|Jeff Francis is coming back to earth.|
The question, what is wrong with this team, can be answered with one simple word. Pitching.
The men on the mound have been absolutely brutal. That is putting it lightly. There is no way to be positive, there is no way to spin this team's pitching into a positive light. They are bad. Very bad.
As bad as they have been, however, fans might need to hunker down and get prepared for the rest of the season, because the team's biggest issue, the issue that has spiked the stock of Pepto-Bismol among Rockies fans, is about to get worse.
The pitching has been bad, but sprinkled into the bad outings has been a few good outings that have been decent enough to save the bullpen, and decent enough to get the team through some tough times. Those outings were coming from guys who are now either hurt or who were pitching above what their talent suggested they were good enough to be pitching at.
Jeff Francis was the glue that was holding together the Rockies rotation since the middle of June. However, that glue seems to be coming apart very quickly. On Saturday, Francis had his latest poor outing. He went 3-2/3 innings, giving up six earned runs on nine hits. He threw 66 pitches.
On Tuesday, the Canadian lefty went four innings, giving up five earned runs. For the guy who was holding things together for the rotation, that doesn't spell good things for the future.
With the poor outing, the bullpen also ate another large set of innings, something that they have become accustomed to in this experiment of a season for the Rockies. The unfortunate aspect of the experiment is that eventually the bullpen arms are going to feel the fatigue of being leaned on night-in and night-out.
On Saturday, the bullpen imploded for the second night in a row. This time, the arm that took the sacrifice was Edgmer Escalona. The reliever was called up from Colorado Springs in an effort to help the ailing bullpen when they needed it most. However, when the bullpen is tired and the team is relying on Triple-A reinforcements, it isn't always going to bode well for the results.
Escalona may not be overworked, but he is a fringe big-leaguer, which means he is going to have outings in which he gets lit up. Those innings are necessary to keep one of the regulars from the bullpen, Matt Belisle, Josh Roenicke, Matt Reynolds and Rex Brothers, out of the game. On Saturday, the inning gave Belisle the night off, but it cost the Rockies, as Escalona gave up four runs in his one inning, immediately following the Rockies offensive surge in the previous frame.
With Francis coming back down to earth, Christian Friedrich, who despite a poor ERA has mixed in a few really good outings, the Rockies bullpen is going to be forced to pick up more innings.
The struggles and injury seem to be a perfect storm for these Rockies, because they are coupled with the time when the bullpen arms are feeling the effects of being over-taxed.
When the bullpen arms on this Rockies team start to get tired, this team is going to be in trouble. That is saying something when the team is already on pace to lose over 100 games for the first time in franchise history.
The best thing the Rockies can hope for is that they get a few quality starts mixed in and that some of their younger pitchers become more efficient. Otherwise, what is bad will suddenly get much worse.
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