|Michael Cuddyer had a tough night at the ballpark on Saturday.|
The Colorado Rockies looked more like the team that took the field in 2012 than the team that has started off April with a sense of urgency.
On Saturday night, in an extra innings loss to the Diamondbacks, the Rockies failed to hit with runners on base, played sloppy defense, and ran themselves off of the bases on several occasions. The poor baseball spoiled a good outing from Jeff Francis, and another solid performance from the bullpen.
The Rockies had four base runners in the first inning. None of them scored. The Rockies had two runners on base in the third inning, neither of them scored. The Rockies started the 5th inning with two base runners, including Dexter Fowler at third base with no one out. Carlos Gonzalez popped out, Troy Tulowitzki walked to load the bases, then Michael Cuddyer hit an 0-1 sinker to Diamondbacks shortstop Cliff Pennington who started the 6-4-3 double play to end the threat.
Good teams figure out ways to take advantage of what their opponent gives them. Good teams figure out a way to get the job done in situations where runners are on base and no one is out. The Rockies are a good offensive team, but they rushed at-bats on Saturday, they didn't keep the pressure on the pitchers, and they didn't take advantage of the situations that they had.
The 8th inning, with the game tied at two, the Rockies looked like they were going to break the game open. Cuddyer led off the inning with a single, followed by a Wilin Rosario base hit. With runners on first and second base with no one out, the Rockies were in a good spot. However, it wasn't the lack of clutch hits that hurt the Rockies in the 8th, it was sloppy, ugly baseball that is frankly, inexcusable.
Josh Rutledge at the plate, Cuddyer took an extra step on his secondary lead when the pitch in the dirt bounced a couple of feet away from Arizona catcher Miguel Montero. Montero grabbed the ball and throw a strike to second base, catching Cuddyer off of the bag. The Rockies right fielder was wise enough to get in a run down and allow Rosario to get to second base, but ran himself off of the bases none-the-less.
The base running mistake hurt the Rockies, but with Rosario at 2nd base and one out, there was still a good opportunity for Colorado to get a run across.
Instead, Rutledge hit a hard line drive to right field that never had a chance at getting down. Apparently Rosario read that it was going to drop and took off. Right fielder Gerardo Parra grabbed the ball and fired to 2nd base, easily doubling off Rosario. In three pitches the Rockies went from runners at 1st and 2nd with no one out, to the inning being over.
The sad thing for the Rockies is that the Diamondbacks only scratched out three runs in the 10 inning game. If the Rockies were able to get one opportune hit, or not run themselves out of an inning, the chances of them winning were very high. Instead, they allowed the Diamondbacks to win by defeating themselves, something that they got very used to in 2012.
Going into the game, the talk was about Jeff Francis needing to put together a good outing in order to prove that he belongs in the rotation. His previous two starts were in extremely cold weather, and gave him a pretty decent excuse for his struggles in those outings. With the weather in Arizona, there was no excuse for a bad outing.
Francis answered the questions he needed to, giving up two first inning runs, then shutting down the Diamondbacks for four straight innings. He did enough to keep his team in the game and give his offense a chance to win it. The offense simply didn't pull through.
The reality for the Rockies and Francis, however, is getting close to needing an answer. With Drew Pomeranz knocking on the door in Colorado Springs, the Rockies need to see what they have in him. The fact is, of all of the five starting pitchers, Francis has the least amount of upside. The Rockies know what they have with him, he is on the tail end of his career, and no one is going to debate that. If, and when, Francis struggles again, it might be time for the Rockies to have a tough conversation and decide what is going to be best for this team.
The good news for Francis is, as long as he pitches like he did on Saturday night, the longer he can delay that decision.
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