DENVER -- It's been a tough year -- and week -- to be a Rockies pitcher. With another baseball-less October in Denver starting to look more and more likely, the finger-pointing could start with Colorado's pitchers. During an eight-game losing streak earlier this season, reliever Brian Fuentes was the culprit with four blown saves. During the Rockies' current three-game slide, the starters have struggled. Entering Sunday, Colorado has given up a season-high 29 runs over the past three games. The starters have not delivered a quality start in the last five games, forcing the bullpen to pitch 28 1/3 innings over the last six games.
"I think it is a big deal, because I think as starters, we want to go out there and do our part," Jeff Francis said. "When our bullpen's got to suck up a lot of innings, it just means that we're not doing our job as well as we can." The Rockies starters' struggles are understandable as the rotation has had to be pieced together because of injuries. Opening Day rotation members Aaron Cook, Rodrigo Lopez and Jason Hirsh are out for the season, and Elmer Dessens, a replacement starter, is currently out with a strained left hamstring. The loss of Cook has been especially difficult to compensate for. "Yeah, we've missed him," manager Clint Hurdle said. "No. 1, No. 2 guy in our rotation. The volume of innings he pitched. ... I mean, he was pitching almost seven innings a clip, a dramatic load off the bullpen." The Rockies have used 10 different starting pitchers this season, and Mark Redman, who will start the second game of Tuesday's doubleheader against the Dodgers, will make it 11. What"ll it take? As Hurdle was driving to the park Sunday, he said he started to think for the first time about how many games the Rockies will need to win in their final 14 to make the playoffs. They entered Sunday's game 4 1/2 games behind the Padres in the National League Wild Card race and 6 1/2 back of the NL West-leading D-backs. "We need to win a lot of them," Hurdle said. "That's what I came up with. Just winning a series might not do it. We need to win a lot." Smith joins team: The Rockies purchased the contract of outfielder Seth Smith from Triple-A Colorado Springs before Sunday's game. They moved Cook from the 15-day to the 60-day disabled list to make room for Smith on the 40-man roster. Smith hit .317 with 17 homers, 32 doubles, six triples and 82 RBIs in 129 games at Triple-A this season. Smith, a second-round pick in 2004, has yet to make his Major League debut. Dessens throws 'pen session: Dessens said Sunday that his strained left hamstring is feeling better and he threw his first bullpen session since he left a Sept. 7 game against the Padres in the third inning. Dessens said he did not know when he'd be able to return. Rox bits: Fuentes' wife, Barbara, gave birth to twins Benicio and Gabriella on Friday at Rose Medical Center in Denver. ... Chris Iannetta started at catcher Sunday. The Rockies are 5-2 in Iannetta's starts since he was recalled from Triple-A. ... Jeff Baker started in right field for Brad Hawpe in the finale. Baker went 2-for-2 with a homer on Friday. Hawpe sat for the second game of the series because of the Marlins' two lefty starters and his struggles against southpaws. Next up: The Rockies play a doubleheader Tuesday at Coors Field against the Dodgers. The Rockies will pitch Francis (15-8, 4.35 ERA) against Chad Billingsley (11-4, 3.14 ERA) in Game 1 at 1:05 p.m. MT. In the nightcap at 6:35 p.m., Redman (1-4, 9.67 ERA) will oppose David Wells (8-8, 5.27 ERA).
C.J. Moore is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.