I have to say, Rockies fans, it is a stroke of luck that I am alive to write this. What with the team redefining the meaning of the Heart Attack Pack on a daily basis, the inability of the Braves to lose a damn game, and the well-chronicled ineptitude of the four Mensa candidates in blue, it's been a stressful weekend. At the end of it, we still hang on, maybe more or less by the seat of our pants, but hey. The U.S.S. Rockie has been taking on some water, but it's not time to launch the lifeboats yet (and hopefully not ever. But haven't we learned by now that it's never ever easy with this lot?). Suddenly, our season-long foe, the San Francisco Gi-nots, are 5.5 games arrears with an elimination number of 2, and we are staving off the last Charge of the Tomahawk Brigade instead. As SDCat likes to say, Rockies, for the love of God, do not make us live in a world where John Kruk is right.
The reason we are not only a slender 1.5 games up: Clint Barmes. Barmes has been run ragged around here, and deservedly so, for his foibles at the plate, but that play to end it today felt like as much a season-saver as Betancourt beating Schierholtz at the Phonebooth. Barmes usually brings his glove even if his bat has been in the great Lumberyard in the Sky for most of the month (although in fairness, it may be attempting to re-materialize). Yet today, this may have been the first time we were so thrilled to see the words "Barmes" and "popup" in the same sentence. Let's just say this. I went to get dinner a good 30-40 minutes after the game was over, and my legs were still shaking.
It is no longer time to look back. We will only be looking forward. Kindly join me after the jump as we sound the horn of Helton Hammerhand in the deep ONE. LAST. TIME.
Okay, I lied. We are going to look back. But quickly.
The Rockies are not playing their best baseball at the moment. Losing a home series to the Padres is still inexcusable, and they went something like 2-for-28 with RISP for the entire Cards series. Today exemplified the problem. It seemed like every other inning they'd have a guy at third with less than two outs, and only twice (on Hawpe's single in the first and Helton's in the fifth) did they come home. As a consequence, the Rockies' most persistent Achilles heel -- allowing their opponents to hang around and hang around and hang around -- very nearly bit them in the butt again. I don't know if they all just crave the adrenaline rush, but there is no such thing as a routine win with this club. At least you save money on caffeine. Oy.
Still, I do think they are playing very gritty baseball. (Uh-oh, where's David Eckstein?) Grinding out two of three against the very legitimate Cards, including the nasty 1-2 punch of Carpenter/Wainwright, is nothing to sneeze at. Each win ended in highly dramatic fashion, whether it was Torrealba's walkoff on Friday or Barmes' miracle today. I stand by my assertion that I'd rather face St. Louis in the postseason (assuming we GET to the postseason, must take nothing for granted) than the Phillies. The Cards defense robbed us blind against Wainwright; we were squaring the ball against him fairly well and would have very likely been ahead/won the game if Dan Iassogna (henceforth referred to as the Ump-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named) had correctly called Albert Pujols out on strikes in the first. But that's not to exculpate our half of the unit from blame. Ubaldo Jimenez absolutely has to get rid of his first-inning weeble-wobbles (5.91 ERA in the opening frame) and bring the bulldog that shows up on the mound in innings 2-7. If the blue is not calling the damn pitch, throw it where they'll take a hack at it and pound it into the ground. Also, giving up a go-ahead homer to Jason Freaking LaRue? Fail. FAIL. FAAAAAAAAIIIILLLLLLL.
(Yes, that is a sore spot. Fine. It's over. It's over. Moving on. Deep breaths).
As mentioned, the travails of the umpiring squad has been much brooded upon, so they don't need to be rehashed here (everyone knows the litany of bad calls, particularly in tight situations, that went against us, and led to some very deserved frustration). But let's just hope that that's done with. Although at the rate we've been going, we're due to get hit with the Angel Campos crew for the upcoming series against the other Crew.
Oh god. I shouldn't even joke about that.
There are plenty of weak spots. Brad Hawpe has shown flickers here and there of emerging from his second-half somnolence, but still can't get the switch on. Ian Stewart is looking as if he'd be outmatched by a Jugs machine. Dexter Fowler has been reduced to Willy T v.2.0, trying to bunt his way on, and I have to feel somewhat queasy about the fact that Jason Marquis is opening our final regular-season home series against the Brewers on Tuesday. You'd really think it's time for him to have a quality start, but our once rock-solid confidence in Marquis is plummeting like, well, a rock. But on the other hand, who is glad to have Huston Street back? I am really freaking glad to have Huston Street back. Anyone want Morales pitching the ninth inning today?
The other thing we have to look out for is Jim Tracy showing signs of Hurdleitis (anyone remember that game against Kansas City a couple years ago where Hurdle yanked a cruising Jeff Francis, put in a struggling Manny Corpas, and was rewarded with a loss?) with his equally derided decision to yank Jason Hammel, one out after letting him hit with two runners on. (God, I am glad we are done with the Padres. Couldn't they just suck?) Tracy is also showing signs of overmanaging, as he put in Seth Smith as a PH, only to replace him with Spilborghs when the Cards put in a LHP. Spilborghs then struck out on three pitches. Tracy needs to go back to what was working and stop trying to force things.
That problem, I think, is showing up with the whole team. They insist they've got nothing to fear, they're in the catbird seat (and this is after all, true) but they're definitely aware, and I think, pressing. By contrast, the Braves, unencumbered with a competent opponent and having nothing to lose, can just do the same thing we did in '07 -- rip off win after win and make the Wild Card leader sweat as the season barrels into the homestretch. If there's anything we've been shown over the weekend, it is a) that we will have to kick, punch, and claw our way for each win, and b) you cannot count on the Braves losing anything with that marshmallow schedule showing its worth. (Marlins, please prove me wrong. POST. HASTE. Thxbai). As some have pointed out, this is possibly a blessing in disguise, as it means the Rockies will be unable to coast into the playoffs and have to fight for everything they get.
Looks like more heart meds are in order. I don't know how I'll ever survive this week, but I love this baseball team with everything I am and I will live and die by it.
Live, please live. It's much more interesting.