HOUSTON -- Can't say the Rockies don't have something to play for in their final five games of 2011.More bad starting pitching -- this time from Drew Pomeranz, who had been a light in the team's dark stretch -- led to the Rockies' ninth straight loss, 11-2, to the Astros at Minute Maid Park on Friday night. Predicted by many to contend for the National League West title, and by everyone to at least be relevant in the standings, the Rockies entered Friday just two games better than the last-place Padres, who were set to play the Dodgers. It is the Rockies' second consecutive crawl to the finish. They lost 13 of their final 14 games last season. Pomeranz, who had a 1.69 ERA in his first two starts with the club, gave up six runs and seven hits in just two innings. It adds up to a squad that is proving not even strong enough to beat teams like the Padres, who swept them in their final series at Coors Field, and Astros, who have clinched the National League's worst record. The Rockies continue to field a lineup populated mostly with backups and call-ups, and their young pitchers are being pounded. The first two games of the four-game set with the Astros haven't been what the Rockies hoped -- a preview of two exciting young pitchers acquired from the Indians for former ace Ubaldo Jimenez. Alex White, who has struggled in most of his starts since joining the Rockies, gave up five runs in 4 2/3 innings Thursday night, then Pomeranz was hit hard. It took Pomeranz until his 21st pitch to record his first out. "When you have to walk out there and take the ball away from your starter [early], it's virtually impossible to beat the other club, knowing offensively if you score four or five runs, you've had a heck of a good offensive night," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "You get one in the first, you have good energy when it starts, and by the time you come in to hit in the top of the second, you're trailing 5-1." Dexter Fowler's RBI double off of Brett Myers (7-13) in the top of the first drove in Eric Young. After that the highlights disappeared until Chris Nelson drilled his fourth home run of the season in the top of the seventh. In the bottom of the first, Pomeranz (1-1) gave up hits to the first six Astros -- the first time the franchise started a game with that many hits in its 49 years. Carlos Lee, who had four RBIs in Thursday night's 9-6 defeat of the Rockies, doubled in two first-inning runs off of Pomeranz en route to his second straight four-RBI game. "When guys are going like that, you're like, 'I don't want to make the out,'" said Chris Johnson, who drove in the final first-inning run with the last of the half-dozen hits, a single. "Somebody had to, but six hits was pretty fun. "Our scouting report was that he [Pomeranz] was a strike thrower. He got behind some guys in that inning. I think that was one of the big reasons we were able to get to him a little bit, because he got down and we were aggressive on good pitches in the zone." J.D. Martinez's RBI double in the second was yet another forgettable sequence for Pomeranz in a night full of them. "I felt like they hit everything," Pomeranz said. "They were hitting everything, because there were a lot of bad pitches in there." Erstwhile Rockies starting rotation member Esmil Rogers relieved Pomeranz, and gave up three runs in 2 1/3 innings. He was followed by Josh Roenicke, who gave up his first home run in 19 Major League games, to former Rockies infield mainstay Clint Barmes. To that point, Barmes was the only Astros starter without a hit.
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.