In the pre-game I asked if the Rockies were due for some good luck?
That would be a big fat no!
Let’s talk about the good things first:
1) Jordan Lyles had a very good bounce back game, getting through 6 innings in just 95 pitches with 60 of them being strikes. That appears to be about the exact opposite of the stinker he dropped against the Padres on Saturday night last week in Coors. He did that with 6Ks and only 1 walk. Granted, this is the most aggressive team hitting-wise in the majors but still, you get credit for doing what he did. From the 4th to 6th inning he was throwing more like a staff ace than a guy who came into the year as a AAA depth or a 5th strarter. Great job Jordan.
2) Cuddy finally got one of those warning track shots to go over. Seems like since he came off the DL he has hit at least one ball a year to the warning track. He hit one deep earlier in the game that just died at the wall, but in the 6th knocked one out. Nice to see Cuddy getting closer to being his old self.
And that is the sum of the good news.
The bad news:
1) I know that every team has injuries, but the fact that the Rockies are not 10 games under .500 with the injuries they have faced this year tells you how good this team really is. They have lost 2 of their top 4 arms for at least 60 days (Anderson was slotted in at #2 and Chatwood at #4). They lost their staff ace (as they planned coming into the year) from the first day of spring training and he still is not quite right (Chacin). They lost one of the best hitting catchers in baseball for around 3 weeks. They lost the reigning batting champ for nearly a month. And they have survived CarGo being injured enough that he has no speed or push-off in his legs and now hand issues again. So yes, all teams have injuries, but the Rox have really been hammered.
And now they lose Nolan Arenado. A lot of you who follow our game chats have heard me railing on this for a while but, the bases being used in today’s baseball games are essentially concrete. They are actually worse than what the players in earlier generations used – what other piece of equipment is that true of in the game today? Anyways, here is the article from ESPN http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/10902301/mlb-game-bases-hazard-player-health and a follow-up article http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/10903230/mlb-roger-hall-wants-safer-base-majors
Nolan joined the list of players who have been put out of action by sliding into the concrete blocks being used out there. We can argue head-first vs feet-first, but as Harold Reynolds pointed out the other night, once you are at the age of minor leaguers, its more dangerous to try and change. Nolan on a slide that almost took him off the bag (it was reviewed and he was safe, only the second time in a long stretch a team missed one challenging against us), slid with his left-hand into the base and broke his left middle finger. Depending on the depth of the break, whether he will need pins, etc, he his gone for anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks. Now, some guys have been able to come back quicker, but I doubt the Rox will rush Nolan. But instantly they lost not only the best defensive third-baseman in at least the NL, but their best road hitter and seemingly their best 2-strike hitter (have not checked the stats, just guessing).
Losing the game is small stuff – your going to lose 60+ in a year anyways. Losing Nolan really hurts. It means likely that Josh Rutledge is back up here (not sure how his weight-gain program was going after losing so much to that viral infection), and DJ slides to third. Your infield D gets hurt two places (DJ is a great defensive 2nd baseman, an adequate 3rd baseman), at both 3rd and 2nd. Your offensive line-up rather than getting lengthened, as a lot of us hoped would happen after Rut got back up here and started playing at least on the road, shrinks yet again, after it just got longer with Rosario back.
Can this team survive Nolan’s time gone? Of course. This team is resilient. The most resilient team that the Rox have ever had and one of the most resilient teams I can remember in baseball for many years. But I think there may be more changes coming. I would not be surprised to see one of the six outfielders sent down to bring up Ryan Wheeler as well, just to have another infield bat that has pop. We shall see. The team has weathered the early season injuries because Dan O’Dowd built in starting pitching and outfield depth with trades. This team you can argue played better with Cuddy than without him. While the starting pitching has suffered with throwing Morales and Nicasio in place of Anderson and Chatwood, the difference has been small enough thank to those two guys giving some quality starts and keeping them in ball games that they probably are not a whole lot worse for the wear.
But just like you cannot find a replacement for Tulo or CarGo long-term, it may not be possible to adequately replace Nolan (I would say the same thing if Justin Morneau was hurt, based on the D and the ability to lengthen the lineup). Can this team stay in it til he returns? Of course…but a lot of guys are going to need to have a few weeks playing above their normal output.
2) The pen issues still persist. If you look on paper, this is a good bullpen. And I don’t mean in the abstract either. Look at the pitching splits I just posted last night. They have 5 relievers with 3 or less ERAs at home. These are good relievers. But we are now 2-8 in games decided by the pens. The reason is that no matter how good our relievers are, it seems like every night one guy makes the one bad pitch that ends up costing the game. Last night it was Zero, Adam Ottavino, a guy a lot of us see as a potential closer someday. He loaded the bases and then gave up a base hit to their sub .200 hitting catcher. Only one of the hits against him was a bad pitch. The one that gave up the hit was not a bad pitch. It just wasn’t good enough. That is the challenge with bullpens. You have to have every guy good enough every night. When you are playing a lot of tie or 1 run games, that means you have no room for error. Tonight, Adam made an error and it cost the team. It happens. But if this team was just .500 in pen games, 4-4, we would be 1 game out of first – a big difference.
I like this team, and I still believe they can contend, but the margin of error for this team right now is much less than it is for the Dodgers and Giants, and blown games like last night cut into that margin.
3) I have to bring this up because it does change how games are managed. In the third inning Jordan Lyles throws a great strike to strike-out Justin Upton with 1 out and his brother at 3rd. Great pitch. Upton turned to go to the dugout. Only problem…the umpire so entirely missed it he called it a ball. It is one of the few times I ever saw a hitter turn-around from heading to the dugout on a call – coming back from thinking he had a walk, sure, but not thinking he was a K victim (which he was). Next pitch, he grounds the ball slow enough to score his brother. Lyles then got the third out on a fly-out, meaning if the call had been correct, the Rox would have been carrying a 2-1 lead after the 6th inning vs. a 2-2 tie. Games are managed very differently when you have the lead vs a tie. Likely we would not have seen Ottavino throw to so many hitters. I hate to blame the umps but that is among the 5 worst calls I have seen in recent memory…again, when the hitter turns to go to the dugout, and you call it a ball, you know you really blew it. The only defense is that Pacheco didn’t do a great job grabbing the ball – but since it was over the heart of the plate and belt high….
4) The road hitting issues remain. The Rox Kd 11 times in the game, though to be fair 3 were to Craig Kimbrel in the 9th when he was throwing smoke. I have always though Kimbrel gets into trouble when he throws his slider too much. Well tonight he was throwing his slider for strikes so he just sat back throwing 97-98 with great movement. Tip your hat to the kid. But the 7Ks to Gavin Flloyd and 1 to David Carpenter are too many again. Early in the season we saw the Rox hitting early in counts, which helped avoid the strike-outs. It may have allowed starters to go deeper into games (though when teams can bring in 98 mph hurlers in the 7th, 8th and 9th, not sure facing the starter is all that bad a thing), but it kept them out of empty outs. I am not sure if the league has adjusted or what, but the Rox are striking out way too often on the road right now. Gavin Floyd is still getting back to ability after starting off the season on the DL from TJ surgery last year. He should not be striking out 7 of your hitters. Charlie Blackmon has cooled off considerably (down to .265 avg on the road starting this trip) and the search for a lead-off hitter on the road might need to begin anew. Cuddy has been doing well since coming back in the #2 hole. Tulo is Tulo. Tonight despite having no success whatsoever against Floyd, Morneau hit 4th (and he is now 4 for 35 in his career against Floyd). Arenado starting out great but was replaced by Culberson – given Nolan is the best hitter on the road….that is a huge dropoff. You get the picture. Rotten hitting on the road right now, and really, they didn’t hit well on the last homestand either. They are really scuffling hitting. It happens, and if this team can fight through injuries, it should hit again.
So, there is the game. A rotten no good game. They are again in a 2 game losing streak and the next two days are late afternoon games. Saturday features Nicasio (1-2, 4.96 ROAD ERA) vs Mike Minor (1-2, 5.29 HOME ERA) and Sunday is Morales (2-2, 5.08 ROAD ERA) vs. Julio Teheran (1-1, 1.40 HOME ERA). Nothing easy…but on this road trip nothing is going to be easy. One of these days they will face some nice right handed hard throwing homer machine…but not this weekend.
They are still 26-22 and that means there are still only 7 teams with better record than the Rockies. Go out, get some exercise, enjoy the rain, and remember the great thing about baseball – is that you usually get to forget a loss within 24 hours.