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Big League Stew

Blackjack! Colorado Rockies finish May with 21 losses

Mark Townsend
Big League Stew

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From the penthouse to the outhouse, the Jekyll and Hyde Colorado Rockies are at it again. After kicking off the 2011 season with a 17-8 April — good enough for the second-best record in baseball — the Rockies concluded May with an 8-21 mark — dead last in baseball for the month and the third-worst month in franchise history.

After their 8-2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday, the 4 1/2-game lead they built up over the entire National League West when April concluded is now a 4 1/2-game deficit with three teams leapfrogging them in the standings.

Streaky play has defined the Rockies dating back to their miraculous run in the fall of 2007. Six weeks on, six weeks off. Red hot, ice cold. There is no in between. But what has made this cold stretch in May most frustrating is that they were often one hit or productive out away from overcoming themselves, but simply couldn't push that difference-making run across. {YSP:MORE}

To understand the frustration one only needs to look back to Monday. The Rockies finished the game with 14 hits, drew four walks, yet only managed one run in their 7-1 loss to the Dodgers. Colorado finished the game 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position. The one hit resulted in Carlos Gonzalez being thrown out at the plate.

The only thing the Rockies did better than stranding runners was hitting for power with the bases empty. Of their 32 home runs in May, 22 were solo shots. That includes a stretch of 12 straight solo homers during the first half of the month.

The process, as manager Jim Tracy explained after Monday's loss, has been agonizing.

"Even when we got down, there were baserunners out there and opportunities to get back in it," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "But that big hit just continually seems to elude us right now. We just have to keep fighting our way through it. It's painful, and it gets more painful by the day."

Excruciating when you consider the Rockies lost nine of their ten one-run decisions in May.

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Ubaldo

Of course, not every problem can be traced to the offense. Ubaldo Jimenez remains winless and is still missing 5 mph on his fastball. They lost a 14-inning game in Milwaukee where the bullpen blew three different save opportunities. Their baserunning, to put it kindly, has been embarrassing.

But even one base hit or timely home run in three or four games could have upgraded a disastrous month to a manageable setback. Now they have work to do just to get back on even ground so they can rebuild what has crumbled around them.

Jim Tracy believes his team can get it done, but openly admits it is at a crossroads as it enters the month of June.

From the Denver Post:

"I know this group very well. I've been with them for quite a while. They understand what we're going through. To sit here and have anyone think or feel like we're enjoying this? You're kidding yourself. It's not fun, but it's part of the challenge of the game.

"How are you going to deal with it? Are you going to eventually get to the point where you do something about it? Or are you going to let it affect you and let it be an excuse as to why you put yourself in a position to jeopardize your season? That's the crossroads that we're at."

The Rockies have responded well to similar challenges before. Of course the last time they answered the bell and were able to sustain success it came on the heels of firing their manager. I don't see that as an option this time. It's all on the players to right the ship. Especially those two players they committed their future to in the offseason. If Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez are going to make that money well spent, now would be a good time to start earning it.

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