The Rockies popped a bubble of frustration that had been building in recent days, coming from five runs down to shock the Giants on Wednesday and end a prolonged slump.
Now, can they put those struggles fully behind them?
Coming off their first scheduled off day in nearly a month, refreshed Colorado is now tasked with a six-game trip to face the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego, the top two teams in the NL West.
“We look forward to a pretty tough road trip and some must-win games,” new Rockies center fielder Kevin Pillar said.
The urgency is understandable, considering the Dodgers easily swept the Rockies in their first series this year and the Padres last week came to Coors Field and won three of four with three blowouts.
But the Rockies are feeling good after a needed win, and they finally had a break to retool and recalibrate with two key recent additions in Pillar and reliever Mychal Givens.
Here are some updates on the Rockies, who enter play Friday with a half-game lead for the final National League playoff spot.
Not a winning trend
The Rockies are 13-8 this year against opponents that currently have a losing record. Against winning teams they are just 5-11. With the right schedule, that might work in this season where more than half the teams will qualify for the postseason; but the Rockies can’t get away with it. They’ll finish with 11 teams that are currently under .500 and 12 that are over. The good news is they close with four games at Arizona (14-23), against which Colorado has won four of its last five.
Nolan is fine
Nolan Arenado may have begun the season in a prolonged slump, batting .185 through Aug. 8, but he has provided his typical production in the 21 games that have followed. In that time he is hitting .313/.348/.550 with four home runs and 15 RBIs (numbers that extrapolate to 31 HR, 116 RBI in 162 games). Arenado entered 2020 averaging 32 home runs, 105 RBIs and hitting .295/.341/.546 in his seven big-league seasons. So, he’s still the same guy. Need further proof? He leads all of baseball in defensive Wins Above Replacement. Yep, same guy.
The Rockies hit a rough stretch on the mound in August, posting a 5.49 ERA in the month after starting with a 2.72 mark in six July games. But, even with some lumps taken recently, the arms of German Marquez (46 innings, 4.88 ERA), Kyle Freeland (44 innings, 4.09 ERA) and Antonio Senzatela (43 1/3 innings, 3.32 ERA) have stayed, for the most part, consistent. The Rockies are the only team in baseball with three pitchers who have logged at least 43 1/3 innings.
In 18 victories, Rockies pitchers have posted a 2.12 ERA with 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings. In 19 losses, those numbers make the long drop to 9.84 and 5.3. Granted, those numbers are skewed somewhat from the 23-5 loss to the Giants on Monday. The offense is producing at a .299/.365/.491 clip in wins and just .227/.287/.357 in losses. This helps explain why the team has 10 victories of three runs or more and nine losses of four or more. Perhaps the trade deadline acquisitions of two veterans can help to iron out those extremes.
Home run mark in reach
Trevor Story has hit 132 career home runs as he enters the final month of his fifth season. Only Ernie Banks (136) hit more among full-time shortstops over his first five years in baseball history. The players behind Story on the list are Francisco Lindor (130), Nomar Garciaparra (117) and Alex Rodriguez (106).
A few questions ...
The Rockies' two worst defenders this year, according to baseball-reference.com, have been Charlie Blackmon and Daniel Murphy. Would the team be better off limiting Murphy’s role to pinch hitter or occasional designated hitter start, while making Blackmon the primary DH? This would allow plus defenders Josh Fuentes and Garrett Hampson more starts and help maximize what is otherwise a strong defense. ... Wouldn’t the Rockies be best served by leaving Jon Gray in the rotation? Yes, he’s been ineffective in two starts; but in the other six he has a 3.82 ERA and four quality starts. He’s the only pitcher in franchise history with four consecutive 10-win seasons. He knows how to get out of these funks and, all things considered, doesn’t he gives the team its best option as a fourth or fifth starter over the final few weeks?