May 31, 2014 9:17 PM by Posted by Greg Smith
The solution to his struggles with the first batter he faces is as simple as it is elusive for Rockies left-handed reliever Rex Brothers.
"Execute pitches, it's a simple as that -- nothing more, nothing less," Brothers said.
Brothers walked Jason Kipnis to open the eighth and watched him score on Mike Aviles' one-out single to give the Indians a 7-6 victory at Progressive Field in front of 20,174.
The Rockies fell to 2-6 on their longest road trip of the season, which comes to a merficul end with Sunday's finale of three with the Indians. They also were happy to wave bye-bye to May, during which they went 12-14 after a 16-13 April. Many of the ills that have made this road trip forgettable surfaced Saturday.
• Left-hander Franklin Morales gave up six runs in 5 1/3 innings in another homer-plagued start. Aviles went deep for three runs in the second inning and Lonnie Chisenhall (a lefty batter hitting 9-for-16 against lefty pitching) added a two-run shot in the sixth to lift the homer total against Morales to five in two starts this road trip, and 13 in 12 appearances (11 starts).
"It's just a matter of keeping the ball in the park," manager Walt Weiss said. "He got some balls up. It's elevated and when they've been hit, some of them have been hit out of the park. Those are quick strikes and quick runs you end up giving up."
Morales said, "I have to make the pitch in the good situation and stay in control."
He may be trying to make those pitches from the bullpen, where he has spent most of his career and would have gravitated to this year if not for injuries to Brett Anderson (broken left index finger) and Tyler Chatwood (right flexor tendon strain). Morales had a 7.59 ERA in six May starts.
With a 10-game homestand starting Monday, the team often goes to an extra reliever, which could mean they put Morales in the bullpen and bring up a starter. Lefty Tyler Matzek at Triple-A Colorado Springs and their top right-handed prospects, Eddie Butler and Jon Gray at Double-A Tulsa, are candidates.
• Although the Rockies erased a four-run deficit in the seventh with a Corey Dickerson one-out solo homer (his sixth of the season) off Scott Atchison and a Charlie Blackmon three-run shot off former Rockies left-hander Josh Outman, they struggled with strikeouts once more, going down 11 times Saturday after suffering 15 in Friday night's 6-2 loss.
The Rockies scored twice in the third and had runners at second and third when Indians starter Trevor Bauer, who fanned eight in six innings, struck out Carlos Gonzalez swinging and froze Troy Tulowitzki with a third-strike curve. Gonzalez fanned four times and Tulowitzki twice. The Nos. 2-6 hitters -- Michael Cuddyer, Gonzalez, Tulowitzki, Justin Morneau and Drew Stubbs -- went a combined 1-for-20.
"Bauer did a good job but guys kept fighting," Weiss said. "To come back and tie that thing the way we did was real nice, but in the end we didn't get it done."
• When Indians manager Terry Francona sent Kipnis to pinch-hit to start the eighth, Weiss replaced Adam Ottavino -- who struck out two in a spotless seventh -- with Brothers.
But the walk to Kipnis to open the bottom of the eighth meant opposing leadoff batters have a .385 on-base percentage to go with a .304 batting average against Brothers.
"Any time you have leadoff walks you're going to get into trouble," Brothers said. "You put pressure on yourself, and then you have to get out of a hole.
The Rockies signed veteran righty LaTroy Hawkins as closer. But Brothers, who was dominant more often than not last year while filling in as closer when Rafael Betancourt was injured, was in position to segue into the role. However, Saturday was another illustration why Brothers hasn't pitched his way into the ninth. Brothers has 15 walks in 24 1/3 innings.
"He hasn't had his great command," Weiss said. "When he's throwing strikes, we saw last year, he's as good as anybody. But he's had some traffic out there."
Aviles' winning single made up for a play in the seventh that helped set up Blackmon's homer. The Rockies' Wilin Rosario singled off Atchison and DJ LeMahieu hit a grounder toward where Aviles was playing at second base. However, Aviles misread the ball off the bat, so it was a hit rather than an inning-ending double play.
"We got the win, but at the same time, couple runs got charged to [Atchison], which I'm not too proud of," said Aviles, who nonetheless could celebrate the Indians winning their second straight after dropping four in a row before the Rockies arrived.
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