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Fuentes, Rockies falter in last inning

Fuentes, Rockies falter in last inning

HOUSTON -- There was nothing Rockies closer Brian Fuentes could say Friday night, so he walked.

He began walking as Mark Loretta's two-run, two-out homer sailed over the left-field wall, tagging him with his fourth straight blown save and the Rockies' eighth straight loss, 9-8, to the Astros at Minute Maid Park in front of 42,861.

Minutes afterward, he was dressed and walking out, before anyone could ask him to talk. No one begrudged Fuentes (0-4), whose blown-save streak has accounted for half the losses on a road trip with two more games left with the Astros.

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The closest anyone could come to speaking for Fuentes, whose appearances in the last two All-Star Games seem long ago, was fellow reliever LaTroy Hawkins, a former closer who knows what Fuentes is going through and is convinced he's OK.

"I'm 130 percent behind 'Tito,'" Hawkins said of Fuentes. "I talked to him a little bit. I talked to him today. Everybody's got to get through it their own way. He was upset. He just needs to trust his stuff. Next week, he'll make that same pitch and they'll pop that up."

Now, manager Clint Hurdle has to consider how to get Fuentes back to that point. Asked if he would give Fuentes a break from closing situations, Hurdle said, "It's an option."

Errors contributed to two of Fuentes' losses and a ball that should have been fielded contributed to another loss, and soft hits have been a problem. But the home runs that cost him the last two nights raise concerns.

Thursday's 8-5 loss ended on Carlos Lee's two-out, 11th-inning grand slam.

With two down Friday, Fuentes issued Lee a tentative, five-pitch walk. Then Loretta popped Fuentes' 1-1 pitch over the short porch in left. It made a winner of Astros reliever Dave Borkowski (2-3).

"The last couple of swings ... I don't know," Hurdle said. "Tonight, the ball just got away from him. It was a quick, runaway walk to Lee and he didn't get a ball where he wanted to on Loretta. I'm not going to overanalyze him."

While Fuentes has felt the sting of losing on final pitches, each game is full of high moments unrewarded and lowlights that make a loss possible.

Rockies starter Josh Fogg had his second straight substandard start, giving up seven runs -- including a solo shot and a two-run triple to Lance Berkman -- in 4 2/3 innings.

But Garrett Atkins knocked a two-run homer in the second and a leadoff shot in the fourth off Astros starter Chris Sampson. Todd Helton, who entered on an 0-for-11 skid but smoothed out his swing during early batting practice, homered off Sampson.

Matt Holliday and pinch-hitter Ryan Spilborghs had RBI singles, with Spilborghs' putting the Rockies up, 8-7, in the seventh.

Helton, who has been with the Rockies since late 1997, has gone through some bad stretches. He called Fuentes "my guy" and echoed others in saying there has been no finger-pointing.

But considering that this club believes in its talent and had a 20-7 run before this road trip, Helton rates this slump as unique.

"It's a crazy stretch," Helton said.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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