Of all of the holes the Rockies have (and there are a lot), one of the biggest is the defensive black hole behind the plate. That weakness came back to haunt Colorado again on Friday in its 3-2 loss to the Brewers in Milwaukee.
Wilin Rosario, who is the target of most of the negativity surrounding the Rockies' catching situation, was benched on Friday because of a sore lower back. That left Michael McKenry -- the guy who entered the game having thrown out precisely zero of 14 attempted base stealers this season -- behind the plate, and as is often the case with his fellow purple-clad backstop, things didn't go so well.
McKenry whiffed on a Matt Belisle breaking ball in a key situation in the bottom of the ninth, turning a potential double play scenario into one in which the Brewers had two runners in scoring position with only one out. Belisle was able to punch out Rickie Weeks for the second out, but Ryan Braun's sharp liner to center field easily plated Mark Reynolds, who in all probability would not have scored if he hadn't advanced on the brainless passed ball.
It's just one more notch on the headboard for those who feel the Rockies haven't done a good enough job compiling talent. Though McKenry had a couple of hits to raise his average to .327, he's really poor behind the plate, and it doesn't mesh well with the Rockies' pre-season strategy -- and it was a good one -- of focusing on run prevention. DJ LeMahieu isn't great with the bat, but damn if he isn't one of the best defensive second basemen in the league. Nolan Arenado's bat wasn't expected to be great. Brandon Barnes and Drew Stubbs are hugely valuable outfielders, whether they're simply used as bench depth or otherwise. But the catching situation? Yuck.
And that's to say nothing of the bullpen, which again failed to keep the opposing team off the board. Colorado's relief unit has been a problem for most of the season, and it's an issue that only manifests itself when the starting pitcher is pulled after throwing only 83 pitches. Tyler Matzek was excellent tonight, and he deserved a much better result than a no-decision. Such is life in baseball, but it sucks to know that he performed so well and wasn't given the opportunity to finish what he started.
It should be noted that my annoyance with Matzek being lifted prematurely is not directed at Walt Weiss, but is actually directed at the offense's overall lack of big hits. They went 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position, and perhaps one more hit would have made it so Matzek could have gone another frame or two. Again, not Weiss' fault, especially because the Rockies scored on an extremely well-executed bunt by Brandon Barnes, who was the pinch hitter for Matzek.
Weiss is also probably going to get some flak for not choosing to walk Braun with first base empty in the ninth inning, but Jonathan Lucroy is probably going to be an All-Star largely due in part to his bat, so that's not something for which Weiss should receive too much blame. McKenry deserves a ton of the finger-pointing, though Belisle isn't completely off the hook due to the fact that he missed badly on the decisive pitch to Braun.
The worst part about all of this -- well, aside from the fact that the Rockies have now lost 10 of their last 11 games -- is that the offense finally did come up with a big hit. With one out in the top of the ninth, Josh Rutledge homered off of Brewers closer Francisco Rodriguez, who blew just his third save in 29 chances, to force a 2-2 tie. Rutledge was terrific at the plate, going 3-for-4 and falling a triple short of the cycle.
I'll end the rant here. I need a drink.
The Rockies will try to avoid losing yet another series when they send Jhoulys Chacin to the mound to face Matt Garza.
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