Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Predictable ending for Colorado Rockies in San Francisco

Friedrich was the lone bright spot on Monday.
Writing about the Colorado Rockies can be tough. When they head to the west coast, the games start late and end late. However, writing about this team is simple, especially on the west coast.

To find the words to say is easy. All it takes is looking at the previous years Rockies schedule, spotting when they were in San Francisco, copying the article, changing a few names, and then hitting "publish."

The script doesn't change. The Rockies offense is nowhere to be found. They may scratch out a run early, but the feeling the whole game is that the Giants or the Dodgers, insert whichever team is required, will find a way to take the lead late. The Rockies might get a few base runners late in the game, but the feeling that the big hit might fall, or the guy at the plate will fail to hit the ball in the air to score the runner from third base.

On Monday night the victim was Christian Friedrich, who is quickly showing that not only does he belong in the big leagues, but that he might be the most dependable pitcher the Rockies currently have in their rotation.

The lefty went seven strong innings. He gave up just one run on six hits. He pounded the strike zone, striking out 10 Giants while walking only one. His curveball was reminiscent of Barry Zito. Not the Zito who has pitched for the Giants, but the Zito who won the Cy Young award in 2002.

Friedrich pitches with confidence. He looks focused and isn't afraid to throw strikes. Pounding the strike zone paid off for him. Most games at the big league level when a pitcher goes seven innings and gives up one run, he picks up an easy win. Not in San Francisco. Not with the Rockies struggles on the road.

Despite scoring only two runs fingers have to be pointed at two players in particular. In the 8th inning, Michael Cuddyer had the bases loaded with two outs. Sergio Romo headed into the game from the bullpen with one job, get Cuddyer out. Romo is well known as a guy who pounds the slider. Very rarely does he throw the fastball, especially against a righty. The first pitch came in and Cuddyer was fooled. He guessed fastball and got the slider. The look on his face suggested that he was surprised, and he was clearly outmatched in the at-bat. He fouled a pitch off before striking out to end the threat.

In the 9th inning the Rockies were given a break. On a routine ground ball to third base Giants infielder Joaquin Arias let the ball go right through his leg, scoring one run and allowing pinch runner Alex White to get to third base with one out.

Dexter Fowler stepped to the plate with one job. Hit the ball in the air. A good at-bat would tie the game. A great at-bat that resulted in a hit would give the Rockies the lead. Instead, Fowler did what he does 27 percent of the time he steps to the plate. He struck out. On an 0-2 count, Fowler took a very long swing and whiffed. Instead of trying to simply make contact, Fowler looked like he was trying to plant the ball into McCovey Cove.

The offensive performance wasn't a surprise. It is tough to score runs at AT&T Park. However, when opportunities to score runs comes about, teams must find a way to capitalize. Over the years, the Rockies have made a habit of blowing good chances in San Francisco.

It was an unfortunate no-decision for Friedrich. In just two games in the big leagues, his poise has been remarkable. Even in a tight game, he was unflappable. His focus was better than what the Rockies have seen from several of their veteran pitchers. He worked with traffic on a couple of occasions and didn't let it get to him.

If there is a bright spot, it is Friedrich. However, that bright spot almost makes things worse, knowing that the club had a chance to win and simply didn't get it done. They had chances late and failed to even put the ball into play. Simply put, that is bad baseball. The Rockies have made a habit of bad baseball over the past two weeks.

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