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LAA@COL: Tracy on young players doing their part

DENVER -- The Rockies emphasized mental toughness heading into this season. They believed too often last season the team tended to go through the motions during tough times.

But the plan was not to have their starting pitching bring tough times day after day in 2012.

Rookie left-hander Christian Friedrich -- winner of his previous three starts -- coughed up nine runs, eight earned, and 10 hits in four innings on Sunday afternoon. As has often been the case, the Rockies made it a game. But as it usually happens when the starting pitching is that ineffective, the affair ended in a loss, 10-8, to the Angels at Coors Field in front of 37,722.

The Rockies battled back with home runs by Tyler Colvin -- his third in two games -- and Carlos Gonzalez, his team-leading 16th and second in as many games during a five-run second inning. They were close enough in the ninth for manager Jim Tracy to end up being ejected over a call that cost the Rockies a precious out.

Nonetheless, the Rockies (24-35) lost their fifth straight and were swept by the Angels in the three-game Interleague series.

Part of the problem was that the Angels, winners of 14 of their last 18, had two three-run homers from Mark Trumbo and a two-run Torii Hunter shot -- all off of Friedrich (4-2) -- before having to hold on at the end. The Angels scored 28 runs in the series, and the top three hitters in their lineup, Mike Trout, Hunter and Albert Pujols, went 23-for-40.

Now the Rockies must win Tuesday in the opener of another Interleague series, against the Athletics, at Coors to keep from falling to 12 games under .500, which would match their season-worst record.

To prevent that from happening, it would help for starter Jeremy Guthrie to go at least five innings -- something that has happened just once during the five-game skid. On Sunday, Friedrich had no breaking pitches, threw just a couple of changeups effectively and saw his fastball pounded. Trumbo's first homer made it 4-0 in the first, Hunter went deep in the second.

Friedrich, with no outs and one on in the fourth, got Pujols to hit a grounder to third on one of his few good changeups, but Jordan Pacheco fumbled it to negate an almost-certain double play. Trumbo followed with his second homer to break a 6-6 tie.

"I was throwing a lot of strikes early on, but when we were ahead I was not finishing," Friedrich said. "As soon as the curveball started limiting my pitch selection, I knew it was going to be a little bit of a grind."

Catcher Wilin Rosario said, "I don't have too much to say. That's a tough team and we need to keep going."

For what it's worth, every few days Tracy or the players aren't calling the dreaded team meeting -- the desperate action that often creates more dissension.

"This is tough to take when you see the kind of effort that is given every single day. In order for us to stay true to the way we left Spring Training," Tracy said. "We're going to go out there and whatever circumstances show up, we have to defeat those circumstances.

"We can't let that demoralize us to the point where we just show up. That's something I wouldn't stand for. That's when I'd walk into the clubhouse. There's no reason for me to go in there, other than to encourage them."

Instead, Tracy is using his postgame press gatherings to laud his club for staying in games. The team hit five home runs in Saturday's 11-5 loss, and Tracy took Sunday to point out that Jordan Pacheco had a hard slide and Chris Nelson hustled to stay out of a double play during the five-run Rockies second inning against Ervin Santana (3-7), who was almost as beleaguered as Friedrich but managed 5 2/3 innings.

"Those guys hit the ball hard today, and fortunately we were able to hold some leads," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "It wasn't an easy series, I guess that's life in this ballpark. We got a glimpse of that this weekend."

The Rockies trailed 10-7 going into the ninth. Colvin doubled off of Scott Downs (six saves) to open the inning, and scored on Marco Scutaro's single. Gonzalez followed with a hard liner to the mound that hit Downs in the glove. Downs fell to the ground and the ball popped loose. Noticing Gonzalez stopped outside the batter's box, believing he was already out, Downs threw to second to begin a double play.

Tracy rushed from the dugout to argue with home-plate umpire Greg Gibson and earned his first ejection of the season.

"On a ball hit that hard, if the ball's not caught, you'd see the ball hit the glove and immediately come back out," Tracy said. "He had possession, was starting the ball back and was reaching into the glove to try to throw the ball to first base. That's what I saw."

Michael Cuddyer then singled to bring the tying run to the plate, but Todd Helton popped out to end it.

"It's just one of those things: when things are going wrong, everything just [stinks]," Gonzalez said.

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