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Double-digit runs not enough for Rox vs. Braves

DENVER -- Manager Walt Weiss would rather not get colorful at summing up an evening gone wrong. But that's where the season is at this point.

"We picked the wrong night to score 10," Weiss said after starter Juan Nicasio gave up 10 in 3 2/3 innings in the Rockies' 13-10 loss to the Braves at Coors Field on Tuesday night.

It's not just injuries, the news of which dominated the pregame conversation, that are hampering the Rockies -- who have lost 11 of their last 12 and 15 of their last 18. In dropping to 1-7 in what a few days ago was thought to be a promising 10-game homestand, they have fallen into a classic pattern of a team that's always doing something just poorly enough to lose.

In three of the losses, the Rockies scored eight, seven and now 10 runs. In two games they gave up four runs and three, which usually is enough at Coors, but not these days, with a depleted lineup and no sense of timing.

"One day we hit, one day we don't hit," said catcher Wilin Rosario, who homered and drove in two runs. "One day the pitching is there, one day it's not. Today we hit, but our pitching wasn't there. We've just got to keep fighting and be positive."

Fight and a positive attitude were both tested when Nicasio (5-5) pitched the Rockies into a seven-run hole in the first inning.

"[His] pitches were staying on one plane for too long, catching a lot of plate," Weiss said.

The big hit was Andrelton Simmons' grand slam, but the most talked-about near-hit was a line drive from Justin Upton that narrowly missed Nicasio's head but instead hit his glove and landed for a single.

On Aug. 5, 2011, Nicasio was nearly killed when a liner from the Nationals' Ian Desmond hit him in the right temple and he suffered a broken neck and facial fractures. After Upton's near miss, Nicasio appeared to flinch as Evan Gattis drove the next pitch for a single to load the bases with one out.

"The ball did not hit me -- it hit the glove," said Nicasio, whose ERA climbed by more than a run, to 5.70. "It's nothing. I tried to come back and fight."

The way the inning spun out of control, Weiss wasn't sure. The runs and the three homers Nicasio gave up were career highs, and the 11 hits matched a season high.

"He said he was OK, but I would guess it probably shook him," Weiss said.

Said Rosario: "He's tough. I think he was a little bit intimidated. I know he got in command and tried to keep throwing strikes. [But] he almost died a few years ago with a line drive."

Still, Weiss felt he had to stay with Nicasio with the bullpen struggling.

Tommy Kahnle threw a solid 1 1/3 innings after Nicasio exited following homers by Freddie Freeman (his 11th in 27 career games against the Rockies) and Gattis (whose 11-game hit streak started against the Rockies in Atlanta).

But righty reliever Chad Bettis, in his return appearance after five mostly dominant weeks at Triple-A Colorado Springs, coughed up three runs in the sixth on four hits, a walk and a wild pitch. Bettis' Major League ERA is 10.05.

"It's no secret - any time a pitcher gets hit, that's what it's going to be -- too much plate and balls not moving down to the bottom of the zone," Weiss said.

The subpar pitching from Nicasio and Bettis undermined a gritty offensive effort.

On the day Carlos Gonzalez underwent surgery on his troublesome left index finger and the team decided to put right fielder Michael Cuddyer's fractured left shoulder in a sling in hopes he could return by late August, the Rockies reached double figures on hits, with 13.

With those injuries -- not to mention having two counted-upon starting pitchers (Brett Anderson and Tyler Chatwood), their best starting pitching prospect (Eddie Butler) and a key lefty veteran reliever (Boone Logan) all on the disabled list -- this year is taking the form of last, when a good start was followed by injuries and a 74-88 finish.

What may seem unusual really isn't.

"There's been plenty of times when there have been a lot of injuries, and most of the time it's been me," said shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who has stayed healthy but has an ever-changing team he has to carry. "I keep on trying to remind those guys, hey, it could be me.

"If you go up to those guys that are hurt, they'd say they'd love to be out there."

The Rockies scored eight runs on 11 hits, including Rosario's fourth-inning solo shot, in four innings against Braves starter Mike Minor.

"They have a good lineup, and they made me pay," Minor said.

RBI singles in the fifth by DJ LeMahieu (off Minor) and Corey Dickerson (2-for-3, two walks, two runs) off reliever David Hale (2-0) cut the difference to two runs before Bettis' rough innings.

Sacrifice flies by Ryan Wheeler in the seventh and Justin Morneau in the eighth cut the Rockies' deficit to three runs, and at one point they had the bases loaded with no outs. But Braves reliever Shae Simmons fanned Josh Rutledge (3-for-4 with a triple) with the potential tying run at the plate to end the frame, and Craig Kimbrel (18 saves) struck out all three hitters in the ninth.

"I don't care how we do it, whether we score two or 12 -- the bottom line is to get Ws, and we haven't been able to do it," Weiss said.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb.
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