Rockies-Rays: Colorado's Winning Streak Ends at 11

David MartinAnalyst IJune 17, 2009

DENVER - MAY 31:  Starting pitcher Jorge De La Rosa #29 of the Colorado Rockies delivers against the San Diego Padres during MLB action at Coors Field on May 31, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. De La Rosa collected the loss as the Padres defeated the Rockies 5-2.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

On the brink of history, the Colorado Rockies fell on their faces.

During the franchise record-tying 11-game winning streak, everything seemed to go right. Pitchers made the pitches that they needed to, the offense had clutch hits, and the defense played almost flawlessly, mixing in some really nice plays to save runs.

Tuesday night was the exact opposite.

It all started with starting pitcher Jorge De La Rosa, who struck out the first two batters of the game before leaving a pitch up and over the heart of the plate to Evan Longoria. Longoria proceeded to give away the first of several souvenirs to the fans sitting in left field.

The defense lacked the crispness that helped propel the team back into contention. In the second inning, Gabe Kapler hit a foul ball down the left field line.

Ian Stewart approached the ball but then mysteriously backed off, thinking that Troy Tulowitzki would get it. The only problem is that Tulo was covering third base, and the ball dropped in foul territory.

On the next pitch, Kapler roped a triple, scoring two, and the rout was on.

The fact of the matter in the Rockies' 12-4 loss is that they were never in the game.

While it is difficult to complain about a team that is 11-1 in the last 12 games, plays like those on Tuesday night are exactly why the Rockies had such a bad first two months. During the streak, the main key was the fact that the starting pitchers were keeping the team in the game from the beginning, allowing the offense a chance to strike back.

The only thing consistent for Jorge De La Rosa has been inconsistency.

If there was a winner take all game and a manager could pick anyone to pitch, De La Rosa would be near the bottom of most managers' lists. Despite having incredible stuff—he throws in the mid-90s and has an above average changeup and curveball—he cannot seem to figure himself out.

From one start to the next, he seems like two completely different pitchers.

In fact, De La Rosa can seem like two different pitchers from one batter to the next, and Tuesday night was a prime example of that.

He made quick work of B.J. Upton and Carl Crawford, putting pitches exactly where he wanted them. Immediately following the two strikeouts, De La Rosa proceeded to give up the no-doubt home run to Longoria.

The most frustrating thing about him is that he has the talent to be a top-flight pitcher.

Considering the way that De La Rosa falters, if he had any less talent, he would not be in a big league uniform. He would be a guy who no team would want to take a chance on because there is no strong upside.

The problem is, De La Rosa has a ton of upside. Teams like the Rockies are willing to live through what they hope are growing pains, hoping to uncover a diamond in the rough.

Unfortunately, his inconsistency brings a lack of confidence to a team that has to wonder if no matter what they do at the plate, they may get upstaged by an imploding starting pitcher.

Actually, a pitcher like De La Rosa may have been even better if his stuff was just a little bit worse.

It sounds funny, but it's true.

With the arsenal of pitches that he brings to the mound at the lower levels, he was able to blow the ball past hitters with his fastball and buckle hitters' knees with his breaking pitch.

He relied heavily on his talent.

Talent, however, will only take a man so far.

Instead of learning how to make pitches and hit locations, De La Rosa became used to relying on his raw abilities to get him out of jams in the minor leagues. That translates to good stats, but the difference is that major league hitters are not as fooled by his pitches.

They are able to catch up to his fastball, and they can lay off the breaking pitch out of the strike zone.

That leaves De La Rosa in a situation that he is not used to. He is used to getting guys out by using pure talent instead of having to be a pitcher and deceiving them with what is coming, or finding a hole in their swing and pitching to that.

It is a tough hurdle that many talented pitchers face when they enter the league.

Ubaldo Jimenez is a classic example.

In the minors, he could throw so hard that he could walk two batters per inning, but still get out of the inning by striking out the next three.

In the majors, he had to learn that control was more important than velocity. It has been a learning curve, but Jimenez is showing the mental fortitude to handle the change.

That mental fortitude is something that De La Rosa is still looking for. Until he finds it, or the Rockies decide that they can no longer wait for him to find it, the club will struggle when De La Rosa takes the mound.


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