coast League that boasts about it's hitter's parks. Daley has been with the big league club several times, and has been effective in each stint.

From the left side, it's time to see what Rex Brothers can bring to the table. Brothers was selected in the 2009 draft with the Rockies supplemental pick that they received because Brian Fuentes signed with the Angels. Brothers had a great spring with the big league club, and has been great with the Sky Sox, posting a 3.31 ERA. The impressive stat for Brothers is his strikeout-to-walk ratio. He has struck out 30 hitters, while walking just seven in 16-1/3 innings. The Rockies don't want to stunt his growth, but at some point, a pitcher has to be thrown into the fire.

The Rockies are still in a good spot. They still have plenty of time to figure it out at the plate, but the fact is, they need to get things going soon, before early becomes late.