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The Coors Effect


August 31, 2009 4:20 AM

Five in a row, and not in the good way

So, it's back to reality for the Colorado Rockies, who have now lost five in a row and moved into a tie for the Wild Card race courtesy of a three-game sweep at the hands of the Giants.

What went wrong?  Injuries, for one thing, and to precisely the wrong players.  Dexter Fowler (.361/.458/.623 in August) went on the DL after fouling a pitch off his knee on Tuesday night.  Carlos Gonzalez (.379/.434/.742 in August) missed most of the last week with a hand injury, which he aggravated slightly when he tried to play on Thursday.  Two hot hitters were at the top of the order, and their loss severely hurt the Rockies offense.  Eric Young, called up to replace Fowler, has a .263 OBP while mostly hitting at the top of the order over the last week, and has been caught stealing in both attempts after stealing 58 at Colorado Springs.  Young has also looked uncomfortable playing in center field rather than his usual second base; he has the range to play the position, to be sure, but Young also misplayed a ball out there on Saturday night that cost the Rockies a couple of runs.

Compared to that, the loss of Aaron Cook is not that big of a deal.  In fairness, prior to going on the DL, Cook had not been pitching well with a 5.94 ERA since the All-Star break -- and 0-3, 12.19 ERA in August.  Josh Fogg struggled in his lone start and the fifth spot in the rotation will be skipped on Tuesday, with the off day Monday meaning that Jorge de la Rosa will be pitching on regular rest.  Going forward, though, the Rockies will need a fifth starter, and it's not clear who it will be.  Brandon Hynick has had a good year at Colorado Springs, and the Rockies could give him a shot.  But Hynick's low strikeout and groundball rates suggest that he might get shelled; he's getting batters out at AAA, but he doesn't do anything particularly well other than having good command.  The other options, though, aren't that good either: Adam Eaton and Russ Ortiz are typical retreads, while youngsters Jhoulys Chacin and especially Esmil Rogers have struggled at Colorado Springs.  The Rockies may be tempted to go with Eaton or Ortiz because they're known quantities, and in a playoff race the team can't afford a surprise.  Of course, two problems exist with that line of reasoning: for one, Fogg, despite his bad start, is as good of an option as either one, and if the Rockies are going to go with a veteran, they might as well go with Fogg.  Yes, he looked terrible the other night, but seriously, we're talking about Adam Eaton and Russ Ortiz.  The other problem is that while Chacin might struggle, he also might catch lightning in a bottle and deliver several needed quality starts down the stretch.  It doesn't look that great considering that he seems to have lost his command since being called up to the majors, but he's had great command before and could find it again.  The odds of Chacin being a quality pitcher are much greater than the odds that Ortiz or Eaton will be.

In any case, Gonzalez appears to be back now, and while Fowler won't be back for another week or so, having Gonzalez back will be a big help.  And the schedule is lightening up.  The Dodgers and Giants are two of the best teams in the NL; while the Rockies really should do better than 1-5 against them, they deserve a bit of a mulligan because of the injury losses and the Rockies begin a ten-game homestand against the Mets, Diamondbacks, and Reds.  There's plenty of time to win this playoff race.

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