|Winning in San Francisco has been a difficult task for the Rockies.|
Year-in and year-out, the Rockies follow the same script at AT&T Park. Sure, the scenarios don't line up exactly, and the players aren't always the same, but the games are so predictable it is uncanny.
It usually goes like this: Rockies take a small early lead. The Giants then crawl back into the game and either tie it up or come within a run. They then add a huge inning that has some sort of oddity, with the hero being an unlikely source. The Rockies may make another run, but they fall short when they run themselves out of the inning.
Friday night was no different. On Friday, the guy who ripped the Rockies hearts out was Madison Bumgarner. However, he didn't do it on the mound, he did it at the plate.
After cruising through the first two innings, Jorge De La Rosa was looking like the pitcher that won 16 games a year ago. His stuff was great. His velocity was in the mid-90's and his change up was falling off of the table. In the 3rd inning, however, De La Rosa gave up a lead off triple to Brandon Crawford. With Bumgarner coming to the plate, there was a chance for the Rockies lefty to wiggle his way out of damage with a free out. Instead, Bumgarner drilled the second pitch he saw deep to left field, just shy of the seats. The sacrifice fly got the Giants on the board.
However, the big blow came in the next inning. With two outs, De La Rosa nearly got out of another jam, but ended up hitting Brandon Hicks with a pitch to load the bases. He then walked Crawford to score a run. With Bumgarner coming to the plate, it was another chance to minimize the damage. Instead, Bumgarner clobbered a fastball deep into the left field seats, giving the Giants a sudden 6-3 lead.
Frankly, for those who have watched the Rockies in San Francisco, the game was over.
The Rockies have talent--on paper. They could be good. The could surprise people. However, they continue to be their own worst enemies.
Rallying in the 8th inning, the Rockies ran themselves out of the game. After driving in a run to bring the Rockies within one of the Giants, Charlie Blackmon came too far off of second base on a Jordan Pacheco grounder that was stabbed by Giants pitcher Santiago Casilla. Casilla threw to second to record the out, erasing the tying run from scoring position. Pacheco reached first, which gave the Rockies hope.
With DJ LeMahieu at the plate, Pacheco took off on a hit and run. He didn't read the ball off the bat, which was a routine fly ball to center field. He was doubled off at first base to end the inning.
The blunder by Pacheco was one seen rarely above the little league level. To not pick up the ball, or pick up a coach and get doubled off in that situation simply cannot happen. Especially at that point in the game.
After a terrible call on Justin Morneau in the 9th inning by home plate umpire Dan Iassogna and then another on pinch hitter Troy Tulowitzki, the game was over and the Rockies scenario had officially replayed itself in San Francisco. The losses are frustrating because they immediately put the Rockies at a disadvantage. They have to play in that park in three different series every season, and not being able to scratch out wins puts the Rockies in a tough spot.
What else puts the Rockies in a tough spot is the fact that their best player, Troy Tulowitzki, simply cannot stay on the field. Perennially, Tulowitzki misses games with sore leg muscles. The joke of 2013 came when Tulo sat out with what the team called "heavy legs." On Wednesday, Tulowitzki was on the bench with a strained quad. The team said that he could have played, but was sitting out as a precaution.
That precaution suddenly turned into a three day event, as the shortstop wasn't in the lineup on Friday in San Francisco. The word from the Root Sports reporters was that Tulo felt better on Friday than he did on Wednesday, but would sit again.
The frustrating thing with the Tulowitzki injuries are that they are always explained as tiny injuries that shouldn't be worried about. However, they always turn out to be much worse. If Tulowitzki could have gone on Wednesday, the words he used on Friday sure didn't make it seem like it was an option.
Remembering all the way back to 2012 when Tulo missed the vast majority of the season with a groin issue, the original diagnosis was that he would miss 4-6 weeks. The surgery happened in July and Tulowitzki never took another at-bat in the season. The leg injuries with Tulowitzki are never small, but they are always frequent.
Winning is hard enough in the National League West. It is extremely hard for this club to win in San Francisco. It is especially hard when the player who this team is built around can't stay in the lineup.
Fans like to stick up for Tulowitzki, and they definitely have reason to defend him. However, there is no arguing that he is frail. There is no arguing that when he is out of the lineup, the Rockies are a worse team. Somehow, some way, the Rockies need to find out why Tulowitzki continues to injure his legs and they need to start figuring out ways to prevent it.
The Rockies have a good team on paper. However, they aren't good enough to win without playing with proper fundamentals. They must figure out how to play more clean baseball if they want to make noise in 2014.
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