|The Rockies deserved to lose on Wednesday night.|
As bad as the whole team played on Wednesday night, it is amazing that the Rockies were even in the lead as the game neared it's conclusion.
While two errors in the 9th inning didn't help the situation, the game wasn't lost there. It was lost in the 7th inning. Despite the Rockies re-taking the lead in the 8th inning, the runs that the Rockies needed to win the game were left on the base paths in the 7th.
After three consecutive walks to Corey Dickerson, Josh Rutledge and Wilin Rosario to lead off the inning, the Rockies had the bases loaded and no one out. It was as good of a chance as they were going to have all night long. With Carlos Gonzalez out of the starting lineup with a bruised calf, he was able to only pinch hit. It was as perfect of a situation as it gets to bring in your All-Star power hitter. On the second pitch he saw, Gonzalez grounded weakly back to the mound, starting a 1-2-3 double play. The good news for the Rockies is that they also had Troy Tulowitzki available to pinch hit. With two outs, but two runners still in scoring position, Tulo was the best option the Rockies had. He promptly struck out on three pitches to end the inning.
When the two stars can't get the job done, the team is in trouble. However, don't blame it all on Tulowitzki and CarGo. The Rockies had plenty of other chances. The rest of the Rockies offense left at least two runners on the base paths in all but the 3rd and 9th innings. Leaving that many runners on the bases shows one thing, guys are getting too ancy at the plate. They aren't taking good at-bats anymore and they are letting pitchers off the hook.
The offense failed the Rockies on Wednesday night, but it wasn't only the offense. The fact that the Rockies had both Tulowitzki and Gonzalez available to pinch hit in the same game is an issue. With an off-day on Thursday, this was a scheduled day off for Tulowitzki. It is part of the Rockies plan to give Tulowitzki's legs consecutive days off as often as possible. With Gonzalez fouling a ball off of his leg on Tuesday, he was out as well.
This plays into the Rockies stubborness and lack of a sense of urgency. With a road trip hanging in the balance, with their team clearly struggling and needing to avoid a terrible road trip, Wednesday night was pivotal for the Rockies. When it was clear that Gonzalez wasn't going to be available, instead of re-tooling the plan and finding a different off-day for Tulowitzki, the Rockies simply weakened their entire lineup and essentially put a Jim Tracy Sunday lineup on the field.
With CarGo out, it was imperative that Tulowitzki's bat remained. With the injury to Nolan Arenado earlier in the road trip, the absence of all three stud bats in the lineup gave the Phillies a huge advantage in a rubber game that could have given the Rockies some momentum going into the final leg of the longest road trip of the season.
The problem with it wasn't just that they weren't in the starting lineup, but also that Tulowitzki ended up playing three innings anyway. If he was going to have to play three innings after sitting on the bench for six innings, he may as well have stretched out and played from the first pitch. Essentially his day off was wasted anyway.
But wait. Don't blame the management. Walt Weiss wasn't responsible for the loss. In the 9th inning with shaky closer LaTroy Hawkins on the mound to close out the one-run game, Josh Rutledge made a terrible throw on a ground ball to second base in the 9th inning that would have been the second out and made the Rockies that much closer to wrapping up their first series win in Philadelphia since 2004. Instead, Tony Gwynn, Jr. was on first base with one out. With Jimmy Rollins at the plate, Tulowitzki dropped a foul ball that also would have been the second out of the inning. Rollins would fly out, but it required two more pitches, and it wouldn't be a surprise if the errors got to Hawkins a little.
Weiss then went to Boone Logan to record the final out against lefty Chase Utley, then Ryan Howard. He never got that out. Utley singled in the game-tying run and Howard promptly belted a three-run homer to center field, giving the Phillies the walk-off win and sending the Rockies to Cleveland with broken hearts.
The fact is, the game was ugly. Every aspect was ugly. The lineup was essentially a white flag, the bullpen was a disaster in the 9th inning, the defense looked like a little league field, and the lineup was atrocious with runners on base.
The mark of a good team is one that can do the little things properly. Moving runners over, coming up with clutch base hits, making routine plays in the field, etc. This Rockies team has looked far from that on this road trip. They have been the complete opposite. The road struggles are baffling. The pressing at the plate makes no sense. A team that plays so loose at home suddenly looks like the awkward kid at the 7th grade dance who tries to talk to the popular girl.
The Rockies have talent. They are a good baseball team, but if they can't do the little things correctly, if they can't figure out how to score more than three runs against average pitching in a hitter's park, then they simply aren't ever going to be good enough to make a run.
Point fingers, blame any of the guilty parties, but remember, every aspect of this Rockies team failed them on Wednesday night, and the hope has to be that it won't become a trend.
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