Poor pitching the root of Rockies' problems

Poor pitching the root of Rockies' problems

SAN DIEGO -- From April 24 through Sunday, Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez hit .391 and led the Majors with 20 RBIs. Problem is the Rockies went 4-7 through that period.

Gonzalez isn't the only Rockies hitter whose production hasn't led to wins. The Rockies scored 67 runs over a just-completed nine-game homestand, yet managed just three victories.

The culprit is a slumping and injury-riddled starting staff that has produced a 5.68 ERA this season, last in the National League and third worst in baseball. In the first two games of a three-game sweep at the hands of the Braves, the Rockies blew a 5-0 first-inning lead in one game and a 6-0 second-inning advantage in the next.

But knowing that hitting is cyclical, hitters weren't pointing fingers on Monday as the team entered the opener of three games against the Padres at Petco Park. The eight-game road trip also takes the Rockies to Dodger Stadium and AT&T Park in San Francisco, all ballparks that favor pitchers. It's a tall order to expect hitters to produce the way they did at Coors Field.

"We just have to keep playing the way we're playing," Gonzalez said. "That's how baseball is, sometimes you score runs and it doesn't work out. But if we keep scoring the way we're scoring, I think the pitchers are going to make the adjustments. They're going to find a way to get better. We're going to win some ballgames."

Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who hasn't heated up but went into Monday's game with a six-game hit streak and a .274 batting average, said better pitching will help other aspects of the Rockies' game.

"Defensively, you're out there for a long time, and when you come in to hit it affects that. You don't necessarily want to be aggressive because you've been on defense for a long time," Tulowitzki said. "But there's nothing we can do about it. It's not like guys are going out there and not trying. They're making pitches and just not getting the job done. It stinks right now, but it'll pass."

Part of the Rockies' being error prone has been attributed to the ineffective pitching, which has players standing around for a long time. The club's 24 errors going into Monday were third-most in the National League. Tulowitzki has committed seven, most on the team and one more than all of last year.

The Rockies, third in the NL in runs with 146 and fifth in batting average at .259 through Sunday, have put together an experienced lineup that might be able to carry at least some of the production from home over to its road games. That equation could make it realistic for the Rockies to believe they can exceed their best road record in club history, 41-40, in 2009.

But if the pitchers can't take advantage of the hitting at home and struggle on the road, where runs are at a premium, it won't matter.

Right-handers Jeremy Guthrie, who pitched well in two road starts and struggled twice at home, and Jhoulys Chacin, who was largely ineffective, are on the disabled list with shoulder injuries, and consistency throughout the rest of the rotation is lacking. Now, rookies Alex White and Christian Friedrich will get their chances, against the Padres on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.

"It can't continue," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "This is the area of our club that we have to get shored up."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.