In the Rockpile: Troubling May for Colorado Rockies


Colorado Rockies column banner: In the Rockpile

Colorado Rockies Carlos Gonzalez stands at home plate after striking out.
An all-too-common site in Colorado with runners in scoring position: Carlos Gonzalez striking out. (AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)

The Colorado Rockies had a hopeful April of baseball only to enter May on shaky ground and make their situation worse by the end of the month. Bursting to 13-4 record out the gate in the first two weeks of April, the Rockies have since gone 15-23 to close out the first two months of baseball.

The running theme the last month and a half has been base runners stranded. Still a top-10 team in most batting stats, the Colorado Rockies have become a victim of the moment with runners in scoring position. For some reason, the bigger moment of driving in runs has become problematic as they struggle to capitalize on scoring base runners, resulting in the Rockies unacceptably blowing chances to secure first place and win more games.

In one series, they are beating the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants, then they turn around and drop series to the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros. It is confounding for a baseball team with performance indicators well above average to lose a series to two of the worst teams in baseball.

But then again, we are talking about the Colorado Rockies here.

Troy Tulowitzki is playing at his normal All-Star level, leading the team in most batting categories. Carlos Gonzalez is doing his thing; hitting home runs and racking up strikeouts in pursuit of more long balls. The one thing CarGo has improved so far this season is being a better batter away from Coors Field. He is batting .277 at home, but is .337 away. Michael Cuddyer is quietly having a good season despite his earlier injury that landed him on the DL. So how are the Rockies only 28-27 with such good batting statistics and a lineup that is dangerous?

The moment is too big for them with runners in scoring position.

Last night against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the seventh inning, Nolan Arenado was walked with one out by Clayton Kershaw. Then DJ LeMahieu doubled off Kershaw, and up came CarGo. What happened next? CarGo struck out — no shocker — and then Eric Young Jr. grounded out. Inning over, Rockies fail to capitalize on base runners.

Another recent example was against the Astros. The Colorado Rockies left six on base in scoring position and couldn’t even get the series split with the second-worst team in baseball. This has to sound like good news to the Miami Marlins, who still have the Colorado Rockies coming up on their schedule.

The April run has passed, and the page has turned to a more familiar chapter: the scuffling Rockies of summer. The Rockies saving grace this season has been that they aren’t completely inept at the plate — only more often with runners in scoring position — and the pitching has been better than expected, even with struggling starters Juan Nicasio, Jon Garland and an injured and undependable Jeff Francis. Jorge De La Rosa has been the pitcher they needed the last two years and Tyler Chatwood has been money in the bank as a call up.

It’s not that the Rockies are bad, but they just aren’t that good despite still being afloat in the division standings. But they are by no means a playoff contender. Real playoff contenders will score runs and not shrink in “the moment” when scoring runs are the most important.

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