It's been a bugger of a week. Let's get to it.
Unfortunate things, like losing Bucky the Lemur until May thanks to a sprained elbow, have befallen the Purple in the last seven days. But to everyone's astonishment, they did win a game, then followed it up by doing the same thing; nobody was entirely sure what to make of it. Now that the sky does not appear to be falling, we can look back at the start of the week, when it did in fact seem as if that was the case.
March 2: LAA 12 @ COL 3. 0-6.
Apparently this is what happens when you keep throwing low fastballs, your opponent has played you once already in the spring, and cottons on to your brilliant strategy. Franklin Morales gave up seven runs on nine hits in three innings, including a pair of jacks to Jeff Mathis and one to Brandon Wood. The Rockies were no-hit until Yorvit singled in the bottom of the fifth inning, and got their runs from an RBI triple from JoKo and a two-run homer from Matt Murton. Morales' disappointing outing was followed by more of the same from Jason Hirsh, as he choked up six hits and four runs to the Halos in 2.2 innings; Cedrick Bowers allowed the last one to lead to that giant ugly number on the scoreboard -- the Angels racked up 20 hits in amassing it. The Rockies did turn four double plays and get two pickoffs, but made two errors, and.... yeah, let's not talk about it. Next.
March 3: COL 6 @ MIL 8. 0-7.
The saga, Watch the Colorado Rockies Try to Win a Cactus League Game, dragged on in Maryvale. Success was attempted, failure resulted, and that was that, although Seth Smith and Dan Ortmeier did both jack a two-run homer apiece. The six runs were the most the Rockies had scored in any game this year, but while they did manage to hold their opponent under double digits, it wasn't enough to crack the elusive win column. Greg Smith's second outing of the year was filed under the "meh" category, as he allowed three hits, two runs, and one homer in three innings, with no BBs or Ks -- a decent but not terribly impressive showing.
Alan Embree managed to get his ERA all the way down to 10.13 with a scoreless frame, but this was followed by Greg Reynolds' three-inning, four-run effort, in which he allowed three walks and two homers. Ryan Mattheus blew the 6-6 deadlock in the bottom of the eighth, allowing a pair of runs to allow the Brewers to go up 8-6, the final tally. The Rockies, still attempting to be more aggressive on the basepaths, swiped three bags, but were also gunned down twice. Omar Quintanilla continued his hot spring with the bat, going 2-for-3 to keep his average at a nicely robust .500. Oh, early season, and nice even numbers. Still no win. Natives restless.
March 4: OFF.
March 5: MEX 7 @ COL 3. 0-7 (not counting in Cactus League)
The switch to non-counting exhibition play did not do the Rockies a great deal of good, and Jorge de la Rosa showed some of his old mercurial nature -- he got beaten up by his countrymen like the proverbial red-headed stepchild. (Maybe he was just trying to help them feel good about themselves). Allowing an ugly 11 hits, 6 runs, 2 BBs, and 3 Ks in just 2.2 innings, George of the Rose didn't look particularly like the new and improved version that the Rox are banking on this year. JHOULYS CHACIN (that's "The Machine" to you) buzzed through an easy 2.1 innings, perfect except for a walk, and made Rowbots everywhere slaver at the idea of seeing him at Coors late in the season (well, it's not like they weren't already doing that, but you know). Brandon Hynick pitched two innings, giving up Mexico's seventh run via a solo homer; he also walked one. Shane Lindsay and Steven Register finished things out; to everybody's surprise, they didn't give up any more.
Offensively, it was another underwhelming day for the Rockies' bats, as they collected 10 hits but weren't very efficient at turning them into runs. Matt Murton, Paul "Who Da Hell?" Phillips, and Christian Colonel did the honours at banking the three they did get, with RBI singles apiece. At least they didn't make any errors. Woo-hoo.
March 6: COL 13 @ SD 11. 1-7 (ZOMGZ A WIN. ZOMGZ LOL)
In a strange phenomenon known as "scoring more runs then the other team," the Rockies appear to have lodged their first win of the exhibition season, baffling experts everywhere. Mind you, they did their best to blow it, as they led by eight before the Padres' desperate five-run uprising in the bottom of the ninth to shave the final margin a little too close for comfort. But before that, it all went very swimmingly. Aaron Cook made the Padres his personal bitch yet again, zipping through four innings, four hits, one run, 2 walks, and six strikeouts, allowing only one flyout against five grounders. If we can arrange to have him pitch every game against San Diego this year, we'll be fine. (Actually, if we could just clone him and have him pitch every game in general, we probably wouldn't object to that).
Unfortunately, Huston Street struggled mightily in following it up; he hacked up five runs and two walks while managing to get only one out. Matt Daley, Alan Embree, Randy Flores, and Ryan Mattheus all succeeded at not failing in the next few innings, but Esmil Rogers was the unfortunate beneficiary of the Padres' aborted comeback attempt; he gave up five runs, including a grand slam by Chad Huffman, to lead to the final score of 13-11. The Rockies' bats finally woke up, which enabled them to hold on, and they got a pair of solo shots from catchers, some guys named Yorbete Torralba and Micheal McKendry. EY Junior picked up a pair of ribbies, Jonathan Herrera went 3 for 4, and Ryan Spilborghs 2 for 3. It wasn't pretty, but WHAT THE HELL! WE WON A GAME! GLORY DAY!
March 7: COL 9 @ SF 7. 2-7
This must be a clerical error, because I am being informed that after doing it once, the Rockies liked it so much that they decided to try again. This game featured Franklin Morales' return to form after being blowtorched by the Angels -- he whizzed through four clean innings against the Giants, allowing three hits but no runs and striking out three with no walks. Compared to yet another disappointing outing from Jason Hirsh (3.2 innings, 7 hits, 6 runs, 3 walks, 1 K) Frankie may have taken the lead for the fifth starter battle, although we don't need him doing his best JDLR impression every time he goes out there (Good Frankie? Bad Frankie? Amazing Frankie? AUUUUGGGHHHHFRANKIE???!).
The game featured another last-minute rally by the opposing team; four runs, in this case, but it again wasn't enough to push the Giants over the top. In the meantime, the Rockies enjoyed another shockingly productive day, as Clint Barmes went 4-for-4 with 4 RBI, Jonathan Herrera had another respectable showing (2-4/2 RBI) and Carlos Gonzalez was held without a hit but scored a pair of runs and drove one in on an out. Another win in the books. Heads are scratched.
March 8: SD 2 @ COL 4. 3-7.
Well, we've established we can beat the Padres and the Giants. That's great. But it's a little like purposefully playing the easier levels in a video game since you know you can win, whereas you might be overmatched if you attempt to power up. But hey, since both of these teams are in our division and we'll be seeing them a lot, it's best to snap up easy wins where you can. (Not that this should be in any form counted on, since the Rockies have a long-standing tradition of failing to win gimme games).
Making the start in place of his fellow Greg (Smith), Greg Reynolds, the object of my devoted and undeserved affection, actually validated it today, with four scoreless innings, five hits, one walk, and a pair of K's. (This is likely to continue the fight between myself and Rox Girl as to who gets him, but since he's already called here, I can assure you that whatever she says is all lies).Even Josh Fogg didn't embarrass himself, allowing one run on two hits in three innings, getting his ERA all the way down to a sparkling 11.25. Juan Morillo, still struggling to play under the out-of-options gun, gave up a run in his inning of work, and Matt Belisle resuscitated himself from complete oblivion to throw a scoreless inning to close it out.
But the exciting story today was the return of the Toddfather, who blasted a two-run homer in his first Cactus League at-bat. If the back issue is truly resolved, and a healthy Todd can slot into the lineup and play a good 120 games at first, that, plain and simple, makes us a better ballclub. Ryan Spilborghs also continued his spring awakening, with a pair of doubles and a single, and Garrett Atkins went 2-for-2. Both Spilly and Chris Frey were gunned down while trying to steal, however, and in something that we should hope we don't have a chance to get used to seeing, that guy Yorbete hit into a double play. But hey, we're only 4 games under .500! DIVISION TITLE RUN HERE WE COOOOOME!!! HUZZAH!!!
Wait, it's still spring?
Well, gosh darn it all to heck.
What's to Worry? I for one am extremely peeved about losing the Lemur for the first month of the season, and worried that, if not caught, the elbow issue could have devolved into needing Tommy John. There is therefore the risk that Buchholz will come back, have a few good months, and then tear it, rendering him out for the rest of the year and part of 2010 as well -- yes, let us hope very hard that that is not the case. We're supposed to be playing our regulars more, but that hasn't happened, and they're still in the process of finding their swings -- particularly Tulo, who we'll need to have a big year. Jason Hirsh, who is supposed to be feeling great and mentally rejuvenated and what have you, hasn't impressed. Neither has Huston Street, who's really going to need to step it up to have a chance at nabbing the closer spot -- at the moment, it might end up going to Manny by default. Also, I'm not too big a fan of letting the other team have four-and-five-run comebacks in the bottom of the ninth. Okay good? Plsthxbai.
What's to Like? The fact that the offense seems to be rediscovering what you do while standing at the rubber pointy thing with the stick of wood in your hands is, of course, heartening. The doldrums seem to be resolving somewhat with the lifting of Hurdle's interesting rules, hopefully giving us a better look at what to expect in the regular season. Spilly also seems to be finding his swing, which is good for our putative leadoff man, and Greg Reynolds and Franklin Morales having good outings makes us hope that the fifth starter spot won't just be a case of whoever sucks the least, tames the beast. Also, Brad Hawpe got the stitches out of his finger, and the injury shouldn't keep him sidelined much longer. Not getting more would be nice. Also, Todd's dramatic return has heightened expectations, so hopefully he's got plenty of encores.
What's on Tap? The Rockies move into the third week of Cactus League play with an off-day on Monday, followed by a meeting with the Oakland A's, and some guy who I understand used to play for us, on Tuesday... now that will be interesting, and very, very weird. They follow this up with a visit to the Indians and yet another game against the Angels, and please God let us have changed the strategy to avoid another 12-run schooling. They catch the Giants on Friday, before tangling with the Mariners and Dodgers over the weekend. Since Hurdle's restrictions are theoretically being lifted, hopefully we'll see some more play by the regulars, less offensive futility, and fewer of those really bad innings by the bullpen. We are slowly but steadily moving toward that blessed and nerve-wracking time when the games start to count, so continued improvement will be the rule of the week.
(Also. Don't forget to check out the Rockies' new commercials. I always knew Todd had a dirty mind).
Clint Barmes, 30 (March 6)