Rockies let one get away
Corpas unable to protect lead as bullpen woes continue
DENVER -- In three days, the Rockies bullpen has gone from the best in the National League to a series of questions, the biggest of which centers on closer Manuel Corpas.
The bullpen blew its third straight late lead and Corpas suffered his third blown save of the season -- more than he had last year in 27 chances from midseason through the playoffs -- in an 8-6 loss to the Phillies at Coors Field on Tuesday night in front of 26,665.
Pat Burrell's three-run double off Corpas (0-1), who is just 4-for-7 on save chances, with one out in the top of the ninth allowed the Phillies to take both games from the Rockies. The Cubs, who have won five straight, arrive at Coors on Wednesday for the first of two.
The bullpen can only hope for better results, or at least a breather.
On Sunday, Astros second baseman Kazuo Matsui's two-run double off Brian Fuentes gave the Rockies a 6-4 loss. On Monday, Taylor Buchholz faltered with two outs in the eighth in a 9-5 loss to the Phillies. On Tuesday, Matt Herges gave up a Pedro Feliz RBI double in the eighth, leaving Corpas with a one-run lead.
The late struggles came on a night when Matt Holliday hit his fourth homer of the season and Garrett Atkins went deep for the fourth time in five games, and fifth time overall -- a two-run shot off Phils starter Brett Myers in the seventh for a 6-4 lead.
"We've all got to do better," Holliday said. "It's nobody's fault."
Because of Corpas' questionable pitching and a poor decision by center fielder Willy Taveras, manager Clint Hurdle had to make a decision that left him open to questions.
So Taguchi led off the ninth with a single that bounced over the glove of diving first baseman Todd Helton. "I took a false step -- that's a ball I should've had," Helton said. Chase Utley, who went 2-for-5 in each game, singled to Taveras, who tried to throw out the speedy Taguchi at third, which allowed Utley to take second.
Hurdle ordered an intentional walk of Ryan Howard, even though Howard was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and departed Denver with a .190 average. Corpas faced Burrell, who is hitting .357. Hurdle noted that Burrell is not the fastest hitter, so he was hoping for a double play.
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"The guy [Howard] is struggling, but it would have been a lot simpler for us to go at him with first and third and one out, but that didn't happen," Hurdle said. "So I'm trying to find a way to get our pitcher out of the inning -- make one good pitch.
"We're getting in our own way, way too often. We're all aware of that. We're not playing the kind of baseball we need to play across the board, clean enough, by any means, to put us in a good position."
Corpas wound up with 15 strikes on 31 pitches. His worst pitches came to the Phillies' hottest hitters, Utley and Burrell.
"I think if the pitches were better located, we wouldn't be asking the questions," Hurdle said. "Location is the thing that's providing the problems more than anything."
Phillies reliever Ryan Madson (1-0) gave up one hit in the eighth, but Yorvit Torrealba was caught stealing and Madson faced just three batters. Brad Lidge, who played high school ball in the Denver area, earned his fourth save -- and first in nine appearances at Coors.
Rockies starter Jeff Francis was nowhere near as consistent as he was Thursday, when he threw seven shutout innings in what became a 22-inning victory over the Padres. But he was good enough to be in line for the victory when he left after seven.
Francis gave up four runs and six hits, including a Jayson Werth solo shot that tied the game in the seventh. He struck out three but walked four, including Myers to load the bases and Taguchi to force in a run in the fourth.
"There are a lot of things I can do better -- stay ahead in the count more, keep the ball down and pitch more ground-ball outs," Francis said.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.