Stranded runners, pitching woes sink Rockies

Stranded runners, pitching woes sink Rockies

Stranded runners, pitching woes sink Rockies
DENVER -- As the Rockies struggled to avoid being swept for the second time in their last three series, the club played a competitive game with the Giants for six innings Sunday, keeping within reach thanks to an improved pitching performance early in the game. Closing the gap was not enough to stave off defeat, however, and the Rockies lost, 8-3, leaving them an alarming 1-8 in their last nine home games, their worst record in franchise history for a three-team homestand.

Most everything about the Rockies' season is going in the wrong direction for the team. They came home with a .358 winning percentage, on pace to lose 100 games. After nine days at Coors Field, they've dropped 23 percentage points, and a team that's never lost more than 95 games in a season is now on pace to lose 104.

"If we're going to lose 100 games, it's because we're not playing really good baseball and it's meant to be that way," Carlos Gonzalez said. "We're just not playing good."

Starting pitcher Tyler Chatwood, who was called up from Double-A Tulsa earlier in the day, battled his control, but allowed only one earned run in 3 1/3 innings. A first-inning error when third baseman Jordan Pacheco bobbled a potential double-play grounder from Ryan Theriot accounted for a pair of unearned runs in the first frame, giving San Francisco the lead it would never relinquish.

"The first inning, I just was not in the zone very much at all," Chatwood said. "The second inning [started with] those two hits, and after that I thought I came back and got in the zone a little better and got out of that. And then the fourth inning, again I was too erratic in the zone and it drove my pitch count up to the 75-pitch limit. I just have to work on being more efficient."

Chatwood gave up one more run in the top of the fourth after walking Marco Scutaro and Hector Sanchez to open the inning. He issued four free passes on the day, bringing his pitch total to 76 before the fourth inning was over and prompting manager Jim Tracy's move to the bullpen under his four-man rotation, 75-pitch approach.

Carlos Torres kept it close, allowing one more run in his 2 2/3-inning piggyback performance behind the starter, but the ultimate five-run margin of defeat only highlighted the difficulty in winning nine-inning games with a team currently composed for about six innings of competitive play.

"We stranded 13 runners and we were unable to take advantage of nine base on balls that they surrendered," Tracy said. "We left people out there today, no question about it."

With the Rockies scoring five or more runs in five of their last nine games while only winning once -- when they scored eight -- it's the lineup that is feeling increasingly left out there.

"If you don't pitch decent in this ballpark, you're not going to have a chance to win," Gonzalez said. "Even when we score five runs, six runs, over six runs and we don't get the win, it's because that's the biggest issue. That's the key for us. If we pitch, we're going to win, because we have the ability to score runs."

The Rockies got an early run off Tim Lincecum when Todd Helton doubled in the first inning and later scored on Pacheco's single up the middle. Despite walking his second batter of the inning to load the bases, Lincecum escaped the jam with a Wilin Rosario fly to right.

"We had Timmy on the ropes in the first inning," Tracy said. "Actually, they had bullpen activity in the first inning. I personally feel that we were one swing away from having him out of the game in the first inning."

Lincecum matched his season high with five walks, always a recipe for disaster at Coors Field, yet he finished with his seventh game allowing just one run or less, leaving the Rockies little time to mount a comeback.

"I'll be honest -- that's a big first inning," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Lincecum's outing. "I didn't know how much we were going to get out of him. He saved us by regrouping. That was impressive."

In the top of the seventh, Matt Belisle climbed the hill and gave up three runs on four hits to double the Giants' lead.

"It went from 4-1 to 7-1," Tracy noted. "With nine outs to go, that's a heck of a hill to have to climb."

The Rockies were poised to answer with a big bottom of the seventh inning, loading the bases with one out before Sergio Romo came in and struck out pinch-hitter Matt McBride and Rosario with seven pitches -- all sliders, all strikes -- to end the threat.

"There were opportunities for us offensively; there were baserunners out there," Tracy said. "But the big hit that would have changed their entire day from a pitching standpoint and could have changed our entire day, we weren't able to get that."

While Tracy and the front office have admittedly turned their attention to next season, Gonzalez is determined to see better play from a club that has something important to play for.

"You've got to make that effort and play better baseball so we can feel good about ourselves and think about it next season," Gonzalez said. "Send a message to the league so we can get going and have that feeling during the offseason and come back next year in Spring Training with a good attitude. Don't feel down and feel like you just played the worst baseball ever."

Owen Perkins is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.