Saturday, April 26, 2014

Saturday night shows where Colorado Rockies need to improve in order to contend

Juan Nicasio couldn't get it done on Saturday night.
They say that when things seem too good to be true, they usually are.

That seems to be the case with Juan Nicasio, who reverted back to being the pitcher that the Colorado Rockies have seen over the past two seasons. After several impressive outings, it seems that the scouting reports are back out on Nicasio.

Much like a year ago, Nicasio struggled to get through the 5th inning. On Saturday he couldn't get through the 5th, pitching just 4-1/3 innings, giving up five runs on eight hits. He walked two and struck out four. In a very familiar scenario, Nicasio had an elevated pitch count early, being lifted after throwing 97 pitches.

Make no mistake, every team is looking for a better fifth starter. Fifth starters are in that position for a reason. They don't have good enough stuff to be at the top of the rotation and their stuff can often show up one day and be lost the next. For Nicasio, the issue is a lack of a secondary pitch. He relies on his four-seemed fastball far too often and scouts seem to have figured that out.

Nicasio's outing didn't make it easy for the Rockies on Saturday. However, they had their chances.

With one out and  the bases loaded in the top of the 8th inning, the Rockies were poised to get back in the game. Carlos Gonzalez was due up with Troy Tulowitzki on deck. With CarGo representing the go-ahead run, all he needed to do was hit a ball into the outfield, allowing a run to score from third base and giving Tulowitzki a chance to tie up the game.

The at-bats came after Dodgers reliever Chris Withrow had walked three Rockies batters, two in a row. While CarGo certainly isn't paid to leave the bat on his shoulder, it was interesting that the slumping Rockies slugger fired at the first two pitches, going down 0-2. After watching one pitch, he swung and missed at the next, taking a seat while failing to get the job done.

With hope remaining, Tulowitzki strolled to the plate. He swung at two pitches out of the zone and struck out on a 2-2 pitch that was a foot outside to end the threat.

The Rockies certainly don't envision CarGo and Tulo watching pitch-after-pitch. However, both of those guys are so good that it is easy to forget the basics. These two guys should both take a Barry Bonds approach. There is no reason whatsoever for CarGo to be swinging at the first two pitches. He should know that the pitcher is struggling to find the zone, and he should be doing everything in his power to get on base and give Tulo a chance to tie the game.

To a certain degree, it is difficult to complain about players of CarGo and Tulo's ilk. These guys get the job done on a regular basis and deserve the praise that they get. However, it is hard not to imagine just how good the Rockies offense would be if either one of these guys had even a thread of plate discipline in their game. This is a highly talented offense, but the fact that they get so much done despite routinely taking poor at-bats is telling.

The Rockies rarely allow the pressure to remain with the pitcher. In a bases-loaded situation with one out like the Rockies had on Saturday, the pressure falls squarely onto the shoulders of the pitcher. A guy who has just walked the previous two batters probably is searching for his command, and not feeling as confident as normal.

When a batter goes out and swings at the first two pitches, both of which are out of the zone, it only helps a pitcher feel better about himself. Instead of going up 2-0 and really making it tough for the pitcher, all it takes is one more pitch out of the zone that a batter pulls the trigger on to get out of the at-bat, and get closer to getting out of the inning.

Two areas of Rockies need were highlighted on Saturday night. The Rockies need either consistency from Nicasio in the fifth spot in the rotation, or they need someone to step in and fill that role. They also need better at-bats from their entire lineup, but specifically from their stars. When the pressure is on the pitcher, the Rockies need to take advantage and make that pitcher give in and put pitches across the plate. Letting them off the hook will cost them games.

The Rockies can still take a series at Dodger Stadium, which is a huge accomplishment. They send ace Jorge De La Rosa to the mound looking to get the job done.

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