|The Rockies couldn't get the big hit on Tuesday.|
The Colorado Rockies found that out the hard way on Tuesday night against Zack Grienke and the Los Angles Dodgers.
The Rockies offense did what good teams do against a great pitcher like Grienke. They drove the pitch count up early. The guys at the plate were taking good at-bats, working counts, fouling off pitches and making Grienke work hard. They weren't racking up the hits, but they forced the Dodgers highest paid player to throw 117 pitches in six innings of work.
The idea is to make a starter like Grienke throw so many pitches that he has to come out earlier and give the offense a chance to score some runs against the bullpen.
It happened that way on Tuesday, but the issue was that the Rockies offense couldn't get the big hits when they needed them. With runners at second and third and down by two runs in the 6th inning, Ryan Wheeler had a chance to get the Rockies within a run, at least. With a run in and one out, Wheeler stepped to the plate and could have gotten another run home simply by getting the ball in play. The Dodgers infield was back, conceding the run. A ground out would produce a run, and a base hit would tie the game up. Instead, Wheeler struck out, bailing Grienke out. DJ LeMahieu followed Wheeler with a really good at-bat, which ended after nine pitches, and finished with a comebacker to the mound.
Those are defining innings in close games. Down by a couple of runs, plating one of the runs changes the course of the remainder of the game. Instead of banking on a two-run cushion, the Dodgers would have had to protect a one-run lead. They would have had to be more careful with base runners, and pitch to batter's differently. Instead, the Rockies couldn't take advantage of it.
In the 7th inning, the Rockies got another run, but couldn't do anything when they got the bases loaded. This time it was Wilin Rosario's turn to not get a hit. After getting down 0-2, Rosario nearly notched a base hit, but couldn't find the hole between short and third, ending the inning.
With two on and one out in the 9th, Dodgers closer Kenley Jensen was able to strike out Kyle Parker and Rosario to end the threat from the Rockies.
The Rockies got a good performance from starter Jhoulys Chacin. However, going against Zack Grienke requires a near flawless outing. Chacin battled through the 3rd, 4th and 6th innings, but managed to keep the Dodgers from scoring more than three runs. A pitcher who provides a quality start like Chacin probably doesn't deserve to lose, but Chacin knew who he was facing before the Rockies took the field.
All in all, it wasn't a terrible game for the Rockies. They got base runners and they got very good pitching. They need to find a way to take better at-bats with runners on base and force a good pitch before simply swinging at anything that gets thrown in their direction.
However, for the Rockies to take the next step, they are going to need the high-powered offense to log some big hits with runners in scoring position. It doesn't have to happen every time, as that clearly isn't possible. However, striking out with a run on the field, when the defense is playing back, simply isn't acceptable. Hitting a Major League pitch is difficult, but if guys like Wheeler are on the roster, they need to be able to get the job done in the right situation.
Don't completely blame Wheeler. The Rockies had plenty of chances. One man can't be blamed when a team notches 11 hits but only scores twice. However, Wheeler has to find a way to get that run in. If he can get it in play, the Rockies score a run and get closer.
The Rockies send their ace, Jorge De La Rosa to the mound on Wednesday to face Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. It should be an interesting matchup. De La Rosa is highly underrated, which should make for a fun pitcher's duel to watch.
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