MLB Insiders: Colorado Rockies

The Pirates open a three-game series in Colorado on Tuesday night. Lefty Zach Duke will pitch for the Bucs. The Rockies will counter with lefty Jorge De La Rosa.

The fading Colorado Rockies are still trying to snap their longest losing streak of the season as they return home from a miserable road trip.

Troy Tulowitzki hopes to help the Rockies snap their six-game skid as he returns from the disabled list for Tuesday night's opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates, who continue to struggle through a historically bad season on the road.

Zachary Duke (4-9, 5.22 ERA) hopes to stop the Pirates skid after ending a personal five-game slide Wednesday against Milwaukee, working six innings in a 15-3 victory.

The left-hander, who's making his third start since a stint on the disabled list with a strained elbow, allowed nine runs in five-plus innings in an 11-3 loss in his only previous appearance at Coors Field on July 20, 2008.

He'll face another southpaw who has battled injury as Jorge De La Rosa makes his fourth outing since recovering from a torn finger tendon.

De La Rosa (3-2, 5.65) is coming off his most encouraging outing since his return. He gave up two runs and three hits in six innings Thursday at Florida, although the Rockies lost 3-2.

The Rockies finished a brutal 2-9 road trip Monday with a season-high sixth consecutive loss. They return home with their season at a crossroads.

Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is scheduled to come off the disabled list Tuesday. The Rockies managed to go 17-16 without him after he suffered a broken left wrist when hit by a pitch June 17. But after looking listless too often on their trip to Cincinnati, Florida and Philadelphia, a trip that included five one-run losses, clearly the Rockies need Tulowitzki's energy and passion. They hope he can provide some needed punch as the cleanup hitter in what has become a lackluster lineup.

The Rockies failed to get six innings from their starter in six games on the trip and fell to 20-32 on the road. They begin an eight-game homestand Tuesday, happily returning to Coors Field, where they are 31-16 and went 8-2 on a homestand against the Giants, Cardinals and Padres leading into the All-Star break.

The eight-game homestand begins with three games against the Pirates, whom the Rockies have not played this season. Pittsburgh is 11-38 on the road this season, which is the worst road record in the majors. The Pirates have lost their last six games on the road, and they arrive in Denver on a four-game losing streak and with just four wins in their past 16 games.

The Rockies have 62 games remaining -- 34 at home and 29 on the road. They came out of the All-Star break tied for second in the NL West and two games behind, but they are now in fourth place, a season-high eight games back.

Saturday's trade deadline is looming. It's possible general manager Dan O'Dowd might be able to add something to what has become a streaky mix, to say the least, at this point. But the Rockies, having staggered home, need to look within and turn things around in a hurry.

They need to make a statement of sorts on the upcoming homestand, because after the next eight home games, the Rockies play 13 of 16 on the road.

PHILLIES 5, ROCKIES 4: Seth Smith hit a two-run homer in the ninth off Phillies closer Brad Lidge, who survived a shaky 34-pitch inning by getting Ryan Spilborghs to ground back to him with the bases loaded to end the game. After Smith's homer, Lidge walked Jonathan Herrera, gave up a single to Carlos Gonzalez and threw a wild pitch with the count 0-1 on Jason Giambi. That took the bat out of Giambi's hands, as Lidge then intentionally walked Giambi to load the bases for the right-handed-hitting Spilborghs.

For the first time in franchise history, the Rockies were swept in a four-game series by the Phillies.

Notes, Quotes

* While going 2-9 on the road trip that ended Monday with a season-high sixth straight loss, the Rockies scored 35 runs, an average of 3.2 per game, lost five one-run games and failed to get six innings from their starting pitcher in six games.

* 1B Jason Giambi's RBI in the first inning gave him 1,354 in his career to tie Darrell Evans for 80th place all-time. However, he also committed two errors in the game.

* RHP Taylor Buchholz, who missed the entire 2009 season due to an elbow injury that led to Tommy John surgery, made his second appearance of the season. He threw 20 pitches while working two hitless innings. Buchholz walked one and struck out two.

* OF Ryan Spilborghs, who went 2-for-4 with one RBI while starting his third consecutive game, went 10-for-25 (.400) on the road trip with three doubles, one homer, four runs, three RBI and four walks. However, with the bases loaded and the Rockies trailing the Phillies 5-4 Monday, Spilborghs grounded out to end the game.

* LHP Randy Flores had limited left-handed hitters to a .162 average (6-for-37) before he allowed a run-scoring single to Phillies LF Raul Ibanez in relief of RHP Jason Hammel on Monday. Flores then struck out 1B Ryan Howard, another left-handed hitter, before being removed for a pinch hitter.

* OF Dexter Fowler struck out as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning Monday, capping a disappointing road trip. Fowler went 3-for-25 (.120) on the trip, and he has three hits in his past 39 at-bats with 15 strikeouts.

* RHP Jason Hammel is 0-3 with a 5.49 ERA in his past three starts after allowing five runs (four earned) in 5 2/3 innings Monday at Philadelphia. In his previous nine starts, he was 6-0 with a 2.17 ERA.

* RF Brad Hawpe was not in the lineup again. The bruised ribs Hawpe suffered June 25 are no longer a problem, but he has started just seven games since then. He pinch-hit and fouled out in the ninth inning to extend his hitless streak to 13 at-bats and finish the road trip 1-for-18.

By The Numbers: 2—Stolen bases for Jason Giambi, who matched his single-season high with his second steal July 22. Giambi has 20 career stolen bases, and this is the eighth time he has stolen two in one season.

Quote To Note: "I felt like the guy I was before I got hurt. I was able to use my changeup and slider more, especially my changeup. I hope I can be that guy for the rest of the season. I know the team needs me." —LHP Jorge De La Rosa, who missed 65 games with a finger injury and went 0-1 with a 12.91 ERA in his first two starts upon returning, after allowing three hits and two runs in six innings July 22.

Medical Watch:

* SS Troy Tulowitzki (broken left wrist) went on the 15-day disabled list June 18. He began a rehab assignment with Class AAA Colorado Springs on July 21, and he is expected to be activated July 27.

* 1B Todd Helton (lower back stiffness) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to July 5. He got an epidural injection during the second weekend of July. He returned to Denver to work with the team's medical staff on July 22 and is expected to begin a rehab assignment when he feels strong enough.

* RHP Matt Daley (right shoulder inflammation) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 11. He began a minor league rehab assignment July 12, and he is expected to be optioned to the minors when his rehab time expires.

* 2B/OF Eric Young Jr. (stress fracture in right tibia) went on the 15-day disabled list May 15, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on July 24. He began a minor league rehab assignment July 12, and he is expected to be optioned to the minors when his rehab time expires.

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