Okay, who believes in heartening losses? I enjoyed watching every minute of the Rockies game tonight, even if they did lose. Yeah, Jeff Francis was unspectacular. But at least the bullpen didn't turn it into a laugher, and Todd Helton is finally starting to warm up. Helton certainly doesn't have to prove anything to potential trade suitors, but it's simply fun to watch the man hit. He's good at it.
While 5 earned runs, 7 hits and 4 walks isn't anything to lead the SportsCenter highlights, Francis did do something tonight that impressed me. After back-to-back doubles by Clint Barmes and Helton pulled Colorado within 1 in the top of the fifth, Francis managed to load the bases with one out in the bottom of the inning. Rather than blowing up and forcing Clint Hurdle to go to the pen early, Francis induced a Sean Burroughs double-play ball to end the fifth, then marched right back out and pitched a perfect sixth. The ability to hang on in games, even after getting pounded early, is a particular skill that Rockies starters must master if they are going to be successful at home or away. It wasn't a good outing otherwise for Francis, who walked three in the back-breaking four-run Padres second.
As the Rockies' broadcasters pointed out before the game began, 7 of the 9 spots in the lineup today were taken up by either first-year or second-year players. If even half of these guys pan out, Colorado will have a cheap foundation of position players and the path will be clear to the legendary Fountain of Payroll Flexibility. So how did the kids do? Well, the remarkable Barmes was 2 for 5 with a double. Garrett Atkins was 2 for 3 with a walk. Aaron Miles however was 0 for 5 and Brad Hawpe and Matt Holliday, despite having a hit apiece, missed out on multiple chances to win the game for the visitors.
It was a pretty sedate affair, despite San Diego skipper Bruce Bochy being tossed in the second for arguing a blown call at first on the back end of a double play. Trevor Hoffman and Akinori Otsuka looked very good for the Padres. Hoffman's changeup is in classic form. Their counterparts Brian Fuentes and Jose Acevedo were effective for the Rockies as well. On the small ball front, I wonder what on earth Clint Hurdle was doing having Jeff Francis try to bunt on a 3-0 count in the 4th (must have been a missed sign), and Ramon Hernandez nailed Barmes trying to steal third in the seventh with lefty-swinging Brad Hawpe at the plate. Clint had just taken second, too.
Preston Wilson left the game in 6th with some kind of unspecified groin concern. Didn't I just write about how Wilson's one job to was to not get hurt? Perhaps the Rockies should stick Preston into cryogenic stasis only to pull him out for a long homestand right around the trade deadline.
Finally, the Rockies managed to prolong the inevitable in the ninth on a nice hustle play by Dustan Mohr. With two out and Helton on first, Mohr hit a grounder towards second that Mark Loretta bobbled. Taking off at once at a sprint, Mohr managed to beat Loretta's throw out. It goes down as a reached on error, but a lot of guys in that situation would have dogged it and not even forced the issue. A purple star for you, Mr. Mohr.