June 30, 2011
DENVER – Clayton Mortensen, at this moment the saddest man in Colorado, was muttering to himself as he trudged to the Rockies' dugout.
His shoulders sagged. His right arm was hanging low. He kept talking, with himself as the only audience, as he approached his teammates.
Mortensen was not the only one walking around in a daze. Anyone who roots for the Rockies was reeling after Thursday’s 6-4 defeat to the Chicago White Sox.
The Rockies have the talent to climb back into the playoff race. The Rockies should be flying beside the Giants and the Diamondbacks atop the National League West.
But it’s time to start doubting this season will end happily. I’m starting to wonder if the Rockies can finish the season above .500.
If that sounds pessimistic, you didn’t pay attention to Thursday’s defeat.
Any loss stings, but this one carried a serious bite. The Rockies kicked away a 3-0 lead and a 4-1 lead. Just a few weeks ago, the Rockies had the look of a team that could ride all the way to the World Series.
Now, the Rockies are announcing to anyone paying attention that they don’t know how to win.
This was Todd Helton’s 2,000th game in a Rockies uniform. He enjoyed, despite acting as if he didn’t, a long, authentic round of applause from the crowd of 38,084.
There was a brief highlight reel, showing the best moments of Mr. Rocky. This should have been a day of celebration.
Only it wasn’t.
“It’s one of those games we should have won,” Helton said with a proper sense of gloom. “We let one get away.”
Helton speaks the truth.
In the 10th inning, Mortensen jumped on a sacrifice bunt by the White Sox’s Gordon Beckham and whirled to throw out Alex Ramirez at third base.
One problem. Mortensen dropped the ball.
An out later, Mortensen served a fat pitch to Juan Pierre, who launched one of the longest singles ever seen. Two runners scored, and the Rockies had again turned victory to defeat.
A glum Jim Tracy was biting his fingernails while he watched the final Rockies outs. He’s seen his team tumble from a blazing 11-3 start to 39-42.
Tracy is filled with hope by Wednesday’s acquisition of veteran second baseman Mark Ellis, 34, from the Oakland A’s. The Rockies are seeking an instant boost from Ellis, who is expected to hit second and start at second Friday night against the Kansas City Royals.
The arrival of Ellis, Tracy said, should deliver a jolt to each player on the Rockies roster. And he’s not talking about a happy jolt.
“This is not a feel-good situation ...,” Tracy said. “That’s the message.”
Sorry, but I’m having a tough time seeing Ellis reviving the Rockies, who stumbled through June with a 14-13 record while looking thoroughly mediocre.
Mediocre describes the current state of Ellis. He’s a career .265 hitter who has slumped to .217 this season.
“He’s obviously struggling offensively, so he’ll fit right in,” said general manager Dan O’Dowd, trying to bring a touch of humor.
O’Dowd talked before Thursday’s debacle, and he drew a few laughs.
But nobody who cares about the Rockies was smiling when this one ended.