Big inning downs Chacin, Rockies in LA
Right-hander allows five runs in fifth to take loss after recall
LOS ANGELES -- With 44 games left in the season and Colorado in third in the National League West, 10 games behind San Diego, and in fourth place for the Wild Card, six games behind Philadelphia, the Rockies are going to need to start one of those late-season drives that has become their calling card in recent years.
That drive however needs to start soon, and the win-one, lose-one that they've done for the last 14 games isn't going to cut it with Tuesday's 6-0 loss to the Dodgers continuing the trend. They need to start winning and even sweeping series, and for manager Jim Tracy, one of the keys to that is getting into more situations where runs will be easier to come by.
"The dynamic of Eric Young and Dexter Fowler at the top," Tracy said, "where hopefully they can get on base, go first to third, cause some traffic on the bases and get us in a position where we don't have to get hits to score runs but can score runs by just putting the ball in play."
To that end, the plan was successful in Los Angeles. Young was 2-for-3 with two walks and a pair of stolen bases and Fowler had two hits and a stolen base.
The other part of the plan was to get the run producers to drive home the table-setters.
"The way we want to use Todd Helton," Tracy said, "is to push him back to the middle of the order, the sixth spot, the run-producing order with Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, with guys at the top causing traffic."
Unfortunately, that part of Tracy's plan did not come to fruition in the opener against the Dodgers, as the Rockies stranded 10 and went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
Tracy was obviously disappointed in the way the game turned out, but he was encouraged by what Young and Fowler did.
"We could not have asked for anything more than we could have from the top two guys in our lineup," Tracy said.
"We had a situational opportunity in the first inning. We had second and third with one out in the third inning, and a first-and-second situation in the fifth inning, and they all got away from us."
The final need if the Rockies are going to run off one of their patented late-season runs is to get a string of good pitching. They had a glimpse of that with right-hander Jhoulys Chacin, back from Triple-A, where they were trying to stretch him out to be one of their starters for the rest of the campaign.
For the first three innings Chacin was in control, working into the fourth before the Dodgers got their first hit. That is when he started to struggle, working out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth, before finally allowing Los Angeles to break through in the fifth.
"What hurt Jhoulys was his fastball command," Tracy said. "That's what got him. He got behind to some batters with his fastball, but he was able to come back with his secondary pitches."
That command allowed Dodgers shortstop Jamey Carroll to work a walk to open the fifth, which allowed the Dodgers to put on the hit-and-run. When Tulowitzki broke to second to cover, A.J. Ellis put the ball right through the hole at shortstop. That set up a two-run double by Scott Podsednik and the floodgates opened for a five-run inning.
"I felt like we helped set the stage for them in the fifth inning," Tracy said. "We walked Carroll, which opened the door."
Carroll hinted that trying to get those walks from Chacin was part of his plan.
"He pitched well against us before," Carroll said. "He obviously has a good changeup and stuff, but we forced him to get into the zone tonight. He did walk a few batters."
While it didn't work Tuesday night, Tracy saw enough parts of his strategy work that he's hopeful the Rockies will be able to cash in on those chances.
"That is how the lineup was structured," Tracy said. "And hopefully it will be structured in a similar vein for a while. I'd really like it to turn out that way."
Young believes that the Rockies can be successful if he and Fowler can continue to get on at the top of the order.
"Whether it's walks or beating out infield hits, or whatever it is," Young said, "as long as we're on base, we can set the tone for the guys. We can run around and try to control that game, and if we control that, the pitchers may slip up to the guys behind us."
There's less and less time to try to juggle the lineups to make something happen -- something that Tracy knows all too well.
"I'm tired of having to going in and trying to re-create something every day," he said. "Maybe this dynamic takes off and works for some period of time. Not a better time of the year for that to happen."
Glenn Rabney is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.