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Rockies pitching lacking backing from bats

MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

ST. LOUIS -- Wednesday night would have been a good time for your father's Colorado Rockies to show up.

Kyle Freeland endured 5 1/3 innings but escaped with just three runs on his ledger. But because the offense couldn't manage much against a parade of Cardinals relievers, Freeland and the Rockies ended up with a 6-3 loss at Busch Stadium.

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ST. LOUIS -- Wednesday night would have been a good time for your father's Colorado Rockies to show up.

Kyle Freeland endured 5 1/3 innings but escaped with just three runs on his ledger. But because the offense couldn't manage much against a parade of Cardinals relievers, Freeland and the Rockies ended up with a 6-3 loss at Busch Stadium.

View Full Game Coverage

It was only the Rockies' seventh loss in the last 27 games, but it did more than just prevent them from nudging into a tie for first in the National League West. It highlighted a trend of less-than-desirable offense.

Most of the Rockies' surge has been based on starting pitching. From June 19 to Tuesday's 6-3 victory over the Cards, the Rockies went 24-10 and the starters had a 3.43 ERA. The starters' home ERA in July was 1.71. And while Freeland (9-7) didn't pitch to those standards Wednesday, he struck out five and held down the damage despite nine hits and three walks.

However, the Rockies, working against struggling rookie starter Luke Weaver (two runs and five hits in 2 2/3 innings that saw him uncork 74 pitches) and a parade of Cardinals relievers, they could only muster Trevor Story's RBI single and Gerardo Parra's run-scoring double off Weaver in the third, plus a run in the ninth on Nolan Arenado's double.

Video: COL@STL: Arenado hammers an RBI double to left-center

"They brought a number of relievers in," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "Those guys sort of kept us off balance. We couldn't mount any attack against their bullpen."

In the last nine games, the offense has averaged just 3.2 runs per game. It's a testament to the pitching that the Rockies have won five.

Weaver fanned Story with runners at first and third to end the first, but couldn't make it past the third. He left with runners at second and third. It turned out the Rockies' offense also took a hiatus. Daniel Poncedeleon struck out Ryan McMahon to end the frame.

Video: COL@STL: Parra slaps an RBI double to left field

Poncedeleon shut the Rockies down for 2 1/3 innings, and the Rockies didn't manage another hit until McMahon's two-out single in the eighth.

That was not enough to help Freeland, who ran up 88 pitches through five innings but was the best option to start the sixth against the bottom of the Cardinals order. However, with one out, Harrison Bader poked an opposite-way double and scored on pinch-hitter Tyler O'Neill's single through the middle for a 3-2 deficit. Scott Oberg pitched the Rockies out of the inning.

Video: COL@STL: O'Neill gives Cards lead with RBI single

"They [the Cardinals] were patient at first, as we knew they were going to be," Freeland said. "And then once we got a little deeper in the count, that's when they started firing.

"You've just got to keep plugging away, keep attacking the zone, attacking hitters, attacking the zone, giving your team a chance to get runs and win ballgames."

Video: COL@STL: Black on Freeland, loss to Cardinals

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
One up, one still down: Games that are not likely winnable can be useful, so Black tested two relievers who have struggled in the first year of three-year, $27 million contracts -- righty Bryan Shaw and lefty Jake McGee.

Shaw gave up a leadoff Marcell Ozuna single in the seventh, but fanned two and didn't give up a run. While Shaw, who also had a wild pitch, hasn't reached a roll reminiscent of his days with the Indians, he has been scoreless in four of his six outings since returning from a right calf strain.

McGee's struggles continued. He gave up two hits and walked one while managing just one out, and Yadier Molina's two-run double pushed the Rockies' long odds (given their offense) beyond long. McGee has a 6.81 ERA and a .299 batting average against in 43 appearances. Since June 14, after a five-game scoreless streak, he has given up runs in 10 of his 16 appearances.

Video: COL@STL: Molina plates 2 with a double to left-center

McGee also gave up Ozuna's game-winning homer in the 10th inning of Monday night's 5-4 loss to the Cardinals.

"He's got to get ahead in the count," Black said. "That's the first thing Jake needs to do -- strike one. We've talked about that with a number of our guys. And be able to utilize the high fastball and use his velocity. But he's behind too many hitters for me."

The Rockies didn't pick up relief help at Tuesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline. Currently, the Rockies are in solid shape protecting leads with Oberg, Seunghwan Oh, Adam Ottavino and closer Wade Davis, and Shaw is at least working toward usability in those situations. However, the Rockies teeter in finding usable options when the bullpen has to eat innings. They hope lefty Chris Rusin (6.11 ERA) finds consistency when he returns from left foot plantar fasciitis.

Parra misfires: One doesn't have to go to the stat sites or even Statcast™ for some basics -- keep the double play in order. Parra, in left field, reinforced this lesson in the fourth by not adhering to it on Bader's single.

Yairo Munoz went first to third. Instead of conceding that base and throwing to second, Parra fired toward third and compounded the mistake by short-hopping cutoff man Story. Bader was able to take second. Munoz scored on Poncedeleon's grounder to short -- the type of play that likely would have been an inning-ending double play had Bader been held at first.

The Rockies didn't play the infield in with Poncedeleon batting, choosing to concede the run and not risk a grounder bypassing the infielders. It tied the game at 2.

Video: COL@STL: Poncedeleon plates Munoz on RBI groundout

UP NEXT
Righty Antonio Senzatela (4-3, 5.01 ERA) is coming off a weighty, but successful, last outing -- a career-high 109 pitches in 5 2/3 innings, but just one run against in a home win over the Athletics. Senzatela takes to the road, where he is 0-2 with a 7.94 ERA in two starts this season, to face the Cardinals and righty Miles Mikolas (11-3, 2.83) in Thursday's finale of the four-game series at 11:15 a.m. MT.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.

Colorado Rockies, Kyle Freeland