LOUSY ROX ARE SWEPT ANEW; VISITING PHILLY, TEXAS: MAYBE NO ONE WILL NOTICE
A bit less than a month ago the Colorado Rockies looked to be just short of turning a major corner in their development. Jon Gray turned-in Colorado’s 9th straight quality start in a win over San Diego, and the starting pitchers appeared to be entering a phase where each successive positive outing was giving rise to the next. There was potential for self-sustaining momentum, but it didn’t happen. A stretch up and down the Pacific Coast Highway generated a series of up and down starts; back in Denver a 9-game home stand got off to a promising start, then a surging Los Angeles Dodgers squad blew into Coors Field and knocked the Rockies down hard onto their butts.
Colorado has uncharacteristically benefited from a road-heavy spring schedule— they’re winning at a rate of 3 out of 5 away from Coors Field— but the pitchers have thus far failed to adjust to conditions at altitude, with results that have suddenly turned-out to be deadly. The victory rate at home is barely a tick above 1 out of 3, and no lead is safe as long as you still have to go out and play defense. The Arizona Diamondbacks were in town over the past weekend and had little more difficulty sweeping the Rockies out of town than Los Angeles had had a week earlier. Colorado is shaping Coors Field into a home field disadvantage.
There’s little reason to recap the 2 wins logged Tuesday and Wednesday in Cincinnati, except to say they came ahead of a loss on Thursday that featured a blown 5-2 7th inning lead. The weekend series at home spins like a broken record. German Marquez bumbled his way through a 4 inning Friday trailing 5-1. The Rockies kicked-up 3 against Zack Greinke in the 5th but the ‘pen got swamped-under the rest of the way for a 9-4 loss. Chad Bettis wasn’t any good on Saturday, but actually left with a 7-5 lead before Brian Shaw presided over a 6-run Arizona 8th that buried Colorado 12-7. On Sunday the Rockies sole consistent starter, the left-hander Kyle Freeland, hung tough through 5 innings before the Dbacks got him for 3 in the 6th. Jerry Vasto, up from Albuquerque for the injured Scott Oberg, was no revelation, surrendering 3 in the 7th to help Arizona to an 8-3 victory.
Colorado, 2 games up on .500 as recently as a week ago, is now a game under and heads into Philadelphia for a 3 game set with the Phillies in deep trouble. Whatever slack they’d gained from a spring that saw the Dodgers battle a number of injuries and the Dbacks suffer more AJ Pollack health issues is gone. The Rockies are short of talent on the offensive side and need a giant upswing in the determination department from both ends of the pitching staff. Despite recent gutsy work by Gerardo Parra in left and a momentary pre-injury Carlos Gonzalez surge in right, they’re getting next to nothing out of those two outfield positions, and less even than that out of 1st-base, where Ian Desmond remains stuck on the I-95. They’re getting very little out of the catching slot either, which can normally be tolerated, but not when you’re dealing with 3 other vacancies.
It’s interesting to gauge a squad’s talent from the perspective of its bench, which for Colorado consists of Mike Tauchman, Noel Cuevas, and Ryan McMahon, 3 guys we’re not sure are any better than AAAA players. A bench on the other hand occupied by Parra, Gonzalez and Desmond sounds more like something you’d see from a contender. Could Tauchman become a starter? Could McMahon? We keep holding our breath for the rise of David Dahl, but so far he’s making Troy Tulowitzki look like the Iron Horse.
Gray (6-6, 5.66) is on the hill tonight in Philly, which is running at 33-30, 3rd place in the East, against Aaron Nola (7-2. 2.35) for a 5:05 MT start at Citizen’s Bank Park. Tyler Anderson goes tomorrow, same time, against Philadelphia’s Nick Pivetta, then Marquez gets it at 11:05 in the morning Thursday versus right-hander Vince Velasquez. RMH will have things for you on the weekend as events switch to Arlington, Texas and 3 with the Rangers, who are bringing-up the rear in the American League West.
Coors Field is idle in the meantime, the persistent dilemma, a challenge to opponents and a burden on the Rockies. But write it down: Wednesday June 20 they’ve got $1 hot dogs!