Time to Panic? A Little…
When this road trip started I looked at the match-ups and expected matchups. I knew the team was going to face an Atlanta team that was going to throw 3 pitchers all of whom could shut them out or at least down. While Lee is hurt in Phili, there is still some good pitching and it’s a home-run park that will expose any bad pitches. Cleveland was the unknown, both because a week out you cannot guarantee matchups and because it is an up and down team. I was thinking 4-5 would honestly be the best they could hope for, and maybe 5-4 if they got some luck.
Game 1 took care of the luck factor. Because of the Giants weirdness the day before and damage to their charter from the hail, they arrived in Atlanta tired and a bit out of it. Then in the 2nd inning we got the unluckiest of slides that took Nolan from us until the All-Star Break at least (am I saying a fully rested Nolan doesn’t hurt himself, no…though you don’t know, just more bad luck). They ended up losing the game on 2 RBIs from a backup catcher hitting .200 (what is it about back-up catchers killing us – see Sanchez, Giants). At least the 2nd RBI was on a decent slider, not a hanger, that found a whole in the left-side of the infield. Bad luck. They stole one on Saturday as Nicasio was both wild and good. Never before has 2 hit ball had me more nervous…and I knew the outcome having DVRd it. Sunday I knew that the Rox had to play their best game of the year because Teheran might be the best pitcher aside from Fernandez they play against all year (yes, including Cueto because we got him at a hitter’s park not the pitcher’s park Teheran gets to pitch against). For three innings Frankie was pretty good – even the homer ball to Gattis wasn’t terrible and just got out. It’s a reminder that like Nicasio, there is an arm there that can help this team in ways other than starting…but even as his biggest fan, I think we can agree that the starts need to end. Roller coasters are nauseating when you ride them at Elitches. Watching them in the form of pitching performance….that is just frustrating and aggravating.
The first inning they got two men aboard and CarGo crushed a ball that started well fair….and with the wind pushed it just foul. It could have been 3-0 just like that. Now I know a lot of you think, so , then it just 7-3. But you manage and play a game very different when you have a 3 run lead. Teheran might try and be more fine (that is when you gets in trouble). Weiss may have pulled Morales earlier. Heck, they pitch differently with a 3-0 lead, including letting Gattis walk in the third to get the next batter (we have seen when Frankie is ahead he does with DLR does, walk tough righties to get to easier match-ups, with the game tied or close behind he goes back to reliever mindset – have to get every batter. Anyways, bad luck again.
But I want to be fair. Teheran was awesome for 6 innings. He only walked the 1 and Kd 7 (the growing issue on the road the past 10 games). To their credit, they got Teheran out of the game in 6 by making him throw more pitches, fouling off a lot of balls. Alas, this is the best bullpen in baseball – so no rallies and by that time we were down 5 and then 7. When you face tough pitchers who are pretty on that day, you tip your cap and go to the next day. But 4 hits (including by Culberson who has been hitting well since getting the nod to play 3rd). My worry was after facing Teheran their bats would be out of sorts, their confidence would be shot, and they take it with them to Phili.
Now looking at matchups, this was one I had in the win column – Chacin, even the imperfect version, versus Kendrick at 0-5 with a near 5 ERA. He isn’t even a soft tossing lefty….he is a righty! He throws 50% fastballs that are under 90, and splits the rest between cutters at 86 and changes at 82. They should hammer this guy. But evidently it is not just soft-tossing lefties…its soft-tossing pitchers. They had their chances with 6 hits and 4 walks against them, but the strikeout of Tulo with 2 on and 2 out in the 6th typified the day. Tulo was 2-2 for the in game but when it mattered…nada. The rest of the team was similarly unable to get big hits and the Phils pen allowed just 1 base runner the rest of the game. You might say that the Rox did go quietly the past 2 days. Did Teheran mess up their swings? Maybe? Was the shift from Teheran to Kendrick cause issues? Maybe. Is this lineup sick? Yes! Now teams go through slumps, but this team is now on one of their worst in recent memory. Since the 11-2 spanking of the Reds and a pretty good pitcher in Simons, their run production is: 1,1,2,3W,5,8W,5W,1,2,3W,0,0. This is not the same team we saw before the series in Cincinnati. Now, aside from the game in Phili, they have faced pretty good pitching or soft-tossing lefties the entire stretch. And looking back, May has been the Rockies worst hitting month in most years (why….no idea). But the offense is sick…and with the loss of Nolan very short and not particularly deep. On night when Rosario hits, you have to focus on the first 5 spots in the order and that is it (Culberson has hit in every game since Nolan got hurt but there is no power there). On those nights the bottom 3 hitters have 1 homerun and none on the road. I applaud starting Rutledge Monday but the guy has been sitting since you called him on Friday…that is hard for a young player to do. So the offense is a mess.
And then there is the pitching. Lyles was god on Friday night, though I would have tried to get 1 more inning from the kid – he is young and was still throwing 93. But PH came up, which failed, and that meant you needed 3 innings from the pen, including Boone, who is pitching less than my 10 year old boy changes underwear…and that is saying a lot. So the pen lost the game. The pen was solid on Saturday and aside from Masset’s 2 run homer on Sunday, pretty good since Frankie got pulled early. Then came Monday, where aside from Zero getting back to form in his inning (though no Ks), and Tommy Kahnale giving them another inning (2.1 innings on back-to-back days says they better not have a blow-out on Tuesday). Masset gave up a hit and a walk and got only the 1 out and needed Brothers to bail him out to avoid 2ER. It didn’t happen – he gave up the 2ER and his ERA is now 4.66 thanks to Rex not stopping the inning. Rex had the melt-down that relievers have every so often, but it was a doozy – 5 batters faced, 2 outs, 3 hits, 3ER and of course a homer allowed. Well, if you are going to have a blow-up, do it when your team is already down big and it doesn’t hurt that much. The pen, which as I said in my 30% write-up has been good aside from giving up the one big hit that has cost them those 8 games, is still an asset. But they look tired.
And after Morales’s quick exit (4.2) on Sunday they need Chacin to at least move closer to the Chacin we know he can be. Instead in 5 innings (this time not one bad inning but spread over 3 innings) he gave up 4 ER on 7 hits, he did have 5 Ks and only 1BB, but gave-up another homer. And it took him 95 pitches to do it. I am going to say it –Chacin is not right. He was rushed back to the majors too early, largely because of Chatwood’s elbow injury though after a 5IP and 1ER affair in AAA, he gave the illusion he was ready. Since he has been up his velocity is down, he is missing his spots regularly, he is pitching behind in counts, and he is hurting this team. I do believe by the end of the season, we will have back the good Chacin. But right now that guy isn’t there. In truth he has been just as bad as Morales, only Morales has managed to win some games, whereas Chacin is 0-4 and they have lost all of his starts. Something has to change!
So yes, its time to panic. You have serious issues in 2 of your 5 rotation spots (and again, Nicasio is doing it with 2 pitches and that cannot continue to work…but he is a much less important issue right now). Your pen is either exhausted or desperate for regular work (Logan and Hawkins). And your lineup is now 5-6 deep, struggling to break-out at home and in this current stretch, as bad as any Rockies road offense we have ever seen (and I say that with high compliments to Blake Doyle). Worse of all, as we are in a stretch with a lot of road games, the Giants are in a long-stretch of home games (something like 16 of 26), and are playing excellent baseball and we just got passed by the Dodgers for 2nd place (5 games out vs. 4.5) who are playing their best baseball and now trail the Cards and Dodgers by .5 games in the WC. Winning the division was going to be hard this year (even year for the Giants and a good Dodgers team) but I truly believe they can and will compete for the WC. And yes, so far its one bad stretch of 3 weeks. But that is all it takes to bury you. They have 5 games left on this road trip, before 9 at home featuring the Dodgers, DBacks and the Braves (not the nice easy home stand you want right now). So…if not panic, severe worry? Bad rotation parts, tired pen, weak offense, and injuries.
So what to do about it?
1) A change has to be made in the rotation. Morales can be a great pen arm and has no options left. At this point I hate to say it but Masset might be getting tired and could use a breather in AAA. I love the guy too but the last week he has looked not right.
2) Chacin might need to go back on the DL, or if he has options (and it will anger him no doubt), send him down to Colorado Springs. His arm strength and control need work. He has to know it. And they cannot afford to keep running him out there every 5 days as he is – again, your team is 0-5. You know it has to happen.
3) They have the off-days to skip Morales spot for a while. But I think we can all agree that if you do not want the season to slip away, it is time for Eddie Butler (I still like the idea of Matzek for Morales as well but only so many moves you can make right now).
4) I love the front of the line-up, but we have to lengthen it. I think on the road we need to see more of Rut (yes, you do not want to take out a GG defender at 2nd but DJ doesn’t hit on the road and he can help at 3rd as well). Alternatively, you move DJ to 2nd and Cuddy to 6th with Wilin 7th when he catches?
5) I suggested a trade on Sunday for the Moose from KC. Yes he was hitting .150 and no, they won’t give him away (though his value in trade is limited). If not Moose then someone with hitting potential needs to be brought in to play 3rd. It may cost you some prospects (and I am fine with saying no to too much but Cristhain Aadams and Wilton Lopez – guy who needs a change of scenery – is at least a good start.
6) The team is suffering from its lack of depth in position players above High A. Do we give it a try and pull up Parker? Or Featherston from AA? Or….I don’t know but is it time to see about some moves.
7) This is a test of Weiss. This team cannot come home 1-8. A 4-5 trip is still attainable. Heck, they are a better team than Phili or Cleveland so a 5-4 trip is possible. But the team looks tired, feels snakebite, and needs something to get it turned around. Heck…bat CarGo in leadoff again. Or pull up Winkler as well. Shake-it up. Yes, it probably means the end of the 6 player OF (and I like all the guys) but they have to act before things slip away. That home stand is not going to be an easy on to go 6-3 or 7-2, not as they are playing now.
Am I in panic mode to early? Has the illness that put me on the “day-to-day” list effected my thinking? Or am I right and thing must change if they are going to compete for the playoffs (and not waste the great season Tulo is having).