The Colorado Rockies concluded their road trip on Sunday with another loss to the Cleveland Indians, and return home after going 2-7 on the trip. It was an all too familiar song that the Rockies and their fans have gotten used to. The Rockies started the trip only three games behind the division leading San Francisco Giants but now find themselves eight and a half out (depending on the outcome of the Giants game on Sunday), with the season slipping away.
When the road trip started, we outlined some of the things the Rockies had to do if they were going to improve their play away from Coors Field. They did almost none of those things and it’s now impossible to argue with those who believe that the Rockies are a Coors Field creation.
We talked about doing the little things; getting bunts down, hitting behind runners and putting the ball in play with a guy on third base and less than two outs. To say the Rockies failed miserably in all of these areas would be kind, they were terrible with situational hitting.
The best example occurred in Saturday’s 7-6 loss to the Indians. Trailing 4-2 in the third inning, the Rockies had guys on 2nd and 3rd with one out, and Carlos Gonzalez at the plate. It’s true that Gonzalez is struggling but he has a find a way to get the ball in play. Anything from a simple ground ball to a fly ball gets a run home and makes the score 4-3. Gonzalez, however, struck out as he did three other times in Saturday’s game. That’s the definition of situational hitting and Gonzalez failed miserably in that spot.
His partner in crime, Troy Tulowitzki did not do his part either. In that same situation except with two outs, Tulowitzki also struck out leaving those guys standing on second and third. I understand that with two outs, Tulowitzki needs a hit to score those guys but at least get the ball in play and give yourself a chance.
Speaking of strike outs, the Rockies are striking out way too much on the road to win consistently. The series versus the Indians featured 27 strikeouts in the first two games, that’s pathetic. Don’t tell me anymore that the Rockies are a good offensive team, they are not. On occasion, they are a good hitting team at home but they are a terrible offensive team.
The struggles of Gonzalez and Tulowitzki in key situations are killing the Rockies. Remember when we said if the Rockies were going to improve on the road, then their stars had to be stars? It didn’t happen, not even close. Gonzalez had two, TWO, hits in nine games and one was a bunt hit, and Tulowitzki left a small village on the bases.
In Saturday’s six run uprising, it was the bottom of the order that did the damage for the Rockies. Gonzalez and Tulowitzki were too busy striking out with guys in scoring position to contribute. It’s great to get contributions from your role players but until Gonzalez, Tulowitzki and others start producing in the clutch then nothing else is going to matter.
Even if the Rockies could score runs on the road, would it matter? They scored six runs on Saturday and still lost. The starting pitching has been average at best but that’s not even the biggest problem. The biggest problem is the fact that the starters are not getting out of the fifth inning because their pitch counts are so unbelievably high that Manager Walt Weiss has no choice but to go to the bullpen.
Juan Nicasio and Franklin Morales have electric stuff but can’t find the strike zone for long periods of time. Nicaso actually pitched pretty well in terms of runs given up on Friday night but because of his pitch count, he had to depart after the fifth inning leaving four complete innings for the bullpen to pick up. As great as Jordan Lyles has been through the first two months of the season, even his last two starts have been shortened because of high pitch counts. It may seem like a small thing in April and May but at this rate the bullpen is going to be toast by the All-Star break.
The Rockies bullpen, I believe, is better than the recent numbers would indicate. Picking up three or four innings for ineffective starters once or twice a week is one thing, but the bullpen for the Rockies has to do it on a regular basis. Because of that work load, we are all ready seeing signs of fatigue and it’s only the first of June. Has the pen been great, no but be careful of how much blame you put on them. The majority of the blame for this R road trip belongs squarely on an inept offense, and a starting staff that is apparently scared of the sixth inning.
There’s little doubt in my mind that the Rockies will come home, score a bunch of runs and probably win more than they lose but it will all be fool’s gold. They proved once again that they can’t win enough on the road to be taken seriously as contenders.
It’s only June 1st and the only question that matters now is this; who do you think is going to be the starting middle linebacker for the Denver Broncos?