The Rockies have a lot to prove on this road trip. They have to prove that their early-season offensive explosion wasn’t a fluke. They have to prove that they can win on the road as well as at home. And they have to prove that a brutal May road trip against teams that are notoriously tough for them to beat does not have to be a season-killer. As Purple Row’s Kevin Minor convincingly argues, the series at Turner Field has historically been a deciding one in terms of how the rest of the season unfolds. The Rockies dropped that series, which made the Philadelphia one that much more critical. And instead of going out and making a statement about what this season really means, the Rockies limped right up to the very end, capping off a 20-inning scoreless streak. Pitiful.
There’s good news in Jhoulys Chacin‘s performance, which was better than anything we’ve seen from him since coming off the DL a few weeks ago. Numbers-wise it doesn’t look that way, because of a belt-high changeup that Ryan Howard crushed into center field in the 6th. Before that, though, Chacin was hitting his spots and managing his traffic, only slipping up when he threw three wild pitches in the space of two batters. Part of the problem there was, as usual, Wilin Rosario, who can’t block a pitch that isn’t thrown right at him. You could tell that Chacin was frustrated. Mostly, he was probably annoyed with his anemic offense, who couldn’t spot him a run or two.
Things really fell apart once the bullpen took over in the 6th. Tommy Kahnle was good, as usual, finishing off that inning, despite Troy Tulowitzki‘s first error of the season leading to an extra base. Nick Masset came on in the 7th and put 2 runners on. He left with 1 out to be replaced by Rex Brothers. I like that Walt Weiss clearly believes in Brothers and wants to keep giving him chances to figure things out. And this was probably as good an opportunity as any, since the Rockies were already down 4-0 and the bats were showing no signs that they intended to come to life. But even in such a low-leverage situation, Brothers was bad. He gave up an RBI double, a 2-run single, and then a 2-run home run to John Mayberry. Mayberry is now hitting .220 and was hitting .200 before he lined Brothers’s 93-mph fastball into the stands. Maybe if it had been 97 mph, Mayberry would have swung and missed. Adam Ottavino turned in a perfect 8th, but by then it was too late.
Offensively, as I’ve mentioned, the Rockies were DOA. The Phillies started Kyle Kendrick, who has been right at or just below replacement level in nearly all his major league seasons. He is not a lights-out pitcher. I really thought the Rockies would have him figured out by their second time through the lineup. But no. The only time they came close was in the 6th when Tulo led off with a single and Carlos Gonzalez followed with a walk. Rosario struck out in one of the team’s worst at-bats, and then Justin Morneau grounded out to advance both runners. Josh Rutledge finished off the inning with a weak pop-up into foul territory along the first base side. The team left nine men on base total, and they were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position. To be fair, there were some hard luck moments. It started with Michael Cuddyer hitting a hard liner into the glove of Jimmy Rollins with nobody out and a running Charlie Blackmon halfway between first and second in the 1st inning. But you can only blame bad luck for so much.
Here’s what scares me. We’ve seen this before. We’ve seen it in just about every May of this team’s existence. Yes, I understand that every team gets stymied a time or two in the season. And perhaps the Phillies were itching to make up for yesterday’s no-hitter. But this marks back-to-back complete embarrassments, and there is no logical explanation. The bats looked dead. The pitching was fine and then bad. It was just situation normal for what we’ve come to expect from the Rockies. I still think they finish this season with a better record than any of the last several. But they are sinking slowly down through the power rankings, and the window of time to fix that is closing.