Memorial Day 2017 is arguably the most memorable day in franchise history. Who is this team with a 33-19 record and sits atop the wild NL West standings. Introducing….drum roll….the Colorado Rockies! They won yet another series taking two out of three vs. the formidable St. Louis Cardinals. The eighth inning has been the Cardinals’ death knell in the Rockies’ two victories.
Colorado scored eight runs in the eighth to blow open a tight 2-0 game and they scored four runs in the eighth on Sunday to going away to win 8-4. Gerardo Parra scored the first run and later hit a skyscraper 3-run moonshot off Lance Lynn to give the Rockies a 4-0 lead. The Cardinals nibbled back with three long solo homers to cut the deficit to one. St. Louis added yet another solo homer which was a gift from Greg Holland for the guy making his first career plate appearance to make the score a 8-4 final.
On Friday night, it was pitcher’s duel with Antonio Senzatela outpitching Carlos Martinez over eight innings. Senza tossed eight shutout innings allowing only five hits and zero walks (RMH certainly love this stat 🙂 ). Four of the hits were singles that were erased on double play balls. The fifth hit was a harmless double. Chuck Nazty provided most of the damage against Martinez with a RBI triple to open the scoring and hit a solo blast with one out in the 8th to chase Martinez. All of a sudden the purple striped men put on a hitting parade. The highlight was Chuck Nazty came up for the second time in the 8th needing a double to complete a cycle. There was a line drive in a sort of a tweener, but it was cut off before it rolled far enough. The dugout was goading him to run on to second base with 25 pair of hands banging the dugout fence. A big loud groan was heard when Nazty slammed on the brakes. In the post game interview to his credit, Nazty said it was about playing the game right plus it was about the team, not individual, accomplishment.
With the series win, Colorado improved to 12-2-2 in series play. It also clinched a winning record in the month of May. They have never had a winning record in both April and May in franchise history believe it or not. The home record is 15-11 while the road record is 18-8. 4-4 against the East division, 9-4 against Central, 18-10 vs. West, 2-1 interleague play. Consistency is the hallmark of the team. The longest losing streak is three which happened just once. The longest winning streak is just four and it happened twice. The bright spot is Rockies having a three-game win streak four times already. A meager two-game losing streak happened just three times.
There are several factors in the Rockies success. Dr. C talks about it in detail here. The biggest reasons are pitching and defense. The offense mashing is not sustainable over a long season as proven in franchise history when there is no support on the mound. They are currently ranked 10th in the majors in staff ERA with a 4.04 mark. The Dodgers (#1) and Arizona (#5) are ahead of them. Victories don’t come by easily without the bullpen to lock down the games. Colorado has 24 save opportunities, 2nd most in the majors, and still converted 21 saves. A couple of SVOs were “blown”, but the Rockies won anyway. Two new stats should be added called HDO (hold opportunity) and BH (blown hold). WHIP is another important indicator of the ability to control the other team’s offense. They own a 1.28 WHIP, good enough for #11. For the most part, the pitchers have kept the balls inside the park yielding 56 HRs which is the 9th fewest allowed. St. Louis, Los Angeles, and San Francisco (teams the Rockies have homered off) gave up less homers. The weak link is allowing the 7th most walks in baseball.
The pitchers have pitched with a lot of confidence knowing they have a stout defense behind them. The Rockies are the third-best fielding team in baseball. They also turned in the third most double plays which has helped shortened the pitchers’ pitch count.
Colorado has historically mashed at Coors. This magical year is different as they have also mashed away from Coors. The result is that they have scored 267 runs, good for number two in the majors. The other top five teams are Washington (#1), Arizona (#3), Milwaukee (#4), and Los Angeles (#5). They have pitched against all of the top five offensive powerhouses, yet the staff has held up their end of the bargain with a 4.04 ERA as noted earlier in this article. Remember a lot of hitters that are in deep slumps snap out of it when they visit Coors Field. A glaring recent example was our old friend, Dexter Fowler. That makes me more impressed with the staff in their ability to control the hitters.
I recall a few years ago when RWO was debating on how to overhaul the team. The big topic was trading for a top shelf ace pitcher. At that time I had argued that we did not need it as much as we needed five #3 starters. It looks like it’s coming to fruition this year with the exception of Jon Gray who is more of a in-between #1-#2 type pitcher. The rookies has played a large part churning out a lot of quality starts which was much needed by the bullpen. Bud Black has been able to stay with a four-man bench instead of toggling between a four and five man bench. There are a lot of versatility by the bench players, more than just your standard everyday super utility types.
Remember a few years ago when Dr. C meticulously kept track of bullpen vs. bullpen believing that it would lead Colorado to their first division title when the Rockies were the sexy pick to win the division? Then it was abandoned quickly when the bullpen failed miserably for a few years? He would be wise to bring it back! A lot of teams have questionable bullpens whereas ours are fairly good. The only bullpen weakness is the inconsistency of the front end of the bullpen, but the starters have been going deep enough to get the balls to the middle part or back end of the bullpen.
On this special Memorial Day, the Rockies open a four-game home & home series against the Seattle Mariners. Chatty and Tyler Anderson will go against Sam Gaviglio and Ariel Miranda in the first two games. Both teams travel to Seattle for the second set of two-game series. Senza and Kyle Freeland will go against James Paxton and Yovanni Gallardo.