Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Colorado Rockies avoid disaster thanks to Marco Scutaro home run

Scutaro's first Rockies home run was a game winner.
A terrible road trip, one that has made nearly every believer jump off the bandwagon, ended with a bright spot on Tuesday night in San Francisco. The Colorado Rockies won 5-4, thanks to a 9th inning home run from Marco Scutaro, his first in a Rockies uniform.

The home run was an unexpected as it gets. The Giants had closer Santiago Casilla on the mound, who owns an ERA of 1.84 after the outing. The right-hander is filling in for the injured Brian Wilson, but has essentially made the injury a non-factor since taking over.

The home run came at the most opportune time for the struggling Rockies. There was no way to come back to Colorado without feeling like the trip was a disaster, but finishing it being swept twice by teams that are above them in the standings, and completing a road trip at 1-7 would have been a dagger to the team. 2-6 isn't much better, but it ends the skid and gives the team something to build on.

Of course, the Giants didn't go quietly. Rafael Betancourt gave up a single to Angel Pagan, then walked Brandon Crawford. With the tying run a base hit away, the Rockies closer was able to strike out pinch hitter Nate Schierholtz to end the game.

The Rockies won, and as few and far between as those have been, it seems like it is piling on to question managerial decisions. However, the further the Rockies go down the 2012 road, the more evident it becomes that Jim Tracy is inept.

The top half of the 6th inning ended with Jeremy Guthrie at the plate for the Rockies. On a ball in the dirt, Michael Cuddyer got too aggressive at second base and extended his lead too far. He was thrown out diving back into the base, leaving Guthrie's spot to lead off the 7th for the Rockies.

In the bottom of the 6th inning, Guthrie was clinging to the team's 3-1 lead. He started the inning by walking Posey, the fourth walk he had issued. Pagan then singled. After Guthrie got Charlie Culberson to hit an infield pop-out, and his day was done. Tracy decided to go to Josh Outman for the final two outs.

Here is where the questions began. With the pitcher's spot due up first in the 7th, it would make sense for Tracy to double-switch. The most obvious choice would be to remove Jordan Pacheco, a weak third baseman, in favor of Chris Nelson, allowing Nelson to lead off and Outman to be due up eighth in the inning.

However, no double-switch was made, so it seemed that Outman's job was to get two outs and hit the showers. He did his job, getting two quick outs very efficiently. Then came the head-scratching.

Outman, a relief pitcher with eight career at-bats, strolled to the plate with the Rockies only possessing nine more offensive outs to work with in a place where everyone knows the Giants never quit. Outman actually took a good at-bat against Lincecum, seeing six pitches before striking out. With one out, the Rockies ended up striking for another run, padding their lead.

As Outman went back to the mound in the bottom half of the inning, the results were predictable. While recording only one out, Outman gave up three runs, allowing the Giants to tie the game and swinging the momentum greatly in their favor.

Essentially, for the second time on the road trip, Tracy had sacrificed a crucial offensive out in order to stretch a pitcher another inning, when conventional wisdom would suggest that the offensive out was more important than finger-crossing and hoping for a few more outs from the pitcher.

The decision was a tough one. Clearly Tracy wanted to avoid using the rubber-armed Matt Belisle who has struggled in his recent outings. However, Belisle had to come into the game anyway, and instead of it coming with a clean slate, he was forced to deal with the mess that was left by Outman, something that makes the outing that much more stressful.

It seems as if Tracy is conflicted. On one hand, he desperately wants to win each game. On the other hand, he cannot be irresponsible with his bullpen, especially with the load they have had to carry in the early going. The only problem is that Tracy's moves haven't taken the load away from them. In fact, his moves have made the load that much heavier.

If Tracy really wanted to save the bullpen, he should have stayed with Guthrie, hoping that he could get through the sixth inning, then pinch-hitting for him and going with Outman to start the 7th inning. If he didn't feel that Guthrie had any gas left in the tank, he should have gone with Outman, but moved Nelson into the pitcher's spot and at least given the team a better chance at scoring more than the two runs that they scored after Outman's strikeout to lead off the 7th.

Managing 162 baseball games is hard. It is far easier to manage from afar and not understand the logic. Sitting in the dugout is a difficult job. However, certain scenarios, the same scenarios that have been fatal so many times in the past, continue to burn the Rockies.

In both stops before becoming the manager in Colorado, Tracy garnered a reputation of being stubborn. Clearly that description describes him perfectly. Sometimes that can be a good thing. In this case, it has hampered the Rockies, costing them games.

As bad as the in-game decisions were, the Rockies still picked up a win. They showed fight, something that hasn't been seen since they left Denver. They won a game that they normally lose in a park in which they struggle. So as much criticism as Tracy deserves, his club still got the win, and when a team is struggling like the Rockies have been, that is all that matters.

The Rockies head home for a season-defining home stand. They must find a way to dominate at home against the Diamondbacks and Mariners before heading back on the road. If they cannot get closer to .500 during the five-game stretch, they may be buried.

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  1. What in Gods name were they thinking trying to bunt Guthrie in the bottom of the 6th with runners at 1st and 2nd with 2 down. Why don't you just pull your players from the field? Maybe a lefty with some speed can get away with it if the defense is playing back but a right hand swinging pitcher???? If that is Tracy's idea of managing a game he needs a serious refresher course!! What an IDIOT

  2. Scutaro = terrible