Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Rock Solid Recrap: Needle Creeping Towards E

You know that knockout punch I was telling you the Rockies needed to avoid after the Philadelphia game two weeks ago? The Rockies have done everything in their power to avoid that punch. In the process, and you could clearly see this during the early innings of the last two games, the team has worn down.

You're not seeing that crispness in the field. The starting pitching is completely non-existent. That leads to a completely blown up bullpen. The offense hasn't hit the ground running in the early innings. It's a tired baseball team.

This is why my optimism was low two weeks ago. I realized the effort it was going to take to pull this off was going to be difficult to maintain. That's not to say they can't rebound tomorrow, or maybe on Friday after an off day, but the position they put themselves in with all those careless losses to bad teams is why we're seeing what we're seeing right now.

That makes it all the more frustrating and disappointing.

You also have to give credit where credit is due with San Diego. They did nothing but win from April through mid-August. They put themselves in a position where they could afford a slip up because they played with an urgency from day one. Now that they have survived their bad stretch, they look like a reborn and refreshed squad that smells the kill.

And despite everything, when push came to shove tonight, the Padres were only one run better. One run is plenty, but it just shows that the Rockies pure talent advantage would overwhelm them (the 11-4 record vs. San Diego this season before this series back this up) if the Rockies weren't running on fumes.

I also have to say Bud Black has managed a wonderful series. Brilliant even. Oscar Salazar in the 9th inning last night. Matt Stairs in the 8th tonight. Finding ways to maximize his limited bench options while setting up his world class bullpen for success.

There's nothing more you can ask of your manager. If the season ended today, he would have my Manager of the Year vote. And yes, that is based strongly just on these two games.

On the other side, Jim Tracy's bullpen options are pretty limited due to the fatigue factor, but there really is no excuse leaving Huston Street in the pen the last two nights while Franklin Morales and Edgmer Escalona allow critical insurance runs to be scored.

It's not an ideal time to use your closer, but the whole damn scenario isn't ideal. You have to adjust and give your team its best chance to survive. That was not accomplished in either situation.

The placement of his pinch hitters in the 9th inning wasn't something I completely disagreed with or thought was wrong, I just thought it was a little bizarre. Payton for Olivo? It worked there, yes, but did it work in the big picture? Would Payton have been more effective hitting for Young, or maybe even Herrera hitting for Young.

It's tough to be overly harsh of that, but there were certainly other ways to go about it.  And really this game boils down to not getting anything from Jason Hammel.  That's the first place you have to look.  


Jorge De La Rosa vs.Clayton Richard

I swear Richard has pitched the final game of every Rockies/Padres series this season.

Survival mode: On

Lineup Card: Rockies vs Padres

What These Two Games Mean

Rockies Lineup (79-65)

  1. 2B  Young
  2. CF  Fowler 
  3. LF  Gonzalez
  4. SS  Tulowitzki
  5. 1B  Helton
  6. 3B  Mora
  7. RF  Smith
  8. C    Olivo
  9. P    Hammel
Can't overstate how important this outing is for Jason Hammel.  The Rockies need innings.  Not just innings, good innings.  Good innings and damn good results.  I feel good about Hammel delivering what is needed.  

Padres Lineup (81-62)
  1. LF  Cunningham
  2. 2B  Eckstein
  3. SS  Tejada
  4. 1B  Gonzalez 
  5. RF  Ludwick
  6. 3B  Headley
  7. C    Hundley
  8. CF  Venable
  9. P     Garland
Get to Jon Garland early.  We saw pretty clear evidence last weekend that he will get rattled and lose focus when things start going against him.   

What These Two Games Mean

My quick thoughts on what these next two games mean for both teams.

Split -- This does more good for San Diego mentally than it hurts Colorado mentally or in the standings. The Padres obviously leave town feeling good, but it doesn't really change either team's outlook.

San Diego wins both -- San Diego effectively knocks Colorado out of the picture. The Rockies would still have two plus weeks to recover, but one would have to assume their mental exhaustion would catch up to their physical exhaustion, thus making another extended winning streak unlikely.

Colorado wins both -- Then anything can happen. I would even lean towards suggesting San Diego is in serious danger of folding. They aren't nearly as talented as Colorado (or San Francisco), nor have they proven this year, or in recent past years, to be mentally tough enough to deal with late September stress.

That's what Coloado specialize in.