Disappointing Rox Need Second-Half Surge

If the Rockies don't play considerably better at home, contending would be out of the question.

They typically dominate at Coors Field but are just 22-22 there this season, in large part because they're hitting a mere .251 at home. Those home struggles are part of the reason they are 43-48 overall and 8 1/2 games behind the first-place Giants in the NL West standings heading into the All-Star break.

The Rockies will have a chance to right things immediately with an eight-game homestand to begin the second half, albeit against two good teams, the Brewers and Braves.

Colorado has had a huge void in the rotation since left-hander Jorge De La Rosa, their best starter, suffered a season-ending elbow injury May 24. Ubaldo Jimenez has been good since the start of June after two miserable months, and he made his best start of the season Saturday at Washington. Jimenez must continue to pitch like his dominant 2010 self to bolster a rotation that needs a lift.

The Rockies have shown a maddening inability to get big hits.

Center fielder Carlos Gonzalez and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki finished in the top five in MVP voting last year. They haven't been that good this year, but worse, they haven't been hot at the same time. That must happen in the second half to spark an offense hurt by the regressions of Ian Stewart and Dexter Fowler.


--Manager Jim Tracy shuffled the rotation after the All-Star break with an eye toward easing the bullpen's workload. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez will start the first game Thursday, followed by RHP Juan Nicasio, RHP Jhoulys Chacin, RHP Aaron Cook and RHP Jason Hammel. If the team had remained on its previous schedule, the rotation would have begun with Nicasio, a rookie who is developing but somewhat unpredictable, followed by the struggling Cook, a pairing that can tax the bullpen.

Jimenez and Chacin recently have been the most dependable starters, and they are more likely to pitch deep in a game. So Tracy dropped Nicasio between them and put Cook and Hammel, who profiles best as a fifth starter, albeit with better stuff than most in that role, at the back of the rotation.

Cook, 32, began the season on the disabled list. Since being activated June 9, he has gone 0-4 with a 5.82 ERA in six starts. In his most recent start, Cook allowed 10 hits and seven runs in a 9-1 loss at Atlanta on July 6. After the game, Tracy refused to answer a question about whether Cook would remain in the rotation. Tracy said Sunday that he's not looking to remove Cook from the rotation, but the veteran right-hander must improve.

"He needs to get the ball down," Tracy said. "The sinker can't go side-to-side, across the plate. It has to go down toward the plate. That's the big thing there. Aaron Cook realizes the fact that he has to pitch better. It's that simple."

--CF Carlos Gonzalez had an MRI on his bruised right wrist Monday. Gonzalez was injured July 3 when he banged into the center field wall at Coors Field while making a catch. He was taken to a Denver hospital, where an X-ray revealed a deep bone bruise. Gonzalez miss four straight games before returning to the lineup Friday at Washington. He felt pain in the wrist when he struck out in the fourth inning and was reduced to trying to bunt for a hit on his final at-bat in the eighth. Gonzalez then landed on his wrist in the bottom of the ninth while trying to make a diving catch. Gonzalez didn't start Saturday and Sunday but went in each day as a defensive replacement. He didn't bat in either game.

--RHP Ubaldo Jimenez went 0-5 with a 5.86 ERA in first nine starts of the season, but Jimenez has been pitching well lately. He's 4-3 with a 2.52 ERA in his past eight starts, walking 11 and striking out 50 in 53 2/3 innings. On Saturday at Washington, Jimenez had his best start of the season, allowing one run and five hits, including two infield singles, in eight innings. He walked one and fanned eight. Jimenez was throwing 95-96 mph toward the end of his 112-pitch outing, doing his best job all season of maintaining his velocity deep into the game.

--RHP Jhoulys Chacin, who gave up a combined 10 runs in 10 innings and lost consecutive starts, rebounded with a terrific game Sunday. However, he lost again when the Rockies were shut out 2-0 at Washington. Chacin, who retired the first 11 batters he faced, allowed four hits, one walk and one run while striking out four. He needed just 84 pitches (52 strikes) to work seven innings. The one run Chacin allowed resulted from an infield single by Ian Desmond to lead off the sixth, pitcher Jordan Zimmerman's sacrifice and Roger Bernadina's broke-bat single. Chacin gave up a double off the center field wall to Michael Morse with one out in the seventh but got Jayson Werth to foul out and Wilson Ramos to fly out.

--LF Cole Garner made his second start in the big leagues on Sunday and struck out on each of his four at-bats. Garner is 1-for-8 with six strikeouts in three games.

--The Rockies were shut out for the fourth time this season on Sunday. They were also blanked 3-0 on April 29 against Pittsburgh, 3-0 on May 8 at San Francisco and 2-0 on June 7 at San Diego.

--The Rockies are 2-15 in games on the road during which they have scored two or fewer runs. They won 2-1 twice -- on Saturday at Washington and on June 4 at San Francisco.

--The Rockies have not swept a three-game series on the road this season. On Sunday, they were trying for their first series sweep on the road since they won all four games against the Mets at New York on April 11-14 in the second road series of the season.

BY THE NUMBERS: 12 -- Consecutive Sunday losses for the Rockies, whose last Sunday win was April 17, when they beat the Cubs 9-5 at Coors Field.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Right now, we aren't as good as we thought we were. There's no doubt in my mind that we have the talent, but we have to go out and prove it." -- 1B Todd Helton, on the Rockies, who just finished a 2-5 road trip that left them with a 43-48 record at the All-Star break.

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