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.

 

 

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.

Series Preview: Rockies (69-58) vs. Braves (56-69)

Friday, August 25th 5:35pm: Chad Bettis (0-0 1.93) vs. Julio Teheran (7-11 5.02)

Chad Bettis has been good in his first two starts allowing only three runs over fourteen innings. He has been great for getting length and has given the Rockies a chance to win in both of his starts. He faces off against Julio Teheran who faces Colorado for the first time at the new Suntrust Park. Teheran has been better on the road, and the Rockies saw that when he faced them at home and allowed zero runs over seven innings. Hopefully the Rockies can turn it around now on the road, and earn their 70th win.

Saturday, August 26th 5:10pm: Kyle Freeland (11-8 3.71) vs. Sean Newcomb (2-7 4.13)

A couple of rookie lefties face off for the second game of the series in what could be a show of the future talent for these teams. Kyle Freeland has already been great this year and if Cody Bellinger was not having a historic year, he would earn some ROY votes. Necomb has pitched well as well, but has been mired with control issues, striking out 42 in just under 70 innings. He has walked at least one in every start and has walked four or more in six of his starts. The key for the Rockies offense will be patience as they can get  a lot of free base runners by just holding off on pitches out of the zone, and from there, they will need the key hit that has been lacking recently.

Sunday, August 27th 11:35am: Jon Gray (5-3 4.54) vs. Mike Foltynewicz (10-9 4.95)

The Rockies got to Folty when he last faced Colorado, allowing eight runs in his second shortest start of the season. In his last three games, Foltynewicz has allowed 20 runs and has walked as many as he struck out. Jon Gray will look to continue on his recent successes, but hopefully get through the third time of the lineup successfully as well. He will have to keep one of the best offensive first baseman in the league down in Freddie Freeman. Hopefully this series is a way for the Rockies to get back on track and win a road series, and maybe even they can take the wild card lead back.

Valaika homers just in time for Rox

Another game, another missing offense, but fortunately, the Rockies needed only three runs to pull out a win against the Royals. It took great starting and bullpen pitching, and a comeback from Greg Holland after losing on a walk-off three-run shot the night before, but the Rockies got everything they needed to win the game and avoid the sweep.

German Marquez was good against the Royals, allowing his only two runs on two solo homers. In six innings of work Marquez gave up eight hits while walking two and striking out two. He got a couple of key double plays behind him that really saved him when there was traffic. He pitched much like Senzatela did the night before and got about the save offensive support.

The Rockies got a run in the sixth to score their first run of the day. Raimel Tapia singled to left field to score the run, before Trevor Story grounded into a double play to end the inning and threat.

In the eighth inning, the Rockies got their most clutch hit of the series. With two outs and one on, Patty Barrels launched a home run to left field to give the Rockies a 3-2 lead. It came just in the nick of the time as the Rockies were looking for just about anything to drive the offense. It gave the bullpen a chance to take the win, the very same chance they had the night before.

As opposed to Wednesday night, Greg Holland came out and worked a perfect ninth inning to earn the save. It is hard to say if he was just on or if he is going to get back on track, but regardless, it was great to see.

The Rockies will head to Atlanta to end their road trip before coming home and facing their last non-NL West team in the Detroit Tigers. The Rockies are about to enter a stretch of games that has more importance than any stretch since 2010, the year in which they last finished with an above .500 record. They are almost guaranteed to finish with their best record since 2010, but crazy things have happened.

Walk-off loss downs Rockies

Something is up with Greg Holland and whatever it is, it is hurting the Rockies. In the month of August, he has allowed 12 runs and the Rockies have lost four of his eight appearances. Two of those losses came on three run home runs and he has walked at least one batter in his last five appearances. Holland may still be the closer, but it seems likely that he may lose that role, at least for the time being, so that he can get back in the right place.

The Rockies were poised to win the game on Wednesday, taking a lead into the ninth, but as stated, Holland blew the save. Sure, the Rockies would have loved to run away with this one and not even needed Holland, but that was not the case. The Rockies scored four runs in the game, via two home runs, a sac fly, and an RBI single. Nolan and Charlie each had a big fly to run their season totals up to 29 and 30 respectively.

Antonio Senzatela made his return to the rotation and though he allowed nine hits over five innings, he only gave up two runs. It was a strong performance by Senzatela in that he pitched around traffic really well. He walked one and struck out two, and he also got two double plays behind him to help him out of jams.

The one positive that can be taken away from this game is really something that wasn’t even happening in the game. Both the Dbacks and Brewers lost, though the Cubs and Cardinals won, meaning the Rockies didn’t lose any real ground in the wild card. They are a half game back of the Dbacks for the wild card lead, but over the course of these final weeks, the Rockies absolutely need to figure some things out and get hot before they lose their playoff spot.