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When Aaron Cook struggled in spring training, it was chalked up to a veteran working on his pitches. When he struggled in the first two starts of the season, it was chalked up to a sinker-ball pitcher needing to get into a rhythm.
After getting shelled for five runs in three innings in the Rockies 5-2 loss to the Nationals on Monday night, the answer is simple:
Aaron Cook has lost his sinker.
Cook has no backup plan. The redhead throws an 87-90 MPH fastball and relies on the movement that his sinker brings in order to induce ground outs. If his ball isn't moving, he is in trouble.
In the second inning, Cook allowed two Nationals base runners before floating a hanging sinker, if there is such a pitch, to Willie Harris, who promptly took a batting practice swing and landed his second home run of the year deep into the right field bullpen.
The pitch was horrible. It started on the inner half of the plate, but stayed high in the zone and tailed right into Harris' wheelhouse. When Cook doesn't have his sinker, he has to nibble, and when he nibbles, he misses the strike zone. Hence, the four walks the righty gave up in his three innings of work.
The Rockies, who currently sit one game under .500, continue to live their annual April nightmare. The fact of the matter is, this team is lucky to be just one game under the even mark.
Cook's performance was bad, but the bullpen did a phenomenal job of keeping the Rockies in it. Manny Corpas, Matt Daley, Randy Flores and Joe Beimel combined to throw seven innings of one-hit baseball, keeping the Nats scoreless the rest of the way.
The offense, however, could not pick up it's share of the burden. For the sixth straight game, the offense failed to score more than five runs. The same offense that has been touted as the best the club has ever seen.
The easiest way to say it is that the Rockies do not look prepared when they take the field. The offense is flat. The defense is not on their toes and pitchers like Cook are missing the grittiness that landed him in the All-Star game in 2008.
The energy just isn't there. If the starting pitcher isn't on that day, they pack it in and hope for better results the next time. The exact same style of play that has been employed the past three Aprils.
The good thing for the Rockies is that they can afford to tread water. They do not need an incredible April to stay in the race. If they close out the month somewhere around the .500 mark, no more than two games below it, they will be in decent shape.
What they must avoid is falling into the same rut that has plagued them in recent Aprils, where it takes everything they have the rest of the season to catch up.
These Rockies will figure it out. They have too much talent not to. When they do it will be fun to watch. For now, fans just have to hope that they figure it out sooner rather than later.
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