Rockies bullpen melts down in loss

Rockies bullpen melts down in loss

Rockies bullpen melts down in loss
DENVER -- For the dwindling numbers that are sad about the demise of the soap opera, Thursday afternoon's D-backs-Rockies game was a good fix.

Rockies pitchers walked nine, yet expected to win and almost did. The D-backs walked in two runs, and gave away a run on an error in between -- in the eighth -- and did win, 9-7, at Coors Field in front of 32,035 to gain a split of a two-game series.

No soap opera is complete without the dashing leading man who can rise above the craziness. That was Justin Upton, whose two-run homer in the top of the ninth off of Rafael Betancourt (1-1) gave the D-backs a lead. The lead wasn't safe; the Rockies loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the ninth, yet didn't score.

For comic relief, a large pile of bees descended on the rail of the protective fencing at the end of the Rockies' dugout. The game was delayed a few minutes, then continued with players and umpires casting a wary eye, until a beekeeper removed the bees with a vacuum a couple of innings later.

Most daytime dramas can't be confused with high-brow entertainment. You can enjoy it, but it's not popular to admit it.

"Everything possible that was bad about baseball was out there today at some point in time," Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said. "I've never seen bees like that."

Actually, that's a warmed-over story. On a few occasions during Spring Training at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, shared by the Rockies and the D-backs, games were delayed by similar mounds of bees.

Rockies manager Jim Tracy hates the continuing story of walks. The Rockies, who entered Thursday trailing only the Padres and Reds, have walked 143 and have a 5.00 ERA going into a three-game Interleague Play series with the Mariners starting Friday night.

"We can't pitch any worse than that," Tracy said.

The Rockies (15-22) had won two straight and were hoping to move forward after a long stretch in which the pitchers have struggled at home and the hitters have faltered on the road. A repeat of the pattern allowed the D-backs (17-22) to win for just the fourth time in 17 games.

At least Rockies hitters and pitchers can't play the blame game.

"We feel each other's pain," Tulowitzki said. "You've got to have each other's back."

Carlos Gonzalez added, "You always expect your pitchers to get the job done and keep the lead. It's frustrating, but there's nothing we can do about it. We just need to concentrate on our jobs."

On Thursday, Tulowitzki's two-run homer in the first inning -- his fourth of the season but first in 67 at-bats -- was part of a 3-0 lead the Rockies gave starter Juan Nicasio. But partly because being hit on the right hip by a line drive by the game's second batter cost him his push-off ability, Nicasio walked five, threw strikes on just 57 of his 106 pitches, and was gone after 4 2/3 innings.

Nicasio also admitted he couldn't help but think of last Aug. 5, when the Nationals Ian Desmond hit him in the face with a line drive. Nicasio suffered a broken neck when he tumbled to the mound. This time, he just never found his control.

"You throw 100-something pitches in four innings, it's bad," Nicasio said.

Jordan Pacheco made it 4-1 with his fifth-inning homer off of D-backs starter Trevor Cahill, but the Rockies' bullpen would pitch every bit as badly as Nicasio.

Josh Outman struck out Miguel Montero to end the fifth, but walked a hitter in the sixth and saw him score. Matt Belisle gave up a run on four hits and a walk.

Rex Brothers (two hits, two walks -- one intentional, and four runs) and Esmil Rogers (RBI singles to two of the three batters he faced) were victims of a four-run eighth that gave the D-backs a 7-4 lead. Brothers and Rogers entered the season expected to fill key roles, but both have been wild and hittable far too often.

"I scratched out everybody but one guy in our bullpen and created matchups for every single guy," Tracy said.

The D-backs let the Rockies tie it in the eighth on bases-loaded walks to Dexter Fowler and Marco Scutaro by reliever David Hernandez, with a bases-loaded error on third baseman Ryan Roberts in between.

"We keep battling; it shows the character of the team," said Fowler, who had an RBI triple and walked twice, and has raised his batting average from .219 to .248 and his slugging percentage from .406 to .475 in the last two games.

Upton's homer, his fourth of the year, gave the Rockies a richly deserved result. Betancourt (1-1) gave up a Gerardo Parra double with one out, struck out Willie Bloomquist, then watched his 1-2 pitch to Upton sail over the right-field scoreboard.

"We are creating so many ridiculous situations for ourselves," Tracy said. "Bad two-strike pitches, walks, opportunities for singles to produce runs.

"We should have won it, in a much better fashion than the drama and theatre that built up as we went on."

D-backs closer J.J. Putz (four saves) gave up hits to Gonzalez, Tulowitzki and Todd Helton to open the ninth. With the Rockies out of position players, Tracy sent up pitcher Alex White, who looked at a 3-2 strike under orders not to swing to avoid the double play. But Ramon Hernandez grounded to Roberts, who started a game-ending double play.

"It's not the way you draw it up, but I made a big pitch when I needed to, and 'Ryno' did a great job sticking with that," Putz said.

Winning pitcher Brad Ziegler (2-1) forced Wilin Rosario to line to a sliding Upton in right on the first pitch to end the Rockies' eighth with the bases loaded.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.