Corpas' grip on Rockies' closer role is loosening PADRES 4, ROCKIES 3

Behind the grin, there was knifing pain.

Manuel Corpas likes to smile, loves to chat on the phone, but he hates to lose. After the Rockies' 4-3 loss to the San Diego Padres on Tuesday night at Coors Field fell into his lap, Corpas didn't bother camouflaging his feelings.

"I have to do something quick. I don't like this. It makes me mad. I am serious," Corpas said. "I don't want this to happen again."

There is a boomerang quality to the Rockies' season, that everything keeps coming back to the same two words: not enough. There's not enough hitting, not enough innings gobbled by starters - though don't assign any blame Tuesday to Jorge De La Rosa - and not enough closure.

Corpas' struggles have made the closer spot an open-ended question. Again. He replaced Huston Street two weeks ago, but won't get that if the opportunity arises today after throwing 70 pitches over three consecutive days. Still, his grip on the job has loosened after Luis Rodriguez's winning RBI single squirted past Todd Helton in the ninth inning.

It's symbolic of a Rockies bullpen that has blown three of six save opportunities and is defined more by uncertainty than consistency.

"It is (unsettling)," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We have to find some answers out there late. But we know they are better than this. We have to keep battling."

If it was just the relievers lacking, the Rockies' 7-12 record would be easier to stomach. On days like Tuesday, the loss felt more like a punch in the gut because of slight shortcomings throughout.

Double-play groundballs exterminated rallies in the seventh and eighth innings. The latter was explained just by looking at Troy Tulowitzki's face in the Rockies' clubhouse afterward.

Despite delivering the first of four consecutive singles in a two-run seventh - that broke an 0-for-19 slump - shortstop Tulowitzki was disturbed by his eighth-inning failure. With bases loaded, he fell behind 0-1 on a 92 mph fastball from Padres reliever Duaner Sanchez. Tulowitzki was smartly looking for a slider away on the next pitch. Instead, he was slightly jammed on a groundball to shortstop on another inside heater.

"It was nice to get in the game, first of all," said Tulowitzki, who didn't start for the second consecutive day. "I come up in a perfect spot. It's all you can ask for. You want to do more in that situation."

Alan Embree can relate. He

allowed the Rockies' 3-2 eighth-

inning lead to ooze through his capable left hand when Colorado prep product Chase Headley delivered an RBI single to right field. It was the first hit by a right-hander off Embree this season, a sign of how a promising season remains confusing.

"I got into a good position. I was to that point, where it was like, 'OK, we are going to get out of this,"' Embree said. "Then you make the pitch and, well, it's just frustrating."

Troy E. Renck: 303-954-1301 or

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Added: April 29, 2009