|The Rockies have lost eight straight at AT&T Park.|
The Rockies put up five runs in the 2nd inning of Tuesday night's game against Tim Lincecum and the defending World Champion San Francisco Giants. That isn't a typo. The Rockies, who in year's past have scored five runs in an entire three game series at AT&T Park, were well on their way to a victory.
That victory was snatched away from them as they played a game that was all too reminiscent of a team that lost 98 games a year ago. With a 6-2 lead, the Rockies pitchers walked hitters, their defense failed to turn routine double play balls, and their manager made questionable late-inning decisions.
The result was a 9-6 loss, extending the Rockies San Francisco misery, making it eight straight contests they have lost by the bay.
Lincecum essentially gifted a victory to the Rockies. He started the top of the 2nd inning by walking Troy Tulowitzki. Michael Cuddyer reached when Marco Scutaro tried to get a double play and threw the ball into the outfield, allowing Tulo to move to third base. After Todd Helton dinked a ball far enough up the third base line to score Tulowitzki, Wilin Rosario walked, then Chris Nelson struck out to bring up Rockies starting pitcher Juan Nicasio with two outs. Dexter Fowler stepped to the plate and ripped the first pitch to left field to score two runs. Rutledge followed with a single up the middle, and the route was on--or so it seemed.
If one thing is certain about the Giants, especially in San Francisco, is that they will fight back into almost any ball game. They did that on Tuesday night. The problem was, Nicasio wasn't able to put his foot down. He immediately gave a run back in the bottom of the 2nd inning, then with the pitch count elevating, walked the first two batters in the bottom of the 6th inning. At that point, new Rockies manager Walt Weiss had seen enough. Adam Ottavino relieved Nicasio and immediately gave up a three-run opposite field home run to Brandon Crawford, putting the Giants squarely back into the game.
The bottom of the 6th inning quickly unraveled and the Rockies were in trouble. The issue with the inning was what happened before it. In the top of the inning, Nicasio came to the plate with two outs and a runner at second base. The Rockies were up by four runs, but the fact is, Nicasio was near the end of his night. Instead of making the switch and using a pinch hitter to potentially knock in the run at second base, Weiss elected to have Nicasio hit for himself and ended up leaving the runner on base.
The reality is, Nicasio should have been tapped on the shoulder and told to head back to the dugout. There was no reason to try and extend him when his pitch count was high and he was struggling with command. An insurance run in that situation could have finished off the Giants and allowed the relievers to put it in cruise control with a five run lead.
There were plenty of mistakes made by almost everyone involved in the game. Weiss made mistakes, Nicasio made mistakes, the defense made mistakes and the bullpen made mistakes. That is what happens when a team has a four-run lead and losses by three runs.
The reality is, Rockies fans have to expect a few games like this throughout the 2013 season. The first week gave fans a shot in the arm and probably made many believe that the team was far better than they actually are. The reality is, the Rockies starting pitching is suspect. They have talent, but it is unrefined. They have a long way to go in order to be Major League ready. For a guy like Nicasio, he is learning on the job, and that is going to take time.
It is no surprise that the pitching is going to be an issue. That means that leads will often be blown. Teams that seem to be out of the game will crawl back into them because the Rockies starter isn't pounding the strike zone, and isn't challenging hitters. It is going to happen, Rockies fans need to expect it.
It would have been nice for the Rockies to steal a game in San Francisco, and then give themselves a chance to win the series in an afternoon game on Wednesday. However, it didn't happen. What Rockies fans need to look for is how this team bounces back from a tough loss. In 2012, the day game after a tough loss would usually result in a lackluster effort the next day. Wednesday will be a good test for the Rockies. It will be a good chance to see if they come out and play hard, or if they are simply eager to hop on the plane and head to San Diego for an off-day.
The Rockies didn't break through on Tuesday night, but they have a chance to do that against Barry Zito on Wednesday afternoon.
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