Rox go from Gee! rated to PG-13 in first chal­lenge

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - MARK KISZLA Den­ver Post Colum­nist

This is the sound of a base­ball team in a free-fall. At 9:22 p.m. on the Fourth of July, so soon af­ter a dis­cour­ag­ing 8-1 loss to Cincin­nati that the pain was raw, the only noise in the Rock­ies’ club­house was the sound of wa­ter in the show­ers hit­ting the tile.

No con­ver­sa­tion. No mu­sic. No smiles.

Lose 11 of 13 games and a base­ball team can lose its mojo in a hurry. The con­fi­dent team the Rock­ies were in April, May and the first half June? The team that took the Na­tional League by storm? That team is nowhere to be found right now.

“We know we can play bet­ter than we are,” Rock­ies short­stop Trevor Story said Wed­nes­day in a club­house as quiet as a ghost town. “We un­der­stand it’s a long sea­son. It’s not al­ways go­ing to be roses. We be­lieve in our­selves.”

Base­ball is a wicked game. Swag­ger can get flushed fast. Here’s a peak at the unlucky 13 that has wrecked the

Rock­ies. It’s rated PG-13. (Parental guid­ance sug­gested.)

That start­ing ro­ta­tion of rookie wun­derkinds is be­gin­ning to show the mis­takes of youth. In the past 13 games, Colorado start­ing pitch­ers have an 8.01 earned run av­er­age.

Af­ter Kyle Free­land sur­ren­dered three con­sec­u­tive sin­gles dur­ing the third in­ning of the hol­i­day loss to Cincin­nati, man­ager Bud Black walked slowly from the dugout, in­tent on de­liv­er­ing a mes­sage he did not want to leave to pitch­ing coach Steve Foster.

As Black reached the mound, he shooed away the four in­field­ers gath­ered around Free­land and pro­ceeded to give him a stern lec­ture in front of 48,338 wit­nesses, who were there for the fire­works, not sparks be­tween the man­ager and his young pitcher.

“I’m not go­ing to tell you about our con­ver­sa­tion,” Black said.

Al­though Jon Gray is back from a nag­ging foot in­jury and back atop the ro­ta­tion, the strug­gles of Colorado starters are why the Rock­ies are hop­ing Chad Bet­tis, who has missed the en­tire sea­son while re­cov­er­ing from can­cer, might ac­tu­ally be ready to pitch again be­fore the end of Au­gust.

What’s most dis­turb­ing about this mid­sum­mer swoon, how­ever, is how the Colorado bats have turned into dead wood. Dur­ing this 2-11 stretch that has taken any re­al­is­tic thought of win­ning the divi­sion out of play, the Rock­ies have scored 3.1 runs per game, with a dis­heart­en­ing bat­ting av­er­age of .226.

Dur­ing the sev­enth in­ning, when a Colorado fan des­per­ately tried to get a chant of “We want ta­cos!” started at the ball­park, it fiz­zled as badly as an of­fense that has failed to score seven runs in any of the past 13 games. With run­ners in scor­ing po­si­tion, the Rock­ies have bat­ted .206 dur­ing the slide.

The bat­ting or­der has grown so dan­ger­ously top-heavy that it of­ten teeters and falls, even against Reds starter Homer Bai­ley, who en­tered the game with a 27.00 ERA. While Char­lie Black­mon and Nolan Are­nado earned well-de­served berths to the All-Star Game, Trevor Story is hit­ting .219 and the slug­ging per­cent­age of Car­los Gon­za­lez is an ane­mic .345.

OK, let’s have a re­al­ity check: Colorado’s record is 49-37, and the spunky lit­tle team from LoDo knows it re­mains firmly in con­trol of a wild-card berth. All the Rock­ies have to do is breathe. In­hale. Ex­hale. Don’t press.

“When you’re not go­ing good, it’s not easy to do that,” said Story, who struck out twice against the Reds. “We work re­ally hard to get out of it. But I don’t know if press is the right word.”

Here’s the bot­tom line: In 2017, the Rock­ies have learned how to win. Now we find out if the Rock­ies have learned how to deal with los­ing.

John Leyba, The Den­ver Post

Rock­ies third base­man Nolan Are­nado throws out the Cincin­nati Reds’ Eu­ge­nio Suarez over a duck­ing Adam Du­vall dur­ing the first in­ning Tues­day night.

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