The Colorado Rockies have won five straight games going into Monday’s contest with the Los Angeles Dodgers. A five game winning streak is always news when it comes to the Rockies but what makes this one even more remarkable is how they are doing it. No team in baseball has suffered more injuries to key players than the Rockies, and yet they seem to be playing their best baseball of the 2014 season.
How can a team who is fighting an uphill battle to begin with be playing better without key players including; Carlos Gonzalez, Nolan Arenado, Michael Cuddyer and three-fifths of their starting rotation? In addition to those more serious injuries, Troy Tulowitzki and Justin Morneau have also missed time recently.
It’s certainly possible that this is just one of those periods that all Major League teams go through during the course of 162 game season. Even the worse teams are going to win five in a row at some point. However it feels like there’s more to the Rockies current streak than just dumb luck. It feels like they are winning because they are finally playing the game the right way, at least offensively.
One of the issues for the Rockies offense, both this season and in the past, is they don’t do the little things. They can score runs at home and versus average pitching because of their talent, but are struggle to score on the road.
Now out of necessity, the Rockies are doing all of those little things to win games. In Sunday’s comeback win over the San Francisco Giants, Morneau shortened up his swing and slapped a double down the left field line that scored two, and gave the Rockies a one-run lead.
That’s the type of approach that has been missing from the Rockies offense. They are no longer waiting for the three-run homerun, mainly because they can’t and they are finding ways to manufacture runs. The Rockies scored one run on Sunday because catcher Michael McKenry beat out a slow ground ball for an infield single. That sounds like a minor play during the course of a nine inning game but that play accomplished two things.
It kept the eighth inning going because it would have been the third out had McKenry not hustled down the line. It also scored a run to bring the Rockies to within one. Charlie Culberson than followed with a walk in advance of the Morneau double, and it was all set up by McKenry doing a little thing.
Now can they continue to win with their best players on the disabled list, probably not because eventually talent wins out. History tells us that teams can survive and sometimes thrive for short periods of time without key players, but history also tells us that eventually it will catch up with the Rockies. They should ride this as long as they can but at some point, the Rockies need their stars to play like stars.
When the likes of Cuddyer and Gonzalez do return, maybe the Rockies can finally incorporate talent with playing the game the right way. It’s the only way winning baseball is ever going to take place in Colorado.