The Colorado Rockies find themselves in a familiar position. They're down by three runs late, but they've managed to load the bases. There are no outs, and one of the Rockies' All-Star players and top hitters is stepping up to the plate. The opposing pitcher, Luis Garcia of the Philadelphia Phillies, has walked two of the three batters he's faced and has thrown just three strikes compared to 10 balls.
Colorado has a chance to do something that it has had trouble doing over the past few months: mount a significant rally on the road.
Then, an at-bat that exemplifies the team's struggles over the past few years happens.
Michael Cuddyer looked at a first-pitch slider, which is fine, but then proceeded to flail at two more out of the zone, posting an out on the scoreboard without even putting the ball in play, much less getting a runner home.
Wilin Rosario wound up plating a pair of runs with a one-out single in the next at-bat to pull the Rox to within a run, but the damage could have been much more extensive had Cuddyer -- and later, Todd Helton -- would have been able to last more than three pitches in the batter's box.
I'll give Helton a pass here; he was tagged with the tough task of facing Jake Diekman, who boasts an upper-90s fastball and was facing the Toddfather left-on-left. However, there is no excuse for Cuddyer's at-bat; his lack of patience can be classified as a mistake you might see out of a rookie like Nolan Arenado, not a grizzled veteran of Cuddyer's caliber.
Leadership is more than being a rah-rah guy in the clubhouse. It's about leading by example, and hacking away at a pair of pitches way out of the strike zone delivered by a guy who had no idea where he was throwing the ball in the previous three at-bats is far from setting the right example for one's teammates.
The Rockies lost the game, 5-4, and fell to 1-3 on the road trip. I'll give them some credit; for the second straight day, they clawed back into a game after falling behind early. However, Colorado is going to have a hard time getting to the next level if it can't find a way to get over the hump in those sort of contests.
Also, speaking of Helton, we wish the old man a Happy 40th. Regardless of his struggles last night and the last couple of seasons in general, we'll always love him.
Our old friend Jack Etkin has a wonderful read on Helton for Sports on Earth. A great quote from Todd:
"There's some days I stink up the field. I know it doesn't show in my face sometimes, but I'm like, 'Man, this is still fun.' And there's some days it's not like that either, don't get me wrong. There's some days I'm like, 'This game can stick it up its own ass.'"