It was another sad night for the Colorado Rockies as they lost again, this time 2-1 in 11 innings to the Los Angeles Angels. Rockies starter Jordan Lyles was forced to leave the game after being hit in the hand by a line drive in the first inning, but the club still got a strong pitching performance, particularly from long reliever Christian Bergman who allowed just one run on three hits and no walks in 5⅓ innings. It's being reported that Lyles has no fractures in his hand and he was seen in the dugout late in the game without any kind of wrap on. Instead, it was a continuation of a troubling trend for an offense that managed just one run that was the team's downfall in this one.
Angels starting pitcher Hector Santiago came into the game tonight averaging 4.63 BB/9 and had been described as "effectively wild" by scouts. Seems like just the guy the Rockies needed to help them solve their offensive woes, doesn't it? Unfortunately, it was not to be, as the Rockies offense struck out 14 times and failed to draw a single walk against Santiago or any of the five Angels relievers they would face in the game. The performance will drop the Rockies even further behind the rest of the NL in both BB% and BB/K, both areas in which the Rockies were already the worst in the league.
On the plus side, the Rockies were able to manage 10 hits in the ball game. Typically, 10 hits in a game will yield more than one run, but nine out of the 10 hits came with two outs, nine of the 10 hits were singles, and there were no walks on base in front of the hits that could come around to score on them. The team was close to scoring a second run in the 11th inning after Carlos Gonzalez singled and advanced to third on two wild pitches. He tried to score on a shallow fly ball from Daniel Descalso but was thrown out at the plate by Mike Trout. Gonzalez was initially called safe before a review correctly overturned the call.
The team-wide lack of plate discipline is probably not a problem that is easily solved. Players like Gonzalez, Nolan Arenado, Corey Dickerson, DJ LeMahieu, and Wilin Rosario are guys who have made their living as aggressive hitters who look to put the ball in play and make up a large portion of the team's PA. It's difficult to ask guys like that to completely rework the approach that got them to the big leagues and that they have likely been using their entire lives. To make matters worse, Troy Tulowitzki has seen his BB% completely fall off the table. In 2014, he walked in 13.3% of his PA, the sixth best mark in the National League (min. 350 PA). So far in 2015, that mark has plummeted to just 1.8%, the worst mark in the National League.
The long-term solution to this issue is probably a matter of roster construction that surrounds players like Arenado and Dickerson with more patient hitters who can and will draw walks. This would not only have the obvious benefit of getting more people on base via the walk, it would also diversify the types of hitters that opposing pitchers have to face. In the here and now, the club really only has a few things it can do. The first, and possibly the most obvious, is to attempt to figure out what's ailing Tulo and get him back to a place where he's drawing walks with regularity. Beyond that, they can try to help the more aggressive hitters better define their strike zones without compromising who they are at the plate.
The Rockies now get ready for four games in Dodger Stadium which, to put it kindly, has not been a fun place for them to visit. If they keep on playing they way they've played for the last two and a half weeks, it could be an ugly series. But hey, baseball is weird. Sometimes good things happen when you least expect it.
-- Manager Walt Weiss underwent an emergency appendectomy before the game this evening. Bench coach Tom Runnells will run the team until Weiss is ready to return.
-- First baseman Justin Morneau left the game as a precaution in the eighth inning after feeling dizzy diving for a ball.
-- Jordan Lyles left the game after one inning with a bruised hand after being hit by a line drive off the bat of Albert Pujols. No word yet on his status for his next scheduled start.