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Breaking the Vice

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While comparisons to last year's April trip to San Diego might leave Rockies fans optimistic about our chances at Petco, I think a look at the sweep we suffered at the hands of the Padres last September 4-6 is more beneficial, as outside of Willy Taveras, we used essentially the same team as we have now against them. And while their starters might be different, with San Diego, the starting pitching isn't what you worry about. A recap of what happened after the Padres starters were pulled from our last visit:

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Game 1: The Rockies had to feel optimistic leading 5-3 in the sixth inning when Woody Williams was pulled. Troy Tulowitzki homered and Matt Holliday had doubled in two runs just the frame before to chase Williams, and now the Rox wouldn't be facing the deadly trio of Cla Meredith, Scott Linebrink and Trevor Hoffman if they could just maintain or build on the lead. Of course, against Jon Atkins, Doug Brocail, and Rudy Seanez, the Rox managed just one hit (a Tulo single) in 13 AB's with 5 K's registered. The Padres's Josh Barfield hit a three run homer with one out in the bottom of the ninth off Brian Fuentes to complete the comeback, seven to five victory.

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Game 2: Same situation, only reversed. Jeff Francis would leave with the Pods up five to three in the sixth, but the Rockies' comeback attempt would fall short. The Rox had chased Chris Young with nobody out in the top half of the frame after a Yorvit Torrealba solo homerun tied things at three. Meredith came in and dominated, allowing one hit in two innings with three K's. Linebrink followed in the eighth and the Rockies were able to get runners on the corners with one out thanks to a Hawpe walk and Spilborghs single, but after Vinny Castilla drove Hawpe in with a single, the rally died on a Kaz flyout to center. The ninth brought three weak stabs at Hoffman, Padres win, 5-4.

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Game 3: One of Jason Jennings' best starts of the season was matched by Clay Hensley blow for blow. Both starters left after seven innings with the score tied at zero. Both pens continued the hammer lock for three more, until finally in the eleventh a Paul McAnulty homerun to dead center off Nate Field with Todd Walker aboard gives the Padres a two to nothing win. This is painful to bring back, but look again what happened in the top of the ninth:

Top of the 9th, Rockies Batting, Tied 0-0, Trevor Hoffman facing 4-5-6
Trevor Hoffman replaces Scott Linebrink pitching and batting 9th
5  M Holliday      Single to CF (Ground Ball)
1  B Hawpe         Double to CF (Line Drive); Holliday to 3B
6  T Tulowitzki    Strikeout Swinging
Cory Sullivan pinch hits for Ryan Spilborghs batting 7th
4  C Sullivan      Intentional Walk
8  C Iannetta      Strikeout Looking
Yorvit Torrealba pinch hits for Jeremy Affeldt batting 9th
5  Y Torrealba     Strikeout Swinging
0 runs, 2 hits, 0 errors, 3 LOB. Rockies 0, Padres 0.

Runners at second and third with nobody out and the wily veteran, potential Hall of Fame closer K's our two promising rookies and Torrealba to escape unscathed. That W could have meant the difference between tied for fourth and third by ourselves in the division last season.

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In all, against Padres relievers that series our offense went 9 for 44 with three walks, thirteen K's and a run scored. Hawpe's double was the only extra base hit registered. So starting tonight, one of the signs of promise that I'm looking for on the season is how the Rockies fare against the top bullpens of the division there in San Diego and Los Angeles. If we've taken a step forward, I'd expect it to register in our ability to put up scores late in the ballgames this series. If not, we could be in for another long season.