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Rockies continue struggles vs. Royals

Rockies' bats can't ignite on the road

KANSAS CITY -- If indeed the Rockies start hitting the ball and salvage what had been a great start to June, they might look back and see that two inside fastballs sparked all of it.

The drama came at the end. It had nothing to do with the outcome of the game, another half-hearted loss to the Royals, this time, 7-3. After striking out two batters in the eighth, Royals reliever Ramon Ramirez, who was traded from Colorado to the Royals, opened the ninth by throwing a fastball by the head of Yorvit Torrealba, one way outside and another behind him.

The umpire gave Ramirez a warning. Manager Clint Hurdle had seen pitchers thrown out after two errant pitches and wanted an ejection.

"From our perspective," Hurdle said, "it seemed like he took two pretty good shots at him and missed for whatever reason."

More than he wanted that ejection, Hurdle wants a reaction from his team.

"Hopefully, he maybe lit a pilot light that we're having trouble getting lit or keeping lit," he said. "So maybe we can thank him for that when it's all said and done."

The Rockies certainly need some kind of jolt.

They lost their second straight to the Royals, and their fourth in their last five games. Previously hot Jorge De La Rosa couldn't get out of the fifth inning, Clint Barmes threw a ball into the dugout and besides another harmless Matt Holliday home run, the offense faltered like it has several times this season.

The game started unraveling in the fourth, when De La Rosa floundered after throwing a perfect three innings. He walked Mike Aviles and then forced Alex Gordon into a popup toward short.

Tulowitzki barely caught the ball and said he wasn't sure if he trapped it or got the out. The umpire called it an out. As a precaution, Tulowitzki flipped it to Barmes at second, and Barmes proceeded to fire the ball into stands, trying to double up Aviles at first. Aviles advanced to third and later scored.

The Royals scored three more in the fifth, and De La Rosa didn't make it through the inning. It was surprising because he'd been the best of the bunch lately for the Colorado starters. Last time out, he fanned 10 batters in six innings. That outing came after he struck out eight.

This time, Hurdle thought De La Rosa ditched his slider after the third inning and just focused on throwing his fastball and changeup. Torrealba noticed that De La Rosa might've been trying too hard going against his former team.

"He probably decided he was playing Kansas City," Torrealba said, "and maybe he wanted to be sure not to get wild against them. He was able to make pitches the first inning and then he started overthrowing all over the place."

Holliday homered in the sixth, his second of the series, and Garrett Atkins later scored on a Brad Hawpe double. Other than another run in the fourth, that was it for Colorado's offense.

The story seems to follow a pattern. The Rockies had 10 hits, but they couldn't manufacture anything significant. They've scored just eight runs in their last three games.

"It's that elusive big inning," Hurdle said. "We're throwing some body punches, but we're not able to hit anyone hard enough to drop their hands and hit them in the head."

Ramirez almost hit Torrealba in the head. His pitches in the ninth came out of nowhere. He had shown brilliant control in the eighth and there seemed to be no reason to explain why he'd purposely throw at Torrealba, a good friend. Before the game, the two players had a friendly chat with each other in the Rockies' dugout.

Exactly what happened remains a mystery. Ramirez claimed the sweat on his hands caused the ball to slip. Royals manager Trey Hillman echoed the sentiment.

No one was buying it on the other side of the clubhouse. Torrealba wouldn't comment, but Hurdle and Tulowitzki were far more outspoken.

"I think it woke us up a little bit," Tulowitzki said. "We know him, and he has good control. It's not like him. Obviously it was on purpose, and we'll try to figure it out. It was obviously not right to do, and I think he should've been ejected."

But like Ramirez's true intent, it's unknown whether the Rockies' fiery attitudes will create any momentum.

Mark Dent is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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