Another AL West team bites the dust
Position: T-2nd NL West
Games Back: 1.5
Elimination Number: 84
For those of you not sold on Jorge Piedra, I'd like to use this series to cite specific examples.
In Game 1, after the lead was blown by the bullpen, Piedra knocked a first pitch of F. Rodriguez to bring the Rockies within 1.
Game 2, Piedra went 2-5 with a run and an RBI.
Game 3, after the lead was blown, the Rockies squeaked one more run out of Garrett Atkins before getting the bases loaded on a walk to Brad Hawpe. Piedra then came up and pounded one into deep right center, one of the notorious power lanes at Angel Stadium, clearing the bases and solidifying the Rockies' position with a 4-run lead.
As exciting of a win as this was, the Rockies again failed to provide Jeff Francis with any run support. The Rox had 2 runs going into the top of the seventh, where Francis found himself with 2 outs, a runner on 2nd, and a struggling Vlad Guerrero at the plate. Hurdle, trusting a pitch count of 112 rather than his young southpaw's ability to get himself out of this jam so late in the game, turned to Ramon Ramirez to get the final out.
Now, if you read my additional note from yesterday, you'll see my problem with this situation. To quote,
"...Ramon Ramirez, who will either strike/pop out the next batter, or give up a single. Ramirez seems like the type of pitcher who needs an inning to himself, so he can give up that single and then work around it without letting runs in."
So while the Rockies ended up with the lead and the win, which is the most important thing in a division so tight, the Rockies failed to produce early for Francis, who pitched 6.2 innings of 1-run ball in this winning effort with nothing to show for it.
Hurdle, in my humble opinion, should have turned to David Cortes or Tom Martin, neither of whom have had much playing time lately. (Martin has not given up a run since June 3rd against the Marlins.) Hurdle has been overly reliant on Mesa and Ramirez of late, which I think is starting to show with their sub-par performances. Mesa pitched well last night, yes, and Ramirez by himself hasn't really given up any runs, but with such an excellent bullpen, Hurdle is going to have to start using all of his options, or else the pen is going to start getting rusty.
Friday, the Rockies will start their closing series of interleague play against the Seattle Mariners, where Josh Fogg (5-5, 5.08) will try and start things off right against Jamie Moyer (5-6, 3.51). Seattle has been playing excellent ball as of late, taking 8 of 10 against the NL West.
Basically, the Rockies and Mariners have been playing equally well against each other's divisions. The Mariners swept the Giants, took 2 of 3 from the Dodgers, Padres, and are about to do the same tonight against the struggling Diamondbacks. Meanwhile, the Rockies swept the Blue Jays (not AL West, but sweeping an AL East team? I'll take it.), took 2 of 3 from the Angels, Rangers, and Athletics. All the interleague steam will have built up for both of these teams, and when they collide, it'll either be some great baseball...or a trainwreck.
Some players the Rockies will have to watch out for include Ichiro, for obvious reasons. Also, Kenji Johjima, who sent 2 yard and drove in 5 on Tuesday night. Left Fielder Raul Ibanez is proving quite the threat as well this year, comprising a .288 average with 16 homers and 62 RBI.
So while many other teams may shake, quake, and collapse in the face of interleague play, the Rockies have been standing up strong and showing the AL that the NL isn't just a league of pushovers. Nuts to your moneyball play, the Rox can manufacture runs like it's going out of style (which it very well might be)!
So until next time, Rockies fans, enjoy the game on Friday, as I'll be missing the series while I'm in Houston for the weekend. But for now, I just wanna say enjoy the series, Good Luck, and GO ROCKIES!!!