With a starting lineup you’d expect to see in game 121 on the field, the Colorado Rockies dropped the 2012 opening series against the Huston Astros, 3-2. At one point during the game Drew Goodman, George Frazier and Jeff Huson, the Root Sports announcers, could be heard discussing the MLB historic run of 17 Sunday losses by the team last season. They were unanimous in their confusion as to how that happened, and none of them could see the proverbial “nose on your face” moment taking place right in front of them. The field was littered with Rockies second string players, in only the third game of the season. The Astros had their same exact line-up in the game as they did opening day. Which, in case anyone needs a reminder, was two days ago.
How the Rockies broadcasting crew missed this obvious part of Jim Tracy’s game is surprising, but what wasn’t surprising was the outcome. During the 17 Sunday losses, and eventual 2011 terrible 6 – 19 Sunday record, it became commonplace to see mostly bench players start games. It was obvious to those passionate fans that followed each and every game what the issue was: the line-up. Many felt that if Jim Tracy would just stop putting in his Spring Training 9th inning guys to start a game, he might win once in a while.
Well, the lesson wasn’t learned. Worse than that, in a series against the worse team in baseball, Tracy elected to start the game with 5 of his 8 players coming off the bench. Colvin, Pacheco, Giambi, Rosario and Herrera all got the start today with a collective line of: 17 AB, 3 H, 3 BB (all Giambi), 5 K, 8 LOB, 1 Error. We will get to the error in a moment.
It is understandable wanting to get some guys into a game for work. It is also understandable to give other guys a rest. However, on the third game of the season giving someone a day off to rest isn’t even on the radar. So, how do you get your guys work? Certainly not by dumping all of them into a game at one time, especially to start that game. Bringing them in scattered throughout the week is one option. Another would be to wait until later in a game and trickling the into the line-up. Either way you give your starters, the guys you pay the most money for and the guys the fans really come to watch, a chance to start the game off right. Do you think you will ever see the Broncos start Caleb Hanie or Adam Wever over a healthy Peyton Manning, just so they could get some work in? That would never happen. How about starting a game in Miami where James, Wade and Bosch just sat out every Sunday so they could get some rest? Again, that would be a joke. So how is it that the best line-up you have doesn’t get put onto the field each week?
It really is a shame that the run support, and eventual error, cost Nicasio a win. His pitching was masterful. He threw his fastball at will and wherever he wanted. There should be absolutely no question that his comeback from a near death experience is the greatest story in baseball this season. He gave up only one earned on five hits in seven innings, striking out four on 82 pitches.
It looked like we would have a repeat of Friday as Nicasio was replaced by Rex Brothers, but the outcome was very different. Brothers, who was dominant in the season opener, allowed two runs on three hits in two-thirds. Both runs, however, were unearned because of a play that made the difference in Nicasio leaving the game with a win and Brothers leaving the game with the loss. Brothers disposed of the first two batters quite nicely, one by ground the other by strikes. But after giving up back to back singles, after a struggle with his command, Carlos Lee came up to the plate. Brothers got Lee to ground one to Jordan Pacheco at third. Pacheco had plenty of time for a nice hard throw to first to get Lee out, but instead he threw a strange short-hop slider that ended up in the camera well.
It was a bad throw, to be sure, but also a bad receiving job at first by Cuddyer who was moved at the top of bottom of the inning from right field to first base. On the second largest questionable move of the day, Tracy moved Tyler Colvin to right and brought Dex into center, for obvious defensive reasons. He also moved Cuddyer to first to replace Giambi, again you would have to think for defensive reasons, but not as obvious as bringing Dex in for his glove. What he didn’t do, and this is what will be the source of debate after this game, was to bring in Nelson to replace Pacheco at third. Pacheco, who had several errors at third during spring training, multiple errors per innings in one game alone, is known more for his bat than his glove. To leave him at third instead of moving Herrera over and bringing in Scutaro is a mystery. Yes, Scutaro had a difficult game on Saturday, but his lifetime fielding percentage (.977) is up there with Tulo (.987).
While this is only game 3 of 162, and there is no way it will be the only time the team loses, the disturbing trend of sitting the bulk of your starters all at once on Sunday is the miss-management that continues from last season. That is the reason for pinning the loss on roster moves, as opposed to a bad throw by Jordan.