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Swing and a miss

Rockies look for answers to woeful Series offense

Posted: Friday October 26, 2007 1:32PM; Updated: Friday October 26, 2007 1:32PM
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Todd Helton
Todd Helton and the Rockies have gotten used to carrying their bats back to the dugout this Series.
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
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BOSTON -- Matt Holliday shook his head. His eyes registered something between confusion, disbelief and shock. Yet the questions seemed simple enough, a couple of veritable softballs for the Rockies' left fielder to square up and send out of the park.

What's wrong with the Rockies? What's up with that lineup?

Holliday could have reassured all the Colorado fans out there. He could have told them that everything would be all right. Instead he took the questions and treated them like they were pitches from a Red Sox pitcher. He saw them. He considered them. And the absolute best he could do with them, in the pall of a devastating loss, was foul them off.

"I don't know what it is," Holliday said in a subdued clubhouse at Fenway Park after the Rockies were shut down in Game 2 of the World Series on Thursday night. "Timing. Pitch recognition. Things like that. We just have to find a way to score runs."

Here we are, two games into the World Series, and the formerly streaking Rockies have scored a grand total of two runs. One on Wednesday in a 13-1 Game 1 shellacking, and one on Thursday in a 2-1 Game 2 thriller. You can talk about the fantastic pitching of the Sox all you want. Josh Beckett was superb in Game 1. Curt Schilling was very good in Game 2, aided ably by relievers Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon. That's a big reason why the Sox have a 2-0 lead in the Series. Maybe the biggest reason.

But, come on. Two runs in two games? From a lineup that averaged better than five runs a game during the regular season, the second-best mark in the National League? Two runs and 11 hits in 18 innings? Is this really the best the Rockies can manage?

"I wish I had an answer," said shortstop Troy Tulowitzki after Game 2, looking as dumbstruck as Holliday. "We've gone through stretches like this before. Hopefully, we'll all heat up together."

The Rockies are in the middle of a massive team-wide slump that threatens to ruin their Cinderella-ish trip to the postseason. They are being too aggressive too often, they are falling behind into pitchers' counts constantly and as a result they are striking out in alarming numbers and never giving themselves a chance to put together a sustained run.

Back in September, when they were still shocking the baseball world, the Rockies were doing everything right. They hit .298 that month, the best they had all season, and they slugged 39 homers. They had a .373 on-base percentage and an .861 OPS. All of those were the best numbers they had put up all year. And they showed in the Rockies' late-season streak, when they won 13 of 14 games, then won a one-game playoff against the Padres to sneak into the postseason.

Somewhere along the line, though, everything fell apart. They swept their NL Division Series against the Phillies in three games, but Colorado hit only .267 in the three games and had only an .834 OPS. The Rockies then swept the Diamondbacks in the NL Championship Series, but the lineup fell on even harder times. In that four-game sweep, the Rockies hit only .222, with a miserable .316 on-base percentage and a lowly .627 OPS. They had 30 hits in the LCS (the D'backs actually out-hit them). Only six of the Rockies' hits went for extra bases.

And now comes the World Series, the Rockies' first, and they look completely overmatched against one of the better pitching staffs in the AL. In two games they are 11 for 61 (.180). They have four doubles, their only extra-base hits.

You know who's getting the job done? Well, no one, really. Holliday had four singles in Game 2, some of them hit hard, making him 4 for 8 in the two games. But after an eighth-inning single, with an eye toward stealing second base, he was picked off of first by Papelbon with the Rockies trailing by a run. It was a critical mistake at a critical time, and it helped put the Rockies in the critical shape that they're in.

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