DENVER -- For two minutes, fans at Coors Field stood and cheered what the Rockies are all about as they honored Todd Helton for his 2,000th Major League game, all with the club. But when it comes to what the Rockies have preached, their fundamentals and attention to detail, the team is giving them little to celebrate.
More unproductive at-bats in big situations, more bad pitches at bad times and a fielding error on a bunt -- something rehearsed all spring and beyond -- led to yet another close loss, 6-4, to the White Sox in 10 innings on Thursday afternoon before 38,084.
Reliever Clayton Mortensen (2-4) fumbled a 10th-inning bunt by Gordon Beckham, nullifying a chance to erase a runner at third, and allowing the White Sox load the bases. Two batters later, Juan Pierre singled off the right-field wall to drive in the go-ahead runs. The Rockies not only dropped the rubber game of the series, but fell to 39-42 at the exact halfway point of the season and 20-21 at home.
"It's hard to put your finger on," said Helton, who had two hits on the day he became one of three active players -- joining the Yankees' Derek Jeter (2,357) and the Braves' Chipper Jones (2,330) -- to eclipse 2,000 games in one uniform. "One day, it's one thing. One day, it's the next. A good ball team puts it together day in and day out. We haven't done that yet. It's something we'd better hurry up and start doing."
The Rockies, whose opener on Friday night of a three-game series with the Royals is the first of 10 games before the All-Star break, hope to hurry along the process with Thursday's acquisition of second baseman Mark Ellis and cash considerations from the Athletics for pitcher Bruce Billings and a player to be named. General manager Dan O'Dowd pointedly said Ellis "adds some toughness on our club, mentally and physically, something we feel like we need to get better in."
The Rockies also will seek another starting pitcher and another bat, and even have a small amount of available payroll to do that with. But, at some point, it's going to take consistency and attention to detail by guys who have been around all year. The botched bunt, along with Ty Wigginton's line-drive out to center with the bases loaded to end the third, and Wigginton's bouncer to end the seventh with the bases full became another chapter in an oft-repeated story.
"It gnaws at you," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said.
Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki gave the Rockies a 3-0 lead with his 15th homer of the year to complete a 12-pitch at-bat against White Sox starter Jake Peavy.Veteran Rockies starter Aaron Cook struggled through an ugly, three-walk second inning in which he let a run score on a wild pitch while walking Peavy, but held the White Sox to one run and five hits for six innings. The Rockies made it 4-1 in the sixth when Seth Smith doubled and scored on Matt Pagnozzi's single off Peavy.
But they blew the lead, as Beckham homered off Rafael Betancourt to open the seventh and Matt Lindstrom gave up two runs after a double and two singles -- all soft, but still hits -- in the eighth. Cook, whose status in the rotation has been threatened because he has had iffy early-innings command since missing the first two months with a fractured finger on his pitching hand, was robbed of his first chance for a win since last Sept. 8. That was the day he suffered a broken bone in his lower left leg and missed the rest of the 2010 season.
"This game was especially tough to take," Tulowitzki said. "Cook had given us a good outing. To lose and lose the series, it's tough. We've got no choice but to rebound.
"It would have been nice to get him on the board in the win column. He struggled a little bit early, but he found it. To get him six innings, one run, it's a game we should win."
After the second-inning wild pitch, Rockies head trainer Keith Dugger checked Cook's middle finger. He had suffered blood blisters on the finger during his previous start, a road loss to the Yankees. But Cook was fine, and he pitched much better the rest of his time on the mound. He has struggled early in games but has found a rhythm later in recent starts.
"First inning, I started really good," Cook said. "Second inning, I started to rush a little bit. I settled back down and just threw straight to the mitt. I don't know how to explain the second inning."
The eighth inning was a prime example of the hard-to-explain ways the Rockies are losing. With one out, Alexei Ramirez reached for a Lindstrom slider that was supposed to be off the plate. Ramirez reached just enough of the ball to knock it for a double to left. An A.J. Pierzynski infield hit later and the Rockies were in trouble.
Beckham singled in one run and Pierre knotted the game up at 4 with a sacrifice fly.In the 10th, after the Mortensen error, Wigginton fielded a Paul Konerko grounder and threw out Ramirez at the plate. Then Pierre swatted Mortensen's 1-2 fastball off the out-of-town scoreboard. Konerko, running tentatively, only made it to second, but the other two runners scored.
"That's probably the longest single I've had," Pierre said. "I knew I hit it good, and knew with that high wall out there ... if I got it to the left maybe [I would have homered]. I was just so happy. I knew it was deep enough to score one run."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.