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04/29/08 3:00 AM ET
Morales struggles in Rockies' loss
Starter gives up four runs in 4 1/3 innings, issues five walks
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- Rockies manager Clint Hurdle didn't see a first-inning balk from rookie left-handed pitcher Franklin Morales, but plate umpire Paul Emmel did. Voicing disagreement earned Hurdle an ejection. But from the television set in the Rockies' clubhouse, Hurdle saw plenty that Morales needs to correct. Morales lasted just 4 1/3 innings and walked five in Monday's 4-0 loss to the Giants at AT&T Park. It was the Rockies' fourth straight loss and eighth in nine games. The Rockies have started this season with the same 11-16 record they had at this point last year, which finished with a trip to the World Series. Now they're nine games behind the National League West-leading Diamondbacks and are a long way from being able to look back and laugh. Hurdle is convinced Morales (0-2), who leads all pitchers with three balks, is being singled out by umpires. There's a 45-degree imaginary line between home and first base, and if the pitcher's angle crosses it and he throws to first, it's a balk. The balk, which Hurdle was convinced didn't actually happen, led to a two-run first. But Morales still trailed, 2-0, in the fifth, when he walked the bases loaded with one out. Reliever Kip Wells walked in two runs. After another short, inconsistent outing, the legitimate question is how much longer will Major League umpires be determining whether Morales' move to first base is legal. "The wheels came off in the fifth," Hurdle said. "There are some flashes of some good things and there are still some inconsistencies. I got to watch the entire game from a much better vantage point than I normally do. "There are some sequences that are better but I've got to talk to Bob [Apodaca, the pitching coach]. I want him to look at some things. We'll see where we go from there. We'll have some more conversation." The Rockies have been forced to discuss a lot of bad pitching lately. Morales and right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, who like Morales was called up for last year's late-season run, have pitched at an unacceptable quality. Veteran Mark Redman gave up 10 first-inning runs in his last start, and he has shared with Morales and Jimenez an inability to pitch deep into games. Morales, at least, believes he knows where the inconsistency occurs -- his arm angle drops when he throws his fastball out of the stretch. "I don't know; it's not my decision," Morales said when asked if he was worried about being sent to the Minors to correct his issues. "I work hard every day." The offense also repeated its season-long problems en route to the third shutout loss of the season. Giants ace Matt Cain (1-2) threw 108 pitches and walked five in 5 1/3 innings, yet the Rockies couldn't take advantage. "I try to take some of their aggressiveness and turn it around," Cain said. The most deflating inning was the fourth, when Brad Hawpe and Troy Tulowitzki drew walks with one out but Jeff Baker lined into a double play. In the sixth, Garrett Atkins doubled off Cain to extend his hit streak to 13 games and Hawpe walked with one out, but reliever Vinnie Chulk forced Tulowitzki to fly out and struck out Baker. The Rockies threatened in the ninth, when Ryan Spilborghs and Willy Taveras singled with two out off Brian Wilson. Todd Helton fell behind Wilson, 0-2, then took the at-bat to seven pitches but wound up looking at a third strike. In a recurring theme, the Rockies left 11 on base and went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position. "We're in that early part of the season where it's hard to get that good swing," Atkins said. "It's been awhile since you had it, so you're not sure of the feeling, whereas later in the season when you get into a little funk you remember what your good swing feels like. "Early in the season, it's tough. It's hard to remember what it felt like back in September or August of last year, when things were going real good for us. That's why guys are hitting in the cage after games. They're hitting in cages before the games. It's definitely not guys working hard."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.