DENVER -- The Rockies' 2-4 road trip to Miami and Cincinnati was a festival of frustration for an offense that kept racing out to leads or scoring runs, only to have pitchers give runs away faster. The season is becoming a test for hitters and pitchers. Can hitters keep from imploding out of frustration? Can pitchers improve before hitter frustration becomes inevitable?
"You can slice it and dice it any way you want to, but we very easily could have won five out of six games," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "We averaged close to six runs a game offensively, we've got our 3-4 combination starting to fire collectively, which only enhances our offense. And you have the Heltons and Cuddyers, and [rookie third baseman Jordan] Pacheco has done a nice job. The bullpen has done a very credible job over the last week to 10 days.
"We need to be more consistent from a starting pitching standpoint. It's that simple."
A handful of times this season, the pitchers excelled when the offense struggled. But this time, the offense left little reason to quarrel.
Carlos Gonzalez went 7-for-25 (.280) and finished the trip with a two-homer game Sunday -- when the Rockies went deep five times and lost, 7-5, to the Reds. Cleanup hitter Troy Tulowitzki was 9-for-24 (.375) with three homers and nine RBIs. Todd Helton, struggling before leaving town, hit .313, and Michael Cuddyer hit .333 after slumping during the last homestand."There's no reason why it shouldn't continue," Tulowitzki said. "You look up and down the lineup and we have proven guys, and some young guys swinging the bats well. You can go through spurts here and there where you're not swinging as well as others, but, for the most part, we should be pretty productive.
"What we were saying in the dugout was, 'We gave up some, answer back. We're going to have to win it with our bats today.' Pitchers know they're not doing the greatest. Hopefully, they'll figure it out. When they do, we'll be a lot better."
In past years, the team has surged when Tulowitzki and Gonzalez surged. This year is different. There is no ace pitcher. The rotation consists of inexperience, with a couple of workmanlike veterans in Jeremy Guthrie and Jamie Moyer, who haven't been consistently effective. Jhoulys Chacin trying to pitch through injury for five starts then going onto the disabled list didn't help.
Gonzalez admitted it's frustrating, but he knew difficulties were possible.
"To wait is hard, because you want to win bad every single day, but you also understand that this game is not easy," Gonzalez said. "Even good players struggle. Look at how long it took Albert Pujols to make adjustments in the American League [with the Angels], playing in a new stadium, new fans, new pitchers. That's how everybody feels the first day in the big leagues.
"If you want to be successful, you have to make the adjustments. And for me, as a teammate, I have to be patient and feel they're going to find their way."
If frustration hasn't eaten the team from inside out, the players hear fan dissatisfaction in Denver, with fans booing and calling for replacements of key decision makers.
"It's tough to hear, anytime you come to your home ballpark, hearing this many boos, a lot of people in the paper talking about your teammates and people in the organization," Tulowitzki said. "It does touch you a little bit, but it's part of the business. We're trying to turn some of those boos into cheers. Hopefully, we can do that here.
"That's been the toughest part for me. On the road, guys are at ease because the fans are going to be against you anyway. We kind of expect it. Here, it's kind of a shock."
De La Rosa struggles in rehab start
DENVER -- Rockies left-handed pitcher Jorge De La Rosa threw 60 pitches in 3 1/3 difficult innings, during which he gave up two home runs in an injury rehab start Sunday for Triple-A Colorado Springs at Fresno.
De La Rosa, recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery last May, was making his first start since May 17, when he experienced left forearm tightness while pitching for Double-A Tulsa. The injury caused the Rockies to end his rehab assignment and start him on a new one, which has a 30-day limit under MLB rules. On Sunday, De La Rosa gave up four hits, including home runs to Giants farmhands Justin Christian and Jackson Williams in Colorado Springs' 8-3 loss.
Rockies manager Jim Tracy said he expected the inconsistencies. De La Rosa threw just 32 strikes and finished with two walks and two strikeouts. Tracy cautioned against anyone expecting De La Rosa -- 29-12 from June 9, 2009, until he was injured last May 24 -- to rescue a starting staff marked by youth and wildness.
"I do not perceive Jorge De La Rosa to be some type of savior when he shows up here," Tracy said. "I've tried to make that clear. He's coming back from a serious arm surgery. We have to allow him to evolve, just like we have to allow anybody else. To think he was going to walk up here and pick up where he left off, pitching like he was pitching in 2009 and 2010, that's a ludicrous thought.
"We're going to be on a roller coaster with this guy. That's all part of recovering from this type of surgery. If it goes well, in 2013 he would have a chance to returning and being a very special guy again. Maybe he'll shock us. But if we experience up-and-down with Jorge De La Rosa, I'm not going to be disappointed. That comes with the territory."
Pacheco showing improvement in second stint
DENVER -- Rockies rookie third baseman Jordan Pacheco is enjoying his do-over.
Pacheco made the Opening Day roster, but went 2-for-10 before being sent down to Triple-A Colorado Springs on April 15. But from May 7 through Sunday, when he went 0-for-4 at Cincinnati and saw his hitting streak end at 11 games, Pacheco hit .302 with one home run and six RBIs.
The Rockies needed the improvement from Pacheco, with Chris Nelson out with a left wrist injury. Pacheco said the regular at-bats in Colorado Springs helped.
"We're two months into the season, so I've probably got 200 at-bats between here and Colorado Springs, and it's nice to see a lot of pitching," Pacheco said. "The more pitches you see, the more comfortable you get."
At the start of the season, Pacheco was sharing time with Nelson and, being a converted catcher, had not reached a comfort level at third base. Pacheco said changing his mindset took time.
"You've got to think, 'If the ball is hit at you, what are you going to do with it?'" Pacheco said. "It's not so much what pitch is coming next, what did the hitter do last time and where do we need to throw this pitch. I needed to simplify and just worry about catching the ball and throwing to the base it needs to go to."
Torres sent down following doubleheader
DENVER -- The Rockies recalled right-handed pitcher Carlos Torres from Triple-A Colorado Springs to serve as the 26th player for Monday's doubleheader. New Collective Bargaining Agreement rules allow a team an extra player for a doubleheader as long as the twin bill is not rescheduled for the day after a scheduled game is called off.
Torres, 29, spent 11 days with the Rockies earlier this month and gave up one run on two hits and two walks, with three strikeouts, in three appearances. At Colorado Springs, Torres was 2-1 with a 2.45 ERA.
Torres saw brief time with the White Sox in 2009 and 2010 and is 1-3 with a 6.46 ERA in 16 appearances, including six starts.
Torres did not pitch in either game of the doubleheader, and was sent back to Colorado Springs following the nightcap.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.