|Belisle has struggled since Betancourt went down.|
This homestand is crucial for the Colorado Rockies--and they started off on the wrong foot on Thursday, dropping the first of seven games at home to the weakest opponent that they will face, the Mets.
The Rockies have six more games before they hit the road, three against the San Francisco Giants, followed by three with the surging Los Angeles Dodgers. After a tough homestand, the Rockies hit the road for 10 games against their division rivals. They start in Arizona, then head to San Diego, then to Los Angeles for four games before finally hitting the much-needed All-Star break.
What that means is that the Rockies season is currently hanging in the balance. After their 2-7 road trip that could easily have been an 0-9, this team is falling back into old habits on the road that don't usually lead to many victories. If they don't change the momentum while they are at home, odds of them figuring it out on the road are slim-to-none.
The reality for the Rockies is that they are getting exposed in the ways that all of the experts expected them to get exposed in the early going. The difference is that the Rockies started the season with a little more horsepower in the starting rotation, the bullpen and even the lineup than was originally expected.
However, that extra horsepower was a house of cards. The reality for the Rockies is that once the onion gets peeled back, there is very little remaining that can be effective.
Commend the Rockies front office. So far we haven't heard the tired line that they dragged out over and over again in 2012. They haven't used injuries as an excuse. Give it time though, and that line may reappear. It may surface again when fans are upset that this team once again wilted in the summer heat.
If there was a time to break out the injuries excuse, it is right now. The Rockies lost Troy Tulowitzki two weeks ago and they simply haven't been the same team since. However, the argument could be made that the Tulowitzki injury hasn't set them back as much as an injury sustained two weeks prior to losing the shortstop.
When Rafael Betancourt, the Rockies most dependable closer in club history, went down with a groin injury, it changed dynamics of this team far more than the Tulo injury did. That isn't to say that Tulo being out hasn't hurt, but Betancourt's injury has rared it's ugly head several times in the past month.
If it sounds crazy to think that the Rockies need Betancourt back more than they need Tulowitzki, look at what has happened to the bullpen.
The injury has forced Rex Brothers to the closers role, a spot where he will likely be in his career. However, it removed a solid arm from the mid-to-late innings. It has made Matt Belisle have to shoulder more of the load than he was required previously, and he has suffered the most.
On Thursday, Belisle once again couldn't get the job done. Marlon Byrd absolutely crushed a Belisle fastball to left-center field, giving the Mets a 3-2 8th inning lead. As much as Belisle has struggled, the thought has to be there that the innings have finally caught up to him. His role has been the role of "give me the ball whenever you want to and I'll get the job done" over the last three seasons. At some point, eating that many innings doesn't bode well for long-term health. Belisle's ERA, hovering just under 5.00, is the greatest example of that.
With Betancourt out, the Rockies once-reliable bullpen is now almost certain to see an inning from Josh Outman, Rob Scahill, Wilton Lopez or another reliever that shouldn't be pitching in a one-run game at this point in his career. It may work sometimes, but the odds of losing are far greater with those guys on the mound.
The Rockies need Tulowitzki back, but they are going to be far better when Betancourt returns.
The hope for Colorado is that Betancourt can return in time to stop the bleeding, then Tulowitzki can return in time to start the healing process. The only question will be whether it is too late or not. That answer should come by the time the fireworks are lit at Coors Field next week.
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