|Jordan Lyles struggled the second time through.|
Year-in and year-out, the Rockies head west on their charter plane only to watch their record and spot in the standings plummet. It is inexpiable. On Monday night in San Diego, one of the few visiting parks where the Rockies play well, Colorado blew a four run lead, losing 5-4.
The final dagger came on an embarrassing wild pitch from Rex Brothers, which scored a run, then allowed another run to come in Wilin Rosario threw the ball past him on the play at the plate. The circus music was faintly playing early in the inning, as Brothers continued missing the strike zone and walked the bases loaded. When the wild pitch came, the speakers went to full blast.
Brothers, who was phenomenal a year ago, has struggled with command in the early part of 2014. He seems to be aiming the ball and has taken the velocity down another notch. He has strikeout stuff, but isn't taking advantage of it. A day after giving up a walk-off home run in San Francisco, Walt Weiss showed confidence in Brothers again on Monday. That faith wasn't rewarded.
Losses like Monday's, on the heels of a tough loss on Sunday, can be devastating. Suddenly the Rockies, who were sitting at .500 heading out on the road are in a position where they need to win the final three games to go home with a winning road trip. To make it respectable, they need to take two-of-the-next-three. That makes for a pressing situation for April.
The problem is the hex that seems to be the trips that the Rockies take to the West Coast, and Phoenix can be included in that statement. Most teams are worse on the road. It isn't easy to leave the comforts of home for a week or two and play well. However, the Rockies are remarkably bad away from Coors Field. While the altitude catches much of the blame, it still doesn't make sense why they look as lost as they do every year.
The ironic thing about the Rockies struggles on the West Coast is the story of how they lose. It never seems to be as easy as simply losing a baseball game. These losses all seem to be heartbreaking. They always seem to be games that the Rockies have a shot in, where one aspect of the team plays really well, but another sabotages their chances.
For his part, Jordan Lyles had four solid innings. However, things started to unfold in the 5th, as he gave up three runs and barely made it through the inning. Lyles was in the good graces of many Rockies fans for his phenomenal performance against the White Sox six nights ago. He shut them down and looked like an ace doing it. He convinced many fans that after back-to-back wins, that he might be the real deal.
The problem is, scouting reports are generally correct, and several publications had Lyles as a guy who had four below-average pitches. That isn't a rip on Lyles, it is basically saying that his talent level suggests that he is, at best, a 5th starter in a Major League rotation, and in reality, he is a guy who will likely spend time bouncing between Triple-A and the big leagues.
The Rockies have to sell fans on Lyles because he was one of the pieces that came back in the Dexter Fowler trade. Fowler was a fan favorite, so in order to escape backlash, Bill Geivett, Dan O'Dowd and Dick Monfort had to talk about just how good Lyles will be. His first two outings, and the first four innings on Monday had most fans buying in.
However, one thing that is common for a guy who is fifth in a starting rotation is that they have good stuff the first time through the batting order. They can get guys out with a couple of pitches. The issue comes when they face the same guys for a second time. Major League hitters are so good at making adjustments and understanding the patterns of a pitcher that they will start sitting on certain pitches in certain counts and make the pitcher pay. Lyles struggled the second time he saw the Padre batters.
The Rockies simply must find a way to break through the curse that is the National League West swing through. They play so poorly that they dig a hole they spend the rest of the season trying to dig out of.
While Lyles and Brothers had their meltdowns, the offense didn't do much at the plate to be able to claim a job well done. The Rockies offense went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position and failed to take advantage of some easy scoring opportunities.
In the 1st inning, Charlie Blackmon continued his torrid pace, drilling a double to right field. Michael Cuddyer then walked, which produced a two-on, no one out scenario for the Rockies with their big bats coming to the plate. On the third pitch, with a 2-0 count, Carlos Gonzalez hit a ground ball that would have been a double play had Cuddyer not made a great slide to erase the turn.
With one out, Troy Tulowitzki quickly got in an 0-2 hole before hitting a lazy ball to shallow left field where old friend Seth Smith hauled it in with no chance to advance. Wilin Rosario then grounded out to short to end the threat.
No player in baseball is going to be successful all the time. In fact, most baseball players mess up more than they succeed. However, both Gonzalez and Tulowitzki often take terrible at-bats in situations where they don't need to give in. The pitcher on the mound is the one that should be worrying. With bats like CarGo and Tulo possess, there is no reason for those guys to go to the plate in big situations feeling like they have to hack at the first decent pitch they see.
All too often both CarGo and Tulo seem to have all of the pressure in the world on their shoulders when they step to the plate in those situations. They need to realize that the pressure is on the mound, not at the plate. They have the luxury of waiting for their pitch and hitting it.
The Rockies are a talented team. However, they lack discipline. They struggle to take good at-bats when they need to, throw strikes when the situation calls for it and take a good at-bat in pressure situations. They also have no identity in their bullpen, which will eventually cause issues.
This team could make some noise. They could compete in a talented NL West. However, they have to find an edge in which they can play with. They must sew up the small mistakes they are making that are hurting them in the long run.
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