Rockies enter final month controlling their own destiny

The Rockies will enter September 3.5 games back of the Dbacks and hopefully 3.5 games ahead of the Brewers (if they lose on Thursday night). This puts them in a good position for September and holding onto the second wild card spot, but they absolutely need to play better, as August was their first losing month of the year. The Rockies do not have an easy September schedule, but they play a lot of familiar teams and play a lot of meaningful games.

With September call ups, the Rockies bench will immediately be strengthened, which hopefully means seeing a lot less of Alexi Amarista. A couple players have been bad this year, Story and Cargo are both out machines, but having a player like Amarista off of the bench is absolutely worthless. He provides no power, he is a below average fielder, and he just doesn’t threaten a team late in the game.

This isn’t to say Amarista is the reason for the losing month, but as of right now, when the Rockies are trailing late, they normally lose without even making it close. Having some reinforcements will give the Rockies flexibility, and hopefully create some offense in the seventh or later.

The pitching has been good, both from starters and the bullpen, but the offense has been struggling. It has been well chronicled with just how much the offense has struggled with getting the clutch hit or even scoring runs. The home run has eluded the team this year as they are in the bottom half of the league and players just aren’t stringing hits together or taking advantage of walks, something other teams have been doing well against Colorado.

The Rockies immediately start September with the most important series of the year thus far, a series against the Dbacks. This series can’t put them ahead of Arizona for the Wild Card lead, but it can build momentum and hopefully get this team on the right track and set for the one game playoff.

 

 

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Rockies get timely hits, make series even

It took some timely two out hits and home runs for the Rockies to finally take a game with some offense, but no one is complaining here as Colorado gained ground on most of their trailers.

Along with an excellent start from German Marquez, the Rockies got their 2, 3, and 4 hitters to drive in six of their seven runs. It looked for a little while as though they were not going to run into the timely run, once again, but it they finally did something in the seventh to take a permanent lead.

The Rockies got on board first with an unlikely home run from the Rockies tall second baseman. DJ LeMahieu has been running into a couple lately and this was a no-doubter to right field, where DJ gets most of his hits. It may have been a solo shot, but it did give the Rockies an early lead and gave Marquez a run to work with.

Marquez was fantastic on Tuesday, despite giving up three runs which all came against him late. Marquez worked through 6.1 innings while allowing seven hits, but striking out ten. He started to struggle late, despite getting some good defense, by allowing a two-run game tying shot to Mikie Mahtook.

In the seventh, the Rockies threatened and scored to make a tie game their’s again. After two consecutive singles from the bottom of the order, Cargo came up to pinch hit. In what was some questionable managing by Brad Ausmus, he left in righty Michael Fulmer who allowed a sac fly to Cargo. It was not the most damage that could have been done, but after Cargo, Ausmus brought in a lefty anyways to deal with Charlie Blackmon, and he lasted only two pitches before being removed again.

With two men on and two out, Nolan Arenado came up to the plate and decided to extend the lead. Nolan crushed a ball to left-center to earn himself his third straight 30 homer, 110 RBI season. While he likely won’t win the MVP, it is hard not argue for Nolan being the best player on the Rockies and likely best third baseman in the league. With incredible defense, consistent offense, and an on-field demeanor that demands respect, Arenado is the Rockies MVP.

 

Offense fails Rockies again


Isaiah J. Downing USA TODAY Sports

If you watched the first three innings of this game and then turned it off, you would have assumed it to be an offensive showdown. However, after the third inning, neither team scored again. In fact, the Tigers only had four more hits over the course of the game and the Rockies went 0-6 and left runners on base in nearly every inning.

Both Antonio Senzatela and Jordan Zimmerman were shaky at best through the first three innings, but the bullpen for the Rockies kept the Tigers off the board and Zimmerman settled down and relied on the Rockies lack of execution to get through five innings. Neither pitcher was sharp, but both had some luck and timely outs to keep this game close.

For Colorado, after their three run second inning, the game looked to be falling in their direction. Jonathan Lucroy hit his first home run as a Rockies and Charlie Blackmon drove in Trevor Story with a single to give Colorado a 3-2 lead. The run scoring hits would end there, as the Rockies finished with 13 total hits, but only two of those actually scored runs.

Between the third and seventh inning, the Rockies left seven runners on, but most of those came as singles where no other person reached base. The sixth inning was their best chance to tie the game as they had the bases loaded with one out and the middle of their order up, but Arenado struck out and so did Parra to blow the Rockies best chance.

Whether it is a lack of focus, fatigue, bad approaches, or any number of other things that keeps the Rockies offense down is unknown, though it seems to be a culmination of a few of those things. A lineup shakeup still seems like it could be beneficial, as the players are just not producing as they are right now, but it also seems unlikely as Bud Black has not done many mixups.

The Rockies will look to even the series as they face one of the Tigers’ best pitchers on Tuesday. They send rookie German Marquez out to counter Michael Fulmer for what will hopefully be a get-back-on-track game for the Rockies offense.

Series Preview: Tigers (56-73) vs. Rockies (71-59)

Monday, August 28th 6:40pm: Jordan Zimmerman (7-11 6.11) vs. Antonio Senzatela (10-4 4.52)

In his last three starts, Jordan Zimmerman has just been plain bad. He has given up seven runs in each of those starts, allowing four home runs and striking out only six in 13.2 innings. This is a prime game for the Rockies offense to get back on track and take an easy one from the Tigers. Along with Zimmerman pitching poorly, the Tigers have played poorly, making this a must win series for the Rockies that really should end in a sweep. Colorado sends Senzatela to the mound in the opener to what will hopefully be a quality start for the young righty.

Tuesday, August 29th 6:40pm: Michael Fulmer (10-11 3.69) vs. German Marquez (10-5 4.18)

In his young career, Michael Fulmer has shown to be a good pitcher and a bright spot for the future of this Tigers rotation. Fulmer has struggled recently though, and this is yet another good opportunity for the Rockies offense. Being at home and coming off a good series with the Braves is a chance for the Rockies to finally string together some wins. They have yet another series where the Rookies will make the majority of starts and if there are any players to get the Rockies back on track, it will be the ones that gave them some wins early in the year, the rookies. This is a tough spot for a lot of the young pitchers, especially as the year comes to an end, as they face arm fatigue and are in new high stress situations.

Wednesday, August 30th 1:10pm: Justin Verlander (9-8 3.90) vs. Chad Bettis (0-1 3.79)

Contrary to the other two Tigers’ pitchers in this series, Verlander has been very good recently. This will be a tough game for the Rockies, but Chad Bettis gets to rebound from his last time out for what will hopefully be his first win of the year. Bettis, along with Jon Gray, are going to prove to be very important pitchers as their arms are not as taxed and they are the “veterans” of this rookie staff. Along with them, the offense needs to step up and get some consistency so that the pitchers do not need to be perfect every time out.

Rockies shutout Braves for series win

rockies-braves-baseball-45611-jpg.jpegAP Photo/John Amis

With the shutout on Sunday, the Rockies won a road series for the first time in a month and took the season series from the Braves as well. It was a game where one timely hit and pitching was all the Rockies needed to win. Their starter, Jon Gray, was fantastic, and the bullpen came in to shut down the final three innings to give the Rockies a 3-0 win.

The Rockies scored the first run of the game, and as it would turn out, the winning run, in the second inning. After a single and a walk, Trevor Story roped a double to left-center field to drive in Gerardo Parra from second, giving the Rockies the early one run lead.

Jon Gray didn’t need any support however as he cruised through the Braves lineup, going 6+ innings and striking out seven. He pitched to one batter in the seventh, allowing a hit, before being removed from the game. On the day he allowed five hits, two walks, and hit a batter, but none would come around to score, lowering his season ERA to 4.18.

The bullpen, while not perfect, didn’t really face any true threats. Pat Neshek allowed a hit after coming in for Gray, but got a fly out and a double play to get out of the inning with no trouble. Mike Dunn came on for the eighth, the role Jake McGee would have been in, had he not been slated to close. With Holland struggling, McGee took over the save opportunity and got three fly balls to give the Rockies the stress free late game win.

Colorado may not have gotten much offense, a Mark Reynolds two-run homer being the only other runs scored, but when you shut teams out you don’t need the runs. The Rockies can now head home for their second to last non-NL West series. They play the Detroit Tigers and will hopefully take care of business and gain some momentum going into the final month of the season.

Rockies come up clutch, squeak out a win

For what seems like the first time in forever, the Rockies scored seven runs in a road game and came up with clutch hit after clutch hit. They got some power, some timely knocks, and some (decent) bullpen pitching. There was a scare late when Greg Holland failed to shut it down, but Jake McGee quickly extinguished that fire.

Starting early, the Rockies took advantage of some free passes by Sean Necomb, something that needs to be done against this young pitcher. After a hit by pitch and a walk, Pat Valaika, batting eighth, came up big with a single up the middle to give the Rockies a 1-0 lead.

While the lead wouldn’t last, it was a clutch hit for the Rockies who would have almost surely finished the inning without a run if Valaika had not drove in the run. The Braves got their own clutch hits in the third when Brandon Phillips singled in a run and Freddie Freeman drove in a run on a sac fly to take a 2-0 lead.

The Rockies then tied the game up on an unlikely candidate for a home run, DJ LeMahieu. On a 2-0 count, LeMahieu laced a ball to right field that got out in a hurry for a solo shot, his fifth of the year. Later in the inning after a walk and single, Trevor Story came up big by hitting a gapper to drive in two on a double. The Rockies would finish the inning ahead by two and looking good.

While Kyle Freeland was good on Saturday night, he did run into trouble in his final inning of work, allowing two runs to let the Braves tie the game up again. Freeland finished with six innings and four earned runs, walking one and striking out five. It was certainly not Freeland’s best start, but he did a good job of keeping the Rockies in it while he was on the hill.

It took until the ninth for either team to score again and the Rockies struck first with their biggest knocks in weeks. After Cargo hit a pinch-hit single, Charlie Blackmon launched a two-run homer to give the Rockies a 6-4 lead. DJ LeMahieu then did what he has never done before and hit a homer to left, giving him his first multi-homer game. The three runs looked to be a nice cushion for Greg Holland in the ninth, but as it would turn out, the Rockies would need each run.

Greg Holland came on for the ninth and allowed an 0-2 single to his first batter, a bad omen of things to come. A batter later and with one out, Matt Adams clobbered a ball that got out, again on an 0-2 count. Holland remained in for one more batter, but allowed a single to him too before Black removed him for Jake McGee.

Fortunately for the Rockies, McGee came on and got a nice double play to end the game, earn a save, and give the Rockies the win. The Rockies can now play for a series win on Sunday with their ace on the mound in Jon Gray. Gray has pitched well recently and this is a good chance for him to shut the Braves down and give the Rockies some momentum before they head home.

Offense flat again in series opener

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Somebody call the cops, because the Rockies offense has gone missing. For what seems like the hundredth time, the Rockies scored less than four runs, failed to back up their pitcher, and lost a game purely because they couldn’t string together hits.

There is the argument going around that the Rockies offense is simply outdated. An offense that is supposed to string together hits and then rely on a gapper to drive those players in, in behind the curve where both pitchers and offenses rely on home runs, strikeouts, and walks to be the fuel to the fire.

Sure, you have guys like Mark Reynolds and Trevor Story who conform to this, but then you have players like LeMahieu, Parra, Lucroy, Desmond, Wolters, and Tapia who all rely a lot less on power and more on driving the ball to the opposite field. This works great when these guys are batting ahead of players like Blackmon and Arenado who can then drive them in, but with the current construction of the lineup, this just isn’t possible.

I, and many others, have advocated for a lineup shakeup for some time. A lineup where Blackmon doesn’t lead off, you have a couple different guys batting one and two, and Arenado and Blackmon bat three and four. Currently, Parra is the cleanup guy, which is all well and good except Parra isn’t a home run type of hitter. Put your big boppers, Nado, Blackmon, and Reynolds, at 3,4,5, and you construct a lineup that has some damage in the middle. Then with LeMahieu and Parra batting 1,2 or even Tapia and LeMahieu, you have some on base guys, you give LeMahieu a chance to avoid hitting into double plays, and you put men on for those who can actually drive them in.

The bottom of the lineup is still a problem, as you’d like guys like Cargo and Story to actually get hot and maybe run into a few more home runs so the pitcher doesn’t have to help themselves, but that is an ideal world that just doesn’t seem to be anywhere on the horizon for the Rockies.

For the time being, Colorado needs to get through this month of August where they have been atrocious. September call-ups are right around the corner and that means reinforcements for a team that just seems out of it. The Rockies are by no means out of the playoff race, they still hold a wild card spot, but if they continue this play, it could mean no meaningful baseball come October.