Fiers unable to find rhythm in first Mile High start

Fiers unable to find rhythm in first Mile High start

Fiers unable to find rhythm in first Mile High start
DENVER -- Mike Fiers learned the same lesson Monday that was beat into another promising Brewers rookie years ago: Coors Field can be an unforgiving place to pitch.

Fiers' National League Rookie of the Year candidacy took a hit when he was subjected to the sort of beating that befell Yovani Gallardo five years ago. Fiers allowed eight runs in two-plus innings of a nightmare outing that doomed the Brewers to a 9-6 loss to the Rockies in the opener of a three-game series.

Gallardo had a similarly rough Rocky Mountain debut in 2007, when he surrendered 11 earned runs in only 2 2/3 innings.

Which begged the question: Does the aura of hitter-friendly Coors Field, however dimmed in the humidor era, seep into young pitchers' heads?

"It shouldn't," said veteran reliever Francisco Rodriguez, a bright spot for the Brewers on a bad night, "but the reality is, it does."

Said Fiers: "It's a little bit different, but it's no excuse to have a bad start like that."

Fiers insisted that his issue was not the thin air but his "terrible, all-around" pitching. He faced 15 batters and was charged with eight runs on nine hits, with two errors mixed in including Fiers' own miscue on a pickoff attempt. He was pulled from the game by Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke with the Brewers already trailing in the third inning, 6-0, with nobody out and two Rockies runners on base.

How out of character was this outing for the 27-year-old Fiers?

He surrendered more earned runs in two-plus innings -- eight -- than he had allowed in his previous 62 innings of work, spanning nine sparkling starts and one scoreless appearance in relief. Opponents had batted .188 against Fiers in that span.

Each of those previous nine starts met the definition of "quality" -- at least six innings, with three or fewer earned runs -- leaving Fiers, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, one short of a Brewers rookie record set by Cal Eldred in 1992.

On Monday, Fiers' ERA ballooned from 1.80 to a still-respectable 2.63.

"They hit everything he threw up there," Roenicke said. "They didn't miss anything."

Now the task for Fiers is to shake off this outing before he pitches against ace left-hander Cole Hamels and the Phillies on Saturday at Miller Park.

"He'll come back. He's a battler," Roenicke said.

The Rockies came out swinging. Each of Fiers' three innings began with at least two hits. The Rockies had a 1-0 lead before Fiers recorded an out thanks to Eric Young Jr.'s leadoff double and Jonathan Herrera's RBI single. Five different players logged an RBI against Fiers including All-Star left fielder Carlos Gonzalez, who had two RBIs and a run scored by the end of the third inning.

The Rockies had eight runs and 11 hits before they made their first out of the third inning. The first six Colorado hitters of that frame hit safely against Fiers and reliever Mike McClendon, who pitched for the first time in 10 days.

"I've faced [Fiers] since low-A," said Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu, who was a career-best 4-for-4. "We kind of came up together. He's gotten me and I've gotten him. I was lucky to get him today. I kind of knew what to expect today, but he also knows me."

What was the difference between Fiers' previous start -- a one-run, eight-inning gem against the NL Central-leading Reds on Tuesday -- and this one?

"Eight innings and two innings," Fiers quipped.

Meanwhile, Brewers hitters stayed quiet against Rockies left-hander Jeff Francis, who limited Milwaukee to three runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings and might have pitched deeper into the game if not for the Rockies' unusual system of limiting their pitchers to around 80 pitches.

Milwaukee didn't find its way onto the scoreboard until the fourth inning, when Aramis Ramirez hit his league-leading 38th double, advanced on a passed ball and scored on Corey Hart's groundout. Carlos Gomez made it 8-3 on a two-run home run in the sixth, and Rickie Weeks tacked on three more runs with a ninth-inning homer.

"I know it's late, but it's still nice to get six runs," Roenicke said. "Their lefty [Francis] had us baffled. Good off-speed stuff, the cutter was nice [and] in on the hands. He had us baffled."

The Brewers have lost 12 of their last 13 road games.

"Those games are going to happen," Fiers said. "I just have to put it behind me and get ready for my next start. Obviously, it wasn't anything close to a quality start, so I'm not happy about it. But there's nothing I can do about it now."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.