Bullpen Blowup

The Rockies lost a real heartbreaker Wednesday night when what would have been the final out of the ninth to send the game into extra innings turned into a walkoff win for the Phillies when Todd Helton's foot couldn't find first base. The Rockies bullpen lost their grasp on the game before that, however, and that's why I'm writing about them today. 

Rafael Betancourt (3.28 ERA) blew the save and took the loss in this one. He entered the game with a one run lead after Dexter Fowler's RBI single off Jonathan Papelbon in the top of the inning. Betancourt promptly retired Jim Thome on a ground out to first base and Jimmy Rollins on a ground out to third before this one got away. 

Former Rockies third basemen Ty Wigginton hit a ground ball through the left side of the infield, which brought Hunter Pence to the plate as the winning run. Pence looked at a pitch in the dirt and swung through a 93 mph fastball to start the at bat. With a 1-1 count,  catcher Wilin Rosario set up low and outside with his glove begging Betancourt to keep the ball down. He failed to do that, leaving another 93 mph fastball over the middle of the plate as Pence whacked it off the left field wall 334 feet away from home plate. Wigginton, who was running on the pitch, scored easily and just like that another game got away from the Rockies. 

Now, this post is not meant to pile on Betancourt. The closer job is a tough one and surely it must be hard to stay sharp when the Rockies only have late leads once in a blue moon. Also, that was just his third blown save all season and he entered the night with a 156 ERA+ which is exactly the same number he posted last year when he was great as primarily the set up man before taking over as the closer. 

Still, even with defensive miscues behind him from Helton (who knows what he was doing?) and Marco Scutaro who made two bad throws in the inning, the most egregious error anyone in a Rockies uniform made in the ninth inning was the 1-1 pitch to Pence. He didn't get the ball down and it ultimately cost him and his team the game. 

Still, I generally look at Betancourt and his back end bullpen mates as one of the strengths of the Rockies team.

Matt Belisle, who pitched a scoreless eighth inning, has been extremely valuable over the last couple of years (2.92 ERA since 2010). A converted starter, Belisle gets it done with a fastball, a cutter, and a wipeout slider. One thing that concerns me about Belisle going forward is the workload the Rockies have given him over the last few years. They've ridden him about as hard as any reliever in baseball as only Johnny Venters and Sean Marshall have appeared in more games since the start of 2010. Over that same time, Belisle has been very effective as he's thrown more innings than any reliever but Tyler Clippard.

He's appeared in 76 and 74 games the last two years respectively and I can't help but be reminded of a reliever named Scott Proctor, who was Joe Torre's favorite toy with the Yankees in 2006-07. Proctor appeared in 83 games in consecutive seasons and after that he never appeared in more than 41 in a single season ever again. Of course, now he is most famous for having allowed Evan Longoria's walkoff home run in the famed Game 162 last year which sent the Tampa Bay Rays to the playoffs. 

Anyway, I'm not predicting the same fate for Belisle as he hasn't been used quite as much as Proctor and isn't showing any warning signs just yet. Still, his workload is certainly something to keep an eye on as he appeared in his 34th game this year on Wednesday. 

The last member of the bullpen that I wanted to hit on today is lefty Rex Brothers, who was all out of whack early this season prompting a demotion to the minor leagues (5.87 ERA). Since returning, Brothers has been lights out. In nine appearances, just two hits, one earned run, and two walks while striking out 14. Brothers has power stuff and could find his way into the closer situation sometime down the line. That could come sooner than we think as the Rockies are far from contenders and teams will be calling about Betancourt soon. 

Rockies Digest Top Stories