After a rather up and down home stand (how often have we said this year), having got dismantled by the Astros – a lot – the Rox took 2 of 3 from both the Brewers (behind them in the Wild Card) and the Dbacks (just ahead of them). Of course were it not for John Axford being dinked to death while having the first real bout of wildness all season, it probably is a sweep and the Rockies on a 5 game winning streak. Though full kudos to Axford for his performance on Thursday after Logan had a very bad first two batters. So now, on to the road.
And I know you see the mention of “Wild Card” and think “has Doc taken to drinking purple turpentine again?” Well, no actually, unless the spouse is seeking to finally cash in on the life insurance policy. No I reference this because the addition of a second wild card gives teams that have a bad but not awful start (see Brewers) a chance to come back and be close enough to promised land that one hot streak, one big trade, or one important call-up from being there at the end (even if you don’t make it like the Mariners last year, getting that close is a reward itself). Here are today’s NL Standings from a playoff perspective:
|St. Louis – C Leader||48-24||XXXXX|
|Los Angeles – W Leader||41-33||XXXXX|
|Washington – E Leader||40-33||XXXXX|
|Pittsburgh – WC 1 Leader||40-32||XXXXX|
|Chicago Cubs – WC 2 Leader||39-32||XXXXX|
The American League is even tighter, with all the teams within 7.5 back of the Wild Card. If you can remain that close (or preferably more like 6.0 back of the WC), you have reason to believe, especially if one of those things mentioned above (or a player who has really underperformed what you expect him to do and has done in the past), then you don’t start ripping your team apart at the trading deadline. You may or may not try and go get someone (again, the talent in AAA or advanced players in AA are always preferred when you are this far out), but there is reason to hope. It will mean having to play better going forward, but you can stay in it.
On MLB Network they were asking the question of whether or not the Chicago White Sox need to blow up their current team. The White Sox are currently 6.5 back in the Wild Card race but their management is not close to pulling the plug. They have simply played poorly. They are one up from last in average and runs scored. Oh, and one from last in ERA (how with Chris Sale at the top is that possible), driven by a next-to-last starting group (their bullpen 2nd from bottom – which is better I guess). So, lets be clear. They stink. Even after investing in Jeff Samardzija and Adam LaRoche. So, if you are 6.5 back and you stink in both pitching and hitting, why are you not blowing the whole thing up?
Because they are only 6.5 back. And their best player, Jose Abreu, is only hitting .291 and 12 homers with only a .828 OPS. Last year he was at .964 OPS. You expect your best player to be great (sound familiar….will the real Tulo please stand-up?). Or pitching to be better. Jeff Samardzija last year had a WHIP of 1.07. This year – 1.33. So you figure if he pitches just a bit better.
Okay, this is where the Rockies story comes in. Look, they have had a few periods of good baseball. They have had 2 or 3 periods of really bad baseball (including a league leading losing streak). Now, how bad is this team? Well, their starting is not too good although it has glimpses of decency. Their bullpen? Well it took a huge hit from injuries (Zero most of all but also Betencourt and Hawkins). Their offense? It is clearly missing Morneau and Dickerson (especially Dickerson), but also CarGo and Tulo have not been at their best. If Tulo had 20 homers and was hitting .345, well, the offense would be in business. If CarGo was getting anything out of being, by some measures, the 4th hardest hitting player in the NL, then they would be clearly a better team. And where we have seen this the most is at home.
Look, I still think 78 wins is the high watermark with this team. But….
You have Jon Gray pitching very well. Unlike Eddie Butler who never actually earner his way to Coors Field. Gray we have been told isn’t coming up until he doesn’t have to ever get sent back down. I think we are getting very close to that.
Tyler Chatwood is starting to get serious. For a little context, Ivan Nova went down about 4 weeks earlier than Chatwood (but not the 2nd TJ so a bit difference) and he just threw 6+ innings of shutout ball for the Yanks on Wednesday. I think we won’t see him until around August at best but…if he is close to the guy who threw in 2013, that is a nice pick-me-up.
You also have the hopeful return of Dickerson. Can Kyle Parker help this team? (I am guessing yes)
Anyways, if they can play decent on this road trip (.500 on this trip) and find a way to win 32 games on the road, then you 46 win gets you to 78. And that is a big jump. And it will keep them about 6 or 7 games back in the WC until mid-September.
Hey, its not much, but its something. But It all begins tonight? The good news is that the Rox throw their best pitcher (arguably at least) so far this year, Chad Bettis. And the Giants are throwing an increasingly aged Tim Hudson, who is at 5-6 with a 4.52 ERA and 43Ks and 21BB in 85.2 innings with a 1.35 WHIP.
Bettis is 3-2 with a 3.44 ERA (3.02 ERA in starts after the opening clunker against the Dodgers) and 43Ks and 15BBs in 49.2 innings and a WHIP of 1.23 (1.12 after the Dodger start).