DENVER -- There are a few theories on how a pitcher can succeed in Coors Field, but the common denominator is this: Keep the ball down. Get the ball up and you risk it landing somewhere near Provo, Utah.
Rookie Jonathan Pettibone’s maiden voyage in the Denver shooting gallery was not a good one. He was bruised for 10 hits and seven runs in three innings Saturday. The Rockies, even without injured run producer Troy Tulowitzki in the lineup, hit for the cycle against Pettibone in the first inning en route to pounding the Phils, 10-5 (see Instant Replay).
“I ran into trouble elevating the ball, staying above the knees, not getting below the knees,” Pettibone said.
The loss snapped a brief, two-game win streak for the Phils, who are now 3-6 on a dreadful 10-game road trip that ends with Cole Hamels taking the mound Sunday.
In the last two games, both in the rocket launcher that is Coors Field, Phillies starting pitching has allowed 20 hits and 13 earned runs in just 7 1/3 innings.
The Phillies’ hitters were able to get Kyle Kendrick off the hook after he trailed 7-2 on Friday night. The Phils ended up with an 8-7 win.
The Phils also trailed 7-2 at one point in this game but weren’t able to bail out Pettibone.
“We got behind and couldn’t catch up,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “We couldn’t pull off the same thing we did last night. They stayed with us and kept adding on.”
The Rockies had 18 hits in the game, six for extra bases. They were aided by an error by catcher Humberto Quintero in the first inning.
“You can’t give extra outs in this ballpark,” Manuel said.
The day might have had a different look had the Phils been able to capitalize more on a first inning that saw four hitters reach base on three hits and a walk. The Phils got just one run and had another potential run cut down at the plate when Michael Young was thrown out at home for the third time on the trip. This time, he was nailed from the warning track by leftfielder Carlos Gonzalez, who throws as well as he hits.
“That was not good,” Jimmy Rollins said.
Maybe it’s time for third-base coach Ryne Sandberg to throw up a stop sign for the slow-footed Young.
“I’d like to see him make it. That’s what I’d like to see,” Manuel said of Young being caught at the plate again. “To think that we should be conservative -- in some ways, if I knew he was going to get thrown out I would hold him. At the same time too, if I’m looking and it looks like he can make it, I want you to send him. That’s just how it goes. The third-base coach was definitely right for sending him. That’s fine.
“When he ran around third, he got a little wide and slowed down. Sometimes also out here [in Denver’s light air] when you have to run and you’re not used to it, breathing gets to you. It catches up with you because you’re not used to it.”
In the end, Young getting caught at the plate didn’t lose this game for the Phils. The Rockies pounded Pettibone and reliever Jeremy Horst and their starter, Tyler Chatwood, kept them in the game. That was the difference.
Pettibone, 22, had done an outstanding job keeping his team in games in his first eight starts with the club, but he has allowed 10 earned runs in 8 1/3 innings over his last two starts and lost both.
Manuel had concerns about sending the youngster to the mound in Denver, but the schedule said it was Pettibone’s day to pitch.
“Yeah, I did,” Manuel said. “But I have concerns that a 22-year-old kid could have trouble in our yard, too, or Cincinnati or Arizona.”
Pettibone is scheduled to make his next start closer to sea level. He is the scheduled starter Friday night against the Mets in Philadelphia. Maybe pitching at home will get him back on track. Then again, it’s possible the Phils will use Friday night as an opportunity to see what Carlos Zambrano can do. The veteran right-hander has been pitching in the minors for the Phils and telling everybody he’s ready for the big leagues, though his low-octane (mid 80s) fastball might suggest he needs more time. The Phils control Zambrano until the end of the month. They will likely take a look at him some time, but might want to see more arm strength first.
While the Phillies sort out their pitching, Hamels will look to end a woeful trip on a positive note Sunday. The Phillies are 33-36. They are a one-step-forward, two-steps-back kind of team.
Will the pattern ever stop?
“That will be answered at some point,” Rollins said.