Rockies eager to flip script in one-run games
SAN DIEGO -- The Rockies' highlights for the season should include the defense relaying the ball to the plate in time to prevent the Giants' Gregor Blanco from tallying an inside-the-park homer on Sunday. The infield work Monday against the Padres was worthy of an instructional video. But if the Rockies can't find a way to win games late, all the highlights in the world are meaningless.
Of the Rockies' eight losses going into Tuesday night's game against the Padres, they've lost leads or lost with the game tied in the fifth inning or later five times. Just two of the six wins qualified as tough ones. They scored six runs in the bottom of the eighth to break a tie while beating the White Sox, 10-4, last Wednesday, and made a 1-0, third-inning lead stand the rest of the way Saturday.
Sometimes a stretch of close losses and blown leads can destroy a season, especially if a team lacks ability and confidence. The last two losses were attributable to the slump of lefty reliever Rex Brothers, who gave up a homer Sunday and threw a damaging wild pitch Monday night. But an inability to keep scoring after early outbursts has hurt, as well.
However, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said he doesn't see the Rockies spiraling into a pattern of inventing ways to lose.
"I think we're real close," Tulowitzki said. "We've hung in there in about every game and had some leads slip away. It wasn't because of defense. It's just one of those things, kind of bad luck right now. Hopefully, we can stick with this process and become the team I know we can be.
"We don't feel like we're at that bad a point at all. Last night was a tough game to lose, but I still think we have confidence. We've talked about it. This isn't going to be easy. There are going to be some battles."
The key will be winning close games on the road. All six of their one-run games have come away from Coors Field, and they're 2-4.
The Rockies believe they're playing fundamentally well enough. Tulowitzki and third baseman Nolan Arenado have played like the Rawlings Gold Glove Award winners they are, and DJ LeMahieu is bringing to life the numbers-crunching that earned him last year's Rockies Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Award. Justin Morneau has been nearly flawless handling throws.
The slump of Jorge De La Rosa and injuries to Jhoulys Chacin and Brett Anderson affect the starting staff, but the Rockies have managed to stay in games. The inability to have big innings on the road is concerning, but Charlie Blackmon (.478), Michael Cuddyer (.347) and Tulowitzki (.333) are above .300 entering Tuesday, and there is production and power from Carlos Gonzalez.
At some point, it has to translate into comeback wins. They haven't won at all when trailing after six innings to go along with the struggles holding leads or breaking through late in tie games.
"We like what we're doing, but obviously we've got to close it out," Cuddyer said. "That's what it boils down to. In order to win and be a championship level team, you've got to finish games."
Weiss admitted Monday night was difficult to swallow, not only because Brothers wild-pitched in the tying run and the winning run scored when catcher Wilin Rosario threw wildly to Brothers covering the plate. The inability to make the most of early opportunities also bothered him. But he sees such games making the Rockies stronger. The bullpen performance in some of the wins gives him hope.
"I feel like our bullpen is going to be a strength, and you've seen that at times already," Weiss said. "Because of that, we're going to be able to put a lot of games away on the road when we play some of the one-run games. We'll be in better position to win a lot of those, even if we've lost a couple of those already."