"We have a lot of veteran players and expectations. It's still early, but at the same time we've got to get it going in the right direction."
It seemed the Rockies (13-20), 1-5 on their first National League West road trip with games at San Francisco looming the next two nights, were following the right road map early Sunday. They took a 4-2 lead into the fifth inning and starter Alex White -- not dominating, but using a sinker for ground balls when he needed them -- had nine ground-ball outs with one out and one on in the fifth.
Then White (0-2) walked Tony Gwynn and Mark Ellis and seemed rattled before facing veteran Bobby Abreu, who had replaced Matt Kemp (aggravated left hamstring) after the third. Abreu knocked White out of the game with a three-run double to put the NL West-leading Dodgers ahead and on their way to improving their record to a Major Leagues-best 23-11.
"I had no problem walking Gwynn because I really felt I could get Ellis to hit the ball on the ground somewhere," White said. "The 3-1 pitch to Ellis, I really thought it was a strike. Walking him and bringing Abreu to the plate really hurt me."
Reliever Matt Reynolds issued another walk before A.J. Ellis knocked a three-run homer. Rockies pitchers issued nine of their 10 total walks from the fifth inning to game's end. Josh Roenicke gave up a run and walked two in the seventh and Esmil Rogers, who is about to pitch himself to Triple-A Colorado Springs, walked three in the Dodgers' two-run eighth.
"Embarrassing ... there's not a whole lot else to say," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "You walk nine guys from the fifth inning on, I don't care where you're playing, you're gonna lose. There's no way of saying it nicely. That's awful."
All this happened on a day when the Rockies scored five runs, four earned, in 6 1/3 innings against their tormentor, left-hander Ted Lilly (5-0). But because of the latest in a run of disjointed performances, where hitting and pitching are rarely good at the same time, Lilly improved his career record against the Rockies to 10-2.
Marco Scutaro, Tyler Colvn, Carlos Gonzalez and Michael Cuddyer opened the game with consecutive singles and the Rockies scored three first-inning runs.
The Rockies scratched out a costly run in the fourth. Dexter Fowler walked with one out. White tried to bunt him to second, but catcher A.J. Ellis' throw hit Fowler where the bill connects with the side of the batting helmet. Fowler took third base but needed attention from Rockies head athletic trainer Keith Dugger. Fowler scored on Scutaro's single but was suffering from blurred vision and the Rockies removed him.
Lilly also was helped by a diving Gwynn catch in center that robbed Gonzalez to open the fifth, and was more a passenger than a driver.
"I'm glad we came back today, and I'm enjoying the way we swung the bats," Lilly said. "We played some great 'D' and Tony made one of the best catches I've ever seen. As far as my job, I'm going to enjoy today and then I've got St. Louis."
Especially upsetting for Tracy was the way White unraveled. He threw 6 1/3 strong innings Tuesday in a loss to San Diego, his first since being called up from Triple-A, but spent the early innings pitching from behind in the count, then paid for the fifth-inning walks.
"He was completely the opposite of where he was at with his start on Tuesday," Tracy said.
White and left-hander Christian Friedrich, who will make his second Major League start Monday against the Giants, plus Juan Nicasio, who held the Dodgers to one run in seven innings of Saturday night's 2-1 loss, had the Rockies encouraged about their young pitching. White will need to rebound and the others will have to maintain to keep that positive feeling going.
The Rockies also like their late bullpen, but have had little use for closer Rafael Betancourt (6-for-7 on save chances) lately. They may have no use for Rogers, who has given up nine earned runs in his last four appearances after some encouraging work previously.
But the Rockies insist they'll find their way.
"It's a hard time that every team goes through," Cuddyer said. "The Dodgers will at some point, the Rangers will. Unfortunately, we're going through it right now. The only thing you can do is keep playing the game hard, trying to compete and fight out of it."