BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
A game-tying hit.
A grand slam.
An insurance run.
A diving catch.
Striking out the side to get a save.
Those five moments stood out in last night’s Rockies’ 10-9 victory over the Giants at Coors Field.
It was only significant since this played a role in the Rockies snapping a 10-game losing streak to the Giants.
A win against the Giants never felt this good for the Rockies.
Make no mistake. The Rockies almost blew another lead after blowing the first lead of the game, and they were in danger of losing to the Giants for the second straight night. With the errors and wild pitches, it’s clear the Rockies were feeling the pressure to get that win.
A 10-game losing streak to the Giants can wear on the Rockies along with going 9-31 since 2011. The losses and the questions of when will it end take its toll after awhile.
The Giants were relentless throughout the game. With that said, the Rockies found a way to respond, and they should be commended for it.
After the NL West division leaders took a 5-4 lead in the fourth inning, the Rockies created a big inning by scoring five runs in the fifth inning.
Dexter Fowler singled to start the fifth inning, and Carlos Gonzalez walked after that. Wilin Rosario’s RBI single tied the game at 5 as Fowler scored.
When D.J. Lemhaieu walked to load the bases, Jordan Pacheco hit a grand slam to give the Rockies a 9-5 lead over the Giants.
The crowd applauded, and the entire Rockies bench was fired up with Pacheco receiving a bear hug by Rosario.
The Rockies needed that. They wilt when the Giants regains the lead everytime it happens, so on this night, it was refreshing to see the home team was not going to back down on this night.
The grand slam gave the Rockies a new start in the middle of the game. They knew they can get back at the Giants.
Despite what the Rockies did, the Giants were not going to quit on this night. It is never over until the 27th out is made.
That’s why Gonzalez’s home run was huge in the sixth inning when that home run extended the Rockies’ lead to 10-5. It was a much needed insurance run.
Insurance runs are always a must for an opponent playing against the Giants.
It’s a good thing the Rockies had one. The Giants continued their assault on the Rockies by scoring three runs in the seventh inning, and they cut their deficit to 10-8. In the process, they got to reliable Rockies reliever Edgmer Escalona.
Escalona walked Buster Posey to start the seventh, and Hunter Pence tripled that sent Posey home for the Giants’s first run of the seventh inning.
Then, Escalona threw a pitch that Rosario could not hold on to, and Pence scored to give the Giants their second run of the seventh inning.
From there, Escalona expressed his frustration by gesturing at Rosario.
After Brett Pill hit a double off Escalona, Rockies manager Walt Weiss made a pitching change with no outs in the inning. He had to as his reliever was not into the game after the Giants scored runs off him.
Joaquin Arias hit a single off Rex Brothers to have Pill scored the Giants’ third run in the inning.
Unlike Escalona, Brothers shook off the hit and got the last three outs by striking out Brandon Crawford, getting Gregor Blanco to ground out and having Angel Pagan to line out.
Brothers received an assist by Fowler who made a diving catch to end the inning. If the Rockies centerfielder does not hold on to the ball, it would have been a 10-9 game. The game may have been tied if the inning continued.
Fowler’s catch was the turning point of the game.
This is how to step up and put a stop to it when another team creates a big inning by getting outs and making defensive plays.
The Giants kept it going in the eighth inning when Posey hit a two-out solo home run off Matt Belisle. It was now a 10-9 game. What? You expected Giants to quit?
With Pence hitting a double, he was the tying run.
Pressure was on Belisle to get the last out, and he found a way by getting Pill to ground out.
The Rockies needed three outs to get this win.
Rafael Betancourt is reliable as a closer with nine saves and no blown save to show for it prior to last night’s game, but it wasn’t going to be easy with the way the Giants were scoring in this contest.
The Rockies closer handled the inning with ease by striking out the side.
Talk about an exclamation mark to end the game and end the losing streak against the Giants for the Rockies.
It was a symbol that the Giants were not going to deny the Rockies a win.
For one night, the Rockies did not have to answer the media’s questions about another loss to the Giants. It was a welcome relief.
Winning a game against the Giants meant something. They could have lost another one. Instead, they preserved whenever the Giants were cutting deficits. They found a way to get a key hit, key outs, key strikeouts and a key play.
The Rockies learned something about themselves for one night. They know they can do something about putting a stop to what the Giants are doing.
That’s what makes this win against the Giants more special than others.
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BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
When Eric Young Jr. had the Rockies’ first hit of the game in the first inning last night, the Rockies thought this was the night they would get something going on offense.
It turned out that was the only hit of the game for them.
The Rockies continue their struggles on offense after they took a 3-0 shutout loss to the Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
Hitting has been why the Rockies are struggling this month. They are hitting .230 in May after batting .282 in April. They averaged 3.5 runs on the six-game homestand, and they batted .239 during the week.
During the Rockies’ series against the Yankees, they managed to score five runs and get sixteen hits.
They were 0-for-18 for runners in scoring position in the losses to the Rays.
It was hard to believe it was going to get better for the Rockies last night with Shelby Miller on the mound for the Cardinals. Prior to his last night’s start, the Cardinals rookie has won four games with a 1.96 ERA and 1.06 WHIP, and he threw 38 strikeouts.
Miller was highly touted when the season started, and it was easy to see why everyone was high on him from watching him last night.
The rookie stymied the Rockies by throwing 13 strikeouts and retiring 27 in a row to finish the game. It was good enough for him to throw a one-hitter and a complete game.
It is a good thing Young Jr. had that leadoff hit or else Miller would have achieved a no-hitter.
It helped the Rockies made Miller’s job easy. Most of the hitters were hacking at the plate rather than making him work by fouling off pitches and not discerning if the pitch was going to be out of the strike zone. It was clear most of them did not have good eye at the plate.
That’s been the problem with the Rockies lately. There are too many bad at-bats when they are at the plate.
It seems like most of the hitters want to swing for the fences rather than finding a way to get a base hit.
There are hitters who are tentative at the plate. Last night, Carlos Gonzalez struck out looking couple of times and Troy Tulowitzki did the same thing as he struck out three times.
There’s nothing worse than not swinging the bat.
It is clear guys are doing too much to snap out of their funk. They are thinking too much.
This is where the guys must work with Rockies hitting coach Dante Bichette. They need to figure out a plan to take better at-bats. They have to stop focusing on hitting home runs.
Home runs come once guys are on base with base hits.
It’s something these guys have to work on during this road trip.
There are circumstances to why the Rockies are scuffling at the plate.
As good as Nolan Arenado, Wilin Rosario, Jordan Pacheco and Josh Rutledge are, they are going to go through growing pains as young hitters. That’s the case with them right now. Pitchers figure out how to attack their weaknesses at the plate. It’s up to the hitters to figure it out and make the adjustments.
This is why no one should expect Rosario, Arenado, Pacheco and Rutledge to be stars this soon. They are going to go through ups and downs as young players. Basically, this is more of a developmental year for them. They are better off doing well at their own pace.
Another problem is Tulowitzki is playing through pain. He is having a hard time swinging the bat and making contact out there. His legs have been hurting Sunday, and it hasn’t gotten better despite him taking several games off.
It’s stunning he even played in Thursday’s game against the Yankees at Coors Field. Credit him for gutting it out, but if his injuries affect him to the point he can’t produce, he has to go on the disabled list.
It will be interesting how he goes about it the next few games.
An injured Tulowitzki makes the Rockies offense worse. When he is healthy, he is a dynamic hitter. He can hit the ball in the park and drive in runs. It’s hard to do that when he is injured.
The cold weather hasn’t helped the Rockies, either. They have had awful weather when they are at home in this early season. It’s hard for hitters to get into a groove when it’s raining and cold.
It’s baseball, though. Every team goes through tough circumstances and funks during the course of a long season. Good teams figure out a way to snap out of it as soon as possible, and that’s on the Rockies to find a way.
There’s never a good time to go on a funk. Every game is meaningful when everything adds up in the standings. One bad month can cause a team to go on a tailspin that they may not recover.
It’s frustrating for the Rockies right now since they are getting good pitching out of their starters and relievers. The last thing they need is wasting a good performance out of their starters.
The schedule does not get easy with the Giants and Diamondbacks coming to Coors Field in the next homestand, which starts next week.
If the hitting does not get it together, the Rockies could be on a swoon that they may not recover.
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BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
Never thought this day would come when Rockies fans want Todd Helton benched.
Desperate times call for desperate measures with Helton slumping at the plate to start the season. Prior to Friday night’s game against the Padres, he batted .095 with two hits to show for it.
This comes after Helton batted .238 with a .400 slugging percentage, .743 OPS, 7 home runs and 37 RBIs last year.
Rockies fans are not used to these numbers by Helton after he used to hit 30 or more home runs a year when he was at his prime.
With Helton being 39 years old, his numbers were going to drop. Father time does not stop for anyone. That should be given.
This is why Rockies fans want to find a better alternative. They feel Jordan Pacheco can replace Helton at first, and he can produce power numbers at that position.
They only want Helton playing late in the game as a defensive replacement.
Sorry, but that scenario is not going to happen.
The Rockies are not going to humiliate their longtime star by benching him this early in the season. He has accomplished a lot as a player to earn the benefit of the doubt.
To bench him after two weeks is out there. It really is. No one should draw conclusions on a player after two weeks of play.
It takes time for a hitter to find his groove. Helton needs at least 100 at-bats before the Rockies can make a decision about his playing time.
Let’s remember Helton is coming off a hip surgery and knee surgery. It was going to take time for him to get back in baseball shape. He has worked out this offseason, but it’s a long process. It’s stunning Rockies fans don’t realize that aspect of the game.
As good as Pacheco is, there’s no guarantee he will be great right now. He is still learning about the game, and he can struggle as much as Helton.
To insert Pacheco at first is not something the Rockies should do at this time.
Helton deserves an opportunity to get back on track for what he has accomplished in his career. Plus, he is still good at playing first. He can rob a base hit, and he can hold on to a wild throw from third. He can complete nice plays after a third baseman makes a nice grab and throw to first.
Helton’s defense is too valuable for the Rockies to make him a bench player. The starting pitchers want to see the longtime Rockie at first since they rely on him to get outs at that position.
This is why Rockies manager Walt Weiss is not going to take Helton out of the starting lineup.
Plus, a manager is not going to act irrational like fans would when a player does not get off to a good start. He believes that player will snap out of it.
Helton will not be what he was, but he won’t be this bad. He will get his base hits, and he will drive in runs.
Helton showed why it does not make sense for him to be benched in the Rockies’ 7-5 victory over the Padres Friday night. He had three hits in that game, including getting a RBI that cut the Rockies’ deficit to 5-4.
Last night, he had two hits, and he drove in a run in the Rockies’ 9-5 victory over the Padres.
These last two games should make Weiss know that he can trust Helton to come through.
This should also stop the critics for calling Helton to be benched.
It’s amazing why fans would feel that way after what he has done for that organization. It’s not like Helton is washed up or stealing money. He does provide value for the Rockies.
Helton has earned the right to call his shot as he is about to finish his baseball career this season. Let him leave in a proper manner. Benching him does not make him or the Rockies any better.
Helton will be serviceable at the plate, and he is still effective in playing at first.
Those two scenarios are why Weiss is doing the right thing in sticking with his former teammate.
That is the right way to go.
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BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
Being realistic is a good thing.
It means no one can be disappointed at the outcome. It makes life easy that way.
While most folks around the country are optimistic about their baseball teams, the Rockies fans are not.
In fact, the Rockies are not, either.
The Rockies and their fans know this season will be another long season.
The Rockies are the favorites to be in last place in 2013. Talk about a buzzkill. This happens every year, too.
Give the organization credit for being honest about themselves rather than selling false hope. They know they are not better than the Giants, Diamondbacks, Dodgers and Padres. They are not fooling anyone when they don’t have starting pitching.
Yes, the Rockies have a great lineup. That’s good enough to win their fair share of games, but they are going to need quality starting pitching on a consistent basis for them to have a winning season. That’s not happening.
With the Rockies, it’s Jeff Francis, Jon Garland and pray for rain. It’s hard to have a winning season that way.
Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge De La Rosa, Juan Nicasio are question marks to round out the rotation.
The Rockies like to think Chacin is an ace after winning 11 games two years ago. They cite his ability to throw strikeouts after throwing 150 strikeouts two years ago.
With that said, he struggled in spring training after he was hit hard with an 8.44 ERA to show for it. His changeup was ineffective. In his final spring training start, he was rocked for 10 hits and six earned runs in five innings. That was against the Athletics’ B team.
It makes one wonder why Chacin is making an Opening Day start against the Brewers. He hasn’t earned it. This was about the organization demonstrating faith that he has what it takes to be an ace, and they hope Chacin can gain confidence from that.
Maybe this works tomorrow afternoon. We’ll see.
Francis should have started Opening Day for the Rockies. He is their best pitcher. He gives them a chance to win by giving out a quality start. He knows how to win games based on his experience for many years.
It’s not only Chacin that is a question mark. The Rockies like to think De La Rosa is their second best starter. Maybe he is, but he is always hurt. Who knows if he can be healthy? He also can let his struggles get the best of him during the course of the game.
Nicasio is not a starting material. Outside of his fastball, he does not have secondary pitches to get hitters out when they face him for the second time in the game. That’s why he does not go deep in games.
He is a reliever at best. It’s remarkable why he is in the rotation. As bad as Drew Pomeranz is, he is better than Nicasio.
It shows how the Rockies feel about Pomeranz’s lack of development for him to not be in the starting rotation over Nicasio.
When looking at the question marks in the starting rotation, it’s easy to ask why the Rockies did not do enough to get a starting pitcher. It shouldn’t take until last week to find a starter, and they found one in Garland after he was released by the Mariners.
The bullpen should be good. Rex Brothers, Matt Belisle, Wilton Lopez and Rafael Betancourt can be relied upon to protect leads late in the game.
The Rockies have a great lineup with Dexter Fowler, Josh Rutledge, Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, Wilin Rosario and Jordan Pacheco leading the way. That’s something they don’t have to worry about.
That lineup is so good that Walt Weiss is hoping his team can outscore the other team to win games. That’s a depressing outlook for the first-year Rockies manager. He knows his starting pitching is not good enough for him to say his team will rely on his hitting to win games. He is smart enough to know a baseball team wins games through good starting pitching.
As for Weiss, he will do a fine job as a manager. He will get his team to play for him. His teams will execute well on defense.
That wasn’t the case when Jim Tracy was the Rockies manager in the last few years. Talk about how he got them to the playoffs in 2009, but the players were so fed up with Clint Hurdle that they wanted to prove he was why the team underachieved.
Once Tracy was the full-time manager in 2010, the team quit on him for the last three years. They never executed the fundamentals, and they often approached the game with no sense of urgency.
They hope Weiss can make the team fundamentally sound. They hope he can develop players.
He will do that, but he can’t make miracles out of that awful starting rotation. No manager can. If a pitcher can’t pitch, there’s nothing a manager can do.
It’s remarkable why Weiss wants to manage the Rockies. That said, they are giving him a shot to learn on the job. He’s not going to turn that down. He would love to see what he can do with this team.
The Rockies are good enough to win 74 games at best. If Weiss can get them to do that, he did a good job considering that’s the best he could with a flawed starting rotation.
That’s not good enough for the fans. That’s not good enough for the organization.
It’s about having winning seasons. It’s about playing in the playoffs. It’s about hope.
The Rockies don’t have any of that going for them.
No wonder why the organization and the fans are not excited about what should be another long season.
Maybe one day there will be a reason to be.
Most managers don’t care about wins and losses in spring training.
They want their players to be healthy and ready by April.
First-year Rockies manager Walt Weiss is not one of them. He vowed to have his team take spring training seriously by having his team go all out in exhibition games. He will demand his players to do whatever it takes to win games. He will have them execute spring training fundamental drills that will help them be in a position to succeed in the regular season.
That’s a good thing. The Rockies are not a great team to ignore results in spring training.
They have to do the things that will help them win ballgames whether it’s fielding, smallball or baserunning. They could use the work after being so bad in the fundamental aspects of the game under Jim Tracy the last two years.
The players have to do everything they can to impress their boss. That’s the way it should be when a new manager comes in to implement his style of play.
Too many players were lazy under Tracy. There was no accountability. It was show up at the ballpark for three hours only. The guys were not thinking about winning.
There was no discipline on that team. Too many guys were loafing at the field or at the basepaths. The players did not get worked up when their team was behind as they quit at first sign of trouble.
It was tough to watch.
Tracy couldn’t do anything about it. He felt it was a lost cause. That’s why it was time for a managerial change.
Weiss made an impression to the players about how things are going to be different in spring training. It’s clear he is doing his part to change the culture of the ballclub. He will be hands-on when it comes to managing a game. He will do what he can to put his players in a position to succeed.
One thing about him is that he is a gamer. That type of attitude will rub off on the players.
Weiss is also a baseball junkie. He will be watching film often, and he will find out strengths and weaknesses that his team can oppose. He will have this team prepared.
This does not guarantee anything. It still comes down to how the pitchers pitch and how the hitters execute at the plate.
Still, having the team prepared is an improvement after watching the last few years.
The Rockies need to develop habits that will put them in a position to win games, and that’s where executing drills is imperative now rather than in late March.
The Rockies feature a lot of talent when looking at their roster. They have players that can help them win games in Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler, Wilin Rosario and Jordan Pacheco.
It’s up to Weiss to get the most out of that roster, and that’s why he wants to start by having his team go for it in spring training. He wants his guys sharp, and he feels that approach can help them be sharp all season. He feels repetition will pay off for them.
Weiss wants his team to be molded in his image. He was not a great player, but he made the most of his talent by being a good grinder and a good defensive player. That’s what he wants the Rockies to be. He wants them to be a team that will be tough to face.
If he can pull that off, he would be off to a good start. Little things can turn out to be big things for a team that needs direction. By being fundamentally sound, Weiss is banking that it’s enough to win their fair share of games.
Spring training games are going to be fun to watch this year. It will be interesting how the Rockies fare under Weiss this month. One has to think it won’t be more of the same. Not when guys are on a clean slate under their new boss.
Weiss will make an impression to others if his team wins many games.
He is hoping his spring training approach will help him achieve that objective.