The Colorado Rockies got a great pitching performance on Tuesday night, which helped them win a 2-0 game. On Wednesday night, the offense once again only scored two runs. In most ballparks, two runs won't cut it. At Coors Field, the chances are that much more slim.
The Rockies got a decent outing from Juan Nicasio, who once again struggled to get outs, throwing too many pitches in too few innings. He gritted his way through five innings, giving up two runs on a home run from Vernon Wells, who drove a ball into the left field seats in the 1st inning.
Todd Helton, who occasionally reminds fans of what he was once able to accomplish, belted his own two-run homer in the bottom of the 2nd inning to tie the game. What looked like it might turn into a shootout settled into a true pitcher's duel.
Some might call it a duel, others might argue that two inept offenses struggled to get on base against two very average starting pitchers.
Of course, the Rockies offense is far better than the one the Yankees put on the lineup card for Wednesday night's game. However, the Rockies lineup was missing one of the key members. In fact, it was missing the key component that makes the Colorado offense hum.
For the second consecutive night, and the fifth time in the past eight games, Rockies superstar Troy Tulowitzki was out of the lineup with a sore groin. The injury is of concern because of Tulo's history not only with groin injuries, but with leg injuries in general. The Rockies insisted that an MRI showed just a slight strain, but that with wet, cool weather, they wanted to be as cautious as possible.
That presents a huge problem for the Rockies. Tulowitzki might not be the best pure hitter the Rockies have. That title probably goes to Carlos Gonzalez. However, Tulo is more important to the Rockies for one simple reason. When Tulowitzki is in the lineup, Gonzalez sees better pitches. The fact is, CarGo is a free swinger. With all due respect to Michael Cuddyer, starting pitchers do not fear him the same way they fear Tulowitzki. With Cuddyer on deck, the opposing pitcher isn't forced to try and get Gonzalez out, they can throw pitches out of the zone and deal with Cuddyer.
The only problem is that with Gonzalez being a free swinger, he often swings at the pitches out of the zone. This causes him to get himself out, rather than the pitcher getting him out.
With Tulowitzki in the lineup, no one wants to face him with runners on base. Therefore, CarGo gets better pitches to hit, and ultimately gets a better at-bat.
Reports from the Rockies were that Tulowitzki wanted to play (he did end up pinch hitting in the 8th inning), however, the club took the understandably cautious route and left their all-star on the bench.
The fact is, Tulowitzki is injured. It is a slight strain in the groin, but it is an injury none-the-less. No one is doubting that Tulo wants to play, but even his ardent supporters are being backed into a corner with Tulo's recent injury.
The reality is, Tulo is extremely fragile. He may have new stretching routines, he may have worked his legs in a different way in the offseason, but nothing is working to keep the shortstop healthy for any considerable length of time. The Rockies must have a "Plan B" in case Tulo goes down for any extended period of time again, whether in 2013 or any future year. With his history of health, it has to be almost assumed that he will suffer an injury of some sort every season.
What the Rockies need is for one of their other players to step up and fill the gap that is being left behind by Tulowitzki. The reality is, Cuddyer simply isn't a cleanup hitter. He is good, and he can hit for power, but he really profiles better as a five-hole, or six-hole type of guy.
The answer for the Rockies is for catcher Wilin Rosario to mature enough in the 2013 season to be a well-known and well-respected power threat in the league. He is doing a great job of starting that legend about himself, but he has to improve even further. He must be a guy who drives mistake-pitches out of the yard on a consistent basis.
It would be great if the Rockies could depend on Tulowitzki to stay healthy, but at this point, that is a lost cause. Instead of crossing their fingers that their oft-injured superstar will suddenly find a way to stay healthy as he gets older, the Rockies need to start relying on the other talent that they have and find a way to get some lineup protection for CarGo.
Currently, the Rockies are in a spot where if Tulowitzki goes down, their offense is significantly weaker. The club must find a way to figure out that problem. The answer is not Cuddyer, it must be Rosario.