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Bases-loaded struggles fell Rockies

Bases-loaded struggles fell Rockies

NEW YORK -- Taylor Buchholz sat in a black leather chair, ice wrapped around his right shoulder and a forlorn look on his face Friday night.

But neither Buchholz's mood nor the loss he took for giving up Damion Easley's eighth-inning, two-out home run that gave the Mets a 2-1 victory at Shea Stadium served as an accurate picture of why the Rockies lost.

The Rockies blew bases-loaded opportunities in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings in a recurrence of season-long bugaboos. It was just a matter of time before one of their pitchers felt blue.

"We're looking at the wrong thing when we're focused on Buchholz," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said.

Buchholz (3-3) has given up home runs in three of his past five outings after a 47-inning homereless stretch. This one came on a full-count fastball after he had dominated David Wright on a strikeout and induced Carlos Beltran to pop out. It adds up to a bad week which Buchholz will have to work hard to keep from becoming a bona fide slump.

But the 0-for-6 performance with runners in scoring position and 10 runners left on base are season-long issues that already have put the Rockies' chances to repeat as National League champions in danger as the All-Star break approaches.

The Rockies have hit far better recently in winning seven of their past 11 games. But at 39-55 -- albeit in a weak NL West in which they're still within comeback distance -- they can't afford many more games like Friday's.

The Rockies wasted Brad Hawpe's 14th home run of the season, eight walks from Mets pitching, and stellar work by All-Star right-hander Aaron Cook, who gave up one run and six hits in six solid innings.

"We had a few opportunities to drive some runs in -- we've had some problems doing that all year," Rockies shortstop Clint Barmes said.

In those three key innings, the Rockies went 0-for-4 with the bases loaded.

A pair of two-out at-bats were curiously quick ones after walks.

In the sixth, Mets starter Oliver Perez -- who fanned seven in six-plus innings while pitching around six walks -- walked Willy Taveras with one out, and Matt Holliday and Garrett Atkins with two down. But after taking a first-pitch ball, Chris Iannetta fouled off a pitch, then flied out to center.

In the eighth, reliever Pedro Feliciano (2-2) walked the first man he faced, Hawpe, to fill the bases, but Jayson Nix took ball one, then grounded to first base.

In the seventh, with loaded bases and one out, Mets reliever Aaron Heilman struck out Taveras looking and Barmes swinging.

"A couple of times, we fired quick and a couple of other times there were 3-2 counts," Hurdle said. "But we had 10 strikeouts tonight and 15 yesterday [in an 11-1 loss to the Brewers] and a few the night before that. That's become a little bit of a stinger for us."

Mets All-Star closer Billy Wagner fanned two in an unventful ninth for his 21st save, increasing the Mets' season-high winning streak to seven games.

In a sense, Cook should miss Shea, which will be replaced by Citi Field in 2009, being built beyond the outfield walls. Cook threw seven scoreless innings in a start at Shea on April 24, 2007, and is 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in six appearances (four starts) at the park.

"For me, it's kind of like pitching in San Diego, with the humidity, and it's the same field," Cook said.

However, the Rockies lost last year's game, 2-1, in 12 innings. So the result was no different. Friday, he was denied sole possession of a club-record 12th victory before the break. Cook and Shawn Chacon (2003) will go into the record book tied.

Asked as Cook walked away if he'll miss Shea, he smiled and shook his head.

Everyone will miss it less if the Rockies can't score runs when it counts the next two games.

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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