The second half of June was simply an exhausting stretch of inter-league play. Since June 17, when inter-league play started, the Rockies have traveled from Denver to Cleveland to Yankee Stadium, then onto Wrigley Field for a makeup game, then back home, and then to Atlanta earlier this week to start a four game series against the Braves.
As of Monday, they played 17 games with one day off in that mix. Add to that two extra-inning games against the White Sox and you have a formula for severe summertime exhaustion.
In those games they played .500 ball coming in at eight wins and nine losses. While that’s not very impressive for a club that seemingly has the right mix of pitching and hitting, I guess things could be worse.
Throughout this long stretch of travel and games, the Rockies have showed some sparks of being a team with an unstoppable offense. They put up 13 runs against the Tigers at home in a win to kick off inter-league play. They had two nine-run games against the Royals last weekend. They can score runs. Their problem is they can’t seem to coincide their hitting when their pitching is in a tight game. For some reason, the Rockies can’t win a tight game. Twice they lost in two very close games against the White Sox at home.
We all know the Rockies' starting rotation isn’t baseball’s greatest, but when guys like Ubaldo Jimenez or Aaron Cook are pitching really well, yet give up a run or two, the team’s hitting needs to back them up by scoring at least three or four runs. It shouldn’t be that hard for guys like Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzales to do. Yet for some reason, they can’t do it. They just can’t seem to put a complete offensive and defensive game together. It’s been frustrating to watch, because they have what it takes.
And don’t get me started on the Rockies bullpen, where they are having rough times as well. Instead of getting that day's starter out of a jam, as they are paid to do, each and every reliever (including closer Huston Street) has made it even worse. Yes, they have their positive moments at times, but lately, there has been nothing to like about them. Part of the problem, at least over the past 17 games, is they have been used too early and too often. Manager Jim Tracy had no-one else to go to except the struggling reliever Clayton Mortensen in an extra-inning game against the White Sox. Everyone knew the kid wasn’t up to the task of hanging in there to win the game, and all Tracy could do is hope for the best, and the best didn’t happen for the Rockies in that instance. (Mortensen was recently optioned by the team to bring Cole Garner up from Colorado Springs.)
And then there are the injuries. Injuries are a big part of why the Rockies aren’t as good as they should be this year. Pitcher Jorge De La Rosa, who looked like he was going to be the Rockies’ ace this year with Jimenez struggling, is out for the season with a torn ligament. CarGo bashed his wrist into the centerfield wall last weekend and could be out until Thursday or Friday, and who knows about Tulowitzki? He came up lame in Monday night’s loss to the Braves, after sprinting to first when he hit into a double play. It seems he pulled his quad, which troubled him last year and put him on the bench for more than 40 games, and could be out until the All Star break begins next week.
The team looks tired; June was a long month.
But there are bright spots on the horizon. As Jerry Garcia once said, “Every silver lining has a touch of grey.” The Rockies will survive.
We all know that the second half of the season belongs to Colorado. It’s the Rockies time to shine and I have full confidence that Jim Tracy’s squad will find a slew of winning streaks to pull within the division-leading and defending world champion Giants who, as of Tuesday morning, are six-and-a-half games ahead of the Rockies atop the National League West.
Another bright spot for the Rockies is their acquisition of second baseman Mark Ellis from the Oakland Athletics. The move seemed to be a questionable one. Ellis was in a never-ending slump in Oakland but when he came to Colorado in his debut, he was the man the Rockies needed in the field and at the plate. He was the driving factor in the 9-0 win against the Royals when he was just one triple shy of hitting the cycle.
The very next day against they Royals, it was Ellis once again who led the Rockies to victory when he hit doubles in three consecutive plate appearances. Maybe Ellis is just what the Rox need to move from mediocrity to great again.
Or maybe its just the fact that the Rockies need a couple of days off. Either way, I am looking for Colorado to pick it up the rest of the summer and make a postseason appearance once again.