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Ninth-inning rally ends quietly against Mariners

Submitted by Sports on May 21, 2012 – 7:52 amNo Comment

DENVER – After eight listless innings, the Rockies showed some offensive life in the ninth. But mountainous climbs and walk-off rallies have been elusive lately, and their free fall continued with a 6-4 loss to the Mariners, who swept the three-game series.

The game ended when Seattle closer Brandon League, pitching for the first time since Thursday and trying to survive with two runs home and runners on first and third, threw his eighth pitch to Todd Helton and 22nd of the inning.

“The last at-bat, I thought while I was swinging, I was going to have a good result, but it didn’t work out that way,” said Helton, who went 0-for-5 with a season-high three strikeouts and whose 1-for-18 tailspin has plunged his average to .219.

And the pitch that Helton swung hard at and missed?

“A fastball right down the middle,” Helton said. “It was about the only pitch I saw all day I felt like that I was on. For whatever reason, I was waiting to hear a sound and I never did.”

League gave up a pinch-hit homer to Dexter Fowler, the first of his career, in the ninth followed by three consecutive hits by left-handers, who were hitting .405 (17-for-42) against him when Helton came to bat. League said he tries to finish hitters with his split-fingered fastball. But with Helton not biting on that pitch, League said he wasn’t going throw a full-count split and risk putting another runner on base.

“So I challenged him with my fastball,” League said, “and I came out on top.”

That’s a feeling rare these days to the Rockies, losers of 13 of their past 16 games after finishing a 1-5 homestand. The Mariners, who arrived here 1-6 on a road trip that left them with a 16-24 record, are the second-worst offensive team in the American League and didn’t have the benefit of the DH. But they outscored the Rockies 20-7 and pushed them a season-worst 10 games below .500 (15-25) and into last place percentage-wise in the NL West.

The Rockies were swept in a three-game series for the third time this month — May 4-6 against the Braves and May 11-13 at the Dodgers. They are 6-11 on the road and about to start a six-game trip to Miami and Cincinnati.

“There’s not a Lombardi speech that you’re going to give in baseball,” said Jason Giambi, whose pinch-hit single came in the midst of the rally against League. “It’s day in and day out. We don’t get a chance to walk away from the game for like a week like football and fix everything. You’re constantly trying to fix things in motion and this can be a tough game to do that in.”

The Rockies went 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position and struck out 13 times, seven against starter Blake Beavan, who left after yielding a leadoff double in the sixth to Michael Cuddyer, who broke a 0-for-13 slump with three hits.

Carlos Gonzalez homered in the first, his eighth of the season and first in 59 at-bats since May 2. He also doubled and, in the ninth, singled home the Rockies final run. Gonzalez leads the team in average (.304), runs scored 29 and RBIs (32).

“It’s hard to smile right now,” Gonzalez said. “It doesn’t matter what you do out there and not being able to win. It’s difficult.”

Jeremy Guthrie needed 102 pitches to plow through six innings and just 57 were strikes. He gave up six runs, four of them on three homers. The Mariners scored two in the first, aided by the Rockies defense on a double steal when second baseman Marco Scutaro made an ill-advised throw home after traveling far across the base to grab catcher Wilin Rosario’s wide throw. Guthrie also gave up a run-scoring single to Justin Smoak on a 1-2 pitch with two out in that inning.

“The bottom line through the first six innings of the game, the story is elevating pitches,” manager Jim Tracy said. “We threw a ball away, but the second run in the first inning is a two-strike hit on a breaking ball.”

With two out in the third, Jesus Montero hit a long two-run homer to left. Two pitches later, Smoak homered to right. And with one out in the sixth, Mike Carp homered into the second deck in right. All came on pitches from Guthrie that were elevated.

“He pitched up in the strike zone with his fastball, and this is a very bad place to pitch up in the strike zone for strikes,” Tracy said. “Not to say you don’t raise the ball up and change the eye level for a ball to go to your next pitch, but pitching in Coors Field with a fastball up in the strike zone, that’s not normally going to work out.”

Guthrie, who made his second start since missing 15 games with a shoulder injury, is 2-2 with a 5.55 ERA in six starts. But in three starts at Coors Field, Guthrie is 0-2 with a 9.92 ERA. He came to the Rockies from the Orioles where he pitched at Camden Yards, a great place to hit, but said he couldn’t discern a difference between the two ballparks.

“I haven’t pitched very well here, so I can’t necessarily judge it by the fields,” Guthrie said. “I haven’t executed nearly enough pitches when I’ve pitched here, both falling behind guys and making poor pitches ahead in the count.”

Jack Etkin is a contributor to

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