Friday, June 8, 2012

Colorado Rockies struggles continue in loss to Angels

Alex White continues to mature as a starter.
The Colorado Rockies struggles continued as the team lost to the Los Angeles Angels 7-2 on Friday night at Coors Field.

It was a night that featured CJ Wilson dominating the Rockies offense and the typical struggles of a young starting pitcher in Alex White.

The loss was one in which the Rockies should expect. White pitched quickly and well for the most part, but missed badly on two pitches to Angels right fielder Torii Hunter. A battle between a veteran with the experience facing a rookie starter who has struggled with the long ball usually ends in a victory for the veteran. On Friday night, that was the case twice as Hunter drilled two long two-run home runs, the second of which landed above the bleachers in left field.

Hunter finished the night with six RBIs in his first-ever game at Coors Field. It was a night that Rockies fans have come to expect from their 2012 team. This team relies so heavily on an offense full of firepower. They rely on the offense to score enough runs for their young pitchers to have some breathing room.

Unfortunately, when a team is comprised the way the Rockies are, there are going to be nights when an opposing pitcher gives them little to no chance to win. That night was Friday for the Rockies, as Wilson showed why he was the most coveted free agent prospect last offseason.

White showed promise. He was nowhere near as good as he was on Sunday when he gave up only two hits to the Dodgers, but he was still showed signs of maturity. Throw out the two bad pitches to Hunter and White had a very good night. In all, he went six innings, giving up the four runs on both Hunter homers. He gave up eight hits and struck out six. He pounded the strike zone all night, walking zero.

It might not seem like a fun night for Rockies fans, especially when Esmil Rogers, perhaps making his final appearance as a Rockies, allowed three runs in the 9th inning. However, White continues to get better. He is nowhere near where he needs to be, but an encouraging sign for the 23-year-old is that he isn't walking batters.

A young pitcher generally finds himself nibbling. Especially when he has struggled giving up the long ball as White has, a pitcher sometimes tries to avoid contact.

On Friday, White pounded the strike zone. He gave up the two long balls, but overall, a rookie giving up four runs in six innings at Coors Field should be a good enough start to allow his team to have a chance to win. Unfortunately, there are simply going to be times when an opposing starter dominates. That was Friday night for the Rockies.

On Saturday, the Rockies return a familiar face to the mound. Jeff Francis, granted his release from the Reds Triple-A team in Louisville, will be added to the roster and make the start for the Rockies.

The move stirs up some mixed emotions from fans. Many fans are upset that this move is all that the club can do in order to improve a starting rotation that is so bad they have very little chance to win any game in which they score less than five runs. Other fans, however, are excited to see a guy who has had success at Coors Field return, if for nothing else, nostalgic reasons.

Francis is not a permanent solution. No one is trying to convince fans that by adding Francis to the rotation that the Rockies are suddenly contenders again. No one is saying that Francis is going to pitch complete-game shutouts and win 17 games again.

However, the move isn't a terrible one. The Canadian lefty is finally healthy. After injuring his shoulder in early 2009, he spent the entire season on the disabled list. In 2010 he struggled, and the Rockies let him walk away at the end of the season. The Royals signed him and he struggled, winning just four games while losing 16. However, he was still struggling with arm strength. His fastball was only in the mid-80's, far lower than the low-90's he threw when he led the Rockies to the World Series.

His velocity is back. He is throwing in the low-90's again and might just be proving that he is healthy again. He is by no means someone who is ever going to be an ace again. However, if he can get outs and give the Rockies a chance to win, the move is a good one. If his talent is as described, he immediately slots into the third spot in the rotation.

The Rockies need a strong home stand in order to continue pretending that they are in the race. They need to win four-of-the-six games in order to be respectable before heading back on the road.

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