Lake Wobegon Whippets fans, it pains me to report that however well the week appeared to be going (four wins in five games) it ended on another sour note. The hitting was weak, the box score looked bad, and the managing was (very) below average, all adding up to a 10-inning, 1-0 loss to the San Francisco Midgets. It definitely felt like a giant bowlful of Mournful Oatmeal (Calvinism in a box!) and the Whippets... er, pardon me, Rockies, only collected three hits, a day after they looked good, or at least competent, in amassing ten (including three home runs). While Jason Marquis looks to be the biggest steal since Florida, it's not going to help us very much if he only gets to pitch once every five days.
Needless to say, pitching issues remain paramount. On the bright side, Ubaldo finally turned in a quality start. On the downside, it was against the terminally inept Giants offence, which can't really be counted as major league competition. It's a knock against our own bats that the Giants scored 5 runs in 3 games... and we still lost 2 of 3. One can tip one's hat to the Giants' very good pitching staff, as that's what keeps them in ballgames, but it isn't as if we were facing the cream of the crop -- we gave Randy Johnson only his second good start since he pwned the Dbacks, bewilderingly managed to win the game started by Matt Cain (the best pitcher we faced) and then went as limp as overcooked spaghetti against Barry Zito. I mean, we didn't even have to face Tiny Tim, people. Hat tipping is all well and good, but at some point, one must leave off doffing one's chapeau and take a look at the underlying issues, which are still legion.
Are we a 9-14 team? Hard to say. Pythag records are all well and good for comfort, but unfortunately we can't use it to replace what's already up there in the standings. The managing is questionable (at the very least), Atkins simply cannot hit with RISP to save his life, Tulo, despite occasional jolts on the monitor, remains essentially flatlined, Manny Corpas is a ghost of a phantom of his 2007 self and had no business being in the ballgame today, our bullpen in general is a case of pick-your-poison (although Street's resurgence, if it's for real, would be really damn nice), and our abysmal performance in the late innings, and in the much lamented one-run games, simply has to change if we're going to be talking seriously about wild-card berths, much less divisional titles.
I'm not advocating packing it in by any means -- as any baseball player will helpfully remind you, "it's a long season and we've got to play them one day at a time." I also think that as the weather warms up, the guys will follow their typical pattern of doing likewise. Yet why, oh why, does it take them so long to get going? Is it due to Hurdle's incessant tinkering, a lapse in preparation, plain bad luck (you know, I would have been PERFECTLY OKAY with Renteria failing to get to some of those balls) or what? It's difficult trying to prescribe a solution to the problem when there are so many little pieces out of whack.
All, however, is not lost. Jason Hammel turned in six sparkling innings today, working out of a bases-loaded jam to preserve the scoreless tie, and the day before, Jason Marquis continued his surprising season by outduelling Matt Cain for a complete-game victory (although Pablo Sandoval had to spoil his attempt for a shutout with a leadoff homer in the ninth inning) and, as mentioned, Ubaldo managed to have a good outing as well. (However, the only one exempt from the "Well-it-IS-the-Giants" caveat is Marquis, who is doing his valiant best to make Rockies Nation spilly him very, very much). Even Matt Belisle may not inspire automatic fear and loathing whenever he gets into the ballgame (I know, I know, it's a stretch). But they're just not putting the right combinations together -- they get a good start and they fail to match it with good hitting, or they get a few runs and then the bullpen steps in to send it all to pot. Let's just say this team is lacking CLUTCH, and GRITTINESS, and LATE-INNING FIREWORKS. Also, SUCCESS.
(Needs more David Eckstein. Clearly).
In another of the nice problems to have, Ryan Spilborghs, Dexter Fowler, Seth Smith, and Brad Hawpe are busy scuffling to see which is the most talented starting threesome. (No mud fights that I'm aware of). Spilly pretty much won the game for us against Cain, Dexter is, well, Dexter, Seth has the highest OPS on the team, and Brad has been able to step right back in after his scary neck injury. It's a good mix to have, but some of the dead weight in the infield is weighing down their contributions.
The Toddfather is heating up, but Barmes anywhere not Coors, a slumping Stewart, a hapless Atkins, and a still-somnolent Tulowitzki are the recipe for a lot of black holes in a team that is far from clicking on all cylinders. Some of the frost may get rasped off with a few more revolutions, but the machinery is creaky and we can't find the WD-40 just at the moment. Most Rowbots, and the numbers, maintain that eventually our trajectory has to straighten out, but another bad May is exactly what we don't need. Make something good happen, guys. That's my scintillating advice.
Next up: A two-game set at Petco, before it's back home to play... the Giants. What a quinkydink.
This Rockies Review brought to you by Powdermilk Biscuits, made from whole wheat raised in the rich bottomlands of the Lake Wobegon river valley by Norwegian bachelor farmers, so you know they're not only good for you, but pure ... mostly. Maybe they'll give the Rockies the strength to stand up and do what needs to be done. Heavens it would be nice if they'd be expeditious at winning.