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Rough outing from bullpen sinks Rockies

Submitted by Sports on April 25, 2012 – 7:56 amNo Comment

PITTSBURGH — Rockies relief pitcher Matt Belisle is content with performing efficiently without drawing attention to himself, and being counted on in difficult situations — especially if it makes it easier on others.

Belisle hasn’t had many nights like Tuesday. He gave up a leadoff homer to Clint Barmes for the tying run, committed an error on a bunt and yielded Casey McGehee’s two-out, RBI single for the go-ahead run in the 5-4 loss to the Pirates at PNC Park in front of 10,484.

The homer by Barmes — a former Rockies player who entered the game 4-for-45 but had two doubles, a walk and a homer — was the first earned run off Belisle since last Sept. 4 and first homer since the D-backs’ Justin Upton went deep last Aug. 30. Belisle’s rare struggle deflected some of the attention from struggling lefty reliever Rex Brothers.

“I put this one on my shoulders,” Belisle said. “It’s a disgusting taste, but I’ll just get the ball tomorrow and keep rolling.”

The loss came on a night when Carlos Gonzalez ended a 55 at-bat homerless string, dating back to last season, by knocking a pair of two-run homers, and when ageless veteran Jamie Moyer held the Pirates to one run and six hits in six innings.

For the veteran Belisle, Tuesday was a blip. For Brothers, 24, it added to a concerning pattern that already has caused manager Jim Tracy to slide Belisle into the eighth-inning role that Brothers earned during the spring.

Brothers entered in the seventh with the Rockies leading 2-1 and promptly gave up three hits — Alex Presley and Jose Tabata singles, and an Andrew McCutchen two-run double, plus a walk, and left the mound trailing, 3-2.

Although he entered Tuesday with a 1.59 ERA, he had teetered in his previous three outings.

Brothers gave up a lead against the D-backs on April 14, but Todd Helton’s dramatic ninth-inning homer won it for the Rockies. Brothers was able to recover from a one-out walk with a double-play grounder April 17 against the Padres. On Sunday, Brothers gave up a hit and a walk to the only hitters he faced at Milwaukee, before Belisle saved his inning and the Rockies pulled out a victory.

But on Tuesday, Brothers’ issues of overthrowing and ending up either missing outside the zone or leaving pitches up and over the middle finally caught up with the Rockies.

“He wants to be so good for this team, he knows the responsibility that he has, how important his role is, and I think he’s just trying to do more,” Rockies pitching coach Bob Apodaca said. “Less, you get more. More, you get less. Right now, he has the wrong formula.”

Tracy said, “Moving forward, we absolutely have to have that guy. When he’s right, it doesn’t matter who’s standing at the plate, right- or left-handed, when you throw the ball 96 and 97 mph. But he’s not making pitches right now.”

The Rockies had stellar performances from a couple of key figures.

Gonzalez said he felt at full strength for the first time since a bout with strep throat kept him out of the lineup April 14-16, and he proved it with his two homers. The first was in the first, for a 2-0 lead against Pirates starter Kevin Correia, who didn’t give up any more runs in six innings. The second was off Pirates lefty reliever Tony Watson with two out in the eighth for a 4-3 lead.

“I’m feeling a lot better at the plate, and the more pitches I see, the better I’m going to get,” Gonzalez said.

Moyer has become more than the oldest pitcher ever to win a game. On Tuesday, at 49 years and 158 days, Moyer once again proved he is the Rockies’ most consistent pitcher this season.

Presley doubled to open the first and scored on McCutchen’s fielder’s choice grounder, then Moyer became stingy. Moyer was at his crafty best in the sixth, when he pitched around Barmes to load the bases with two outs, then forced pinch-hitter Josh Harrison into an inning-ending grounder to third.

Moyer had thrown 84 pitches when Tracy turned the game over to Brothers. The labor-intensive sixth figured in the decision.

“I can economize a little bit better,” Moyer said. “I threw too many pitches at certain points of the game and that forces me to work a little too hard.”

Moyer is the only Rockies starter who has gone at least five innings in every start, and has been in position to win three of his four outings, and his uniqueness continues to confound opponents.

“I had three frustrating at-bats against him,” McCutchen said. I can’t believe he got me out. Seeing someone throwing 79 [mph] is like seeing someone throw 100. It isn’t something you see every day.”

Thomas Harding is a reporter for

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