The Rockies battled their way through a tough week on the road, losing two of three games to the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, then dropping two of three games to the New York Mets at Citi Field over the weekend.
The highlight of the week was their 3-1 win over the Cubs on Thursday afternoon that featured the major league debut of the Rockies top pitching prospect, 22-year old Peter Lambert. Seemingly unfazed by the famous setting and the Cubs dangerous lineup, Lambert allowed only one run, on four hits, in seven impressive innings of work. Along the way, he set a club record for rookie debuts with nine strikeouts. Oh, and as a bonus he punched a single to center field in his first major league at bat. “He stayed calm, stayed under control”, said manager Bud Black. “I mean pitched, really pitched…It was great!”
Friday, the Rockies grabbed a 5-1 win as they opened their series with the Mets. Antonio Senzatela maneuvered his way through six innings, allowing only one run on four hits in another quality outing. But these two well pitched wins were the exception to a week that was marred by flawed starts. The Rockies lingering problem is that there’s a hole in the bucket. The bucket is the starting rotation that, to be effective, needs a full complement of five pitchers who can consistently provide quality starts. Remember, a quality start is one in which the pitcher works his way through six innings, allowing no more than three runs. Given the Rockies recent surge in run production and the emergence of a consistently tough crew of relievers, a quality start sets up a high percentage win possibility. It was that combination of pitching performance, backed by a hot offense, that propelled the Rockies into the playoffs for the past two seasons. At this point the Rockies have only three starters that can provide that edge: German Marquez (6 wins – 3 losses), Jon Gray (5 wins – 5 losses) and Antonio Senzatela (5 wins – 4 losses). That means the rotation is short two starters. The best scenario would be for Peter Lambert to be able to continue to dazzle and for Kyle Freeman to return from his time in Albuquerque with his mechanics and aggressive style intact.
Let’s give them credit. The Rockies have delivered an impressive percentage of wins since the dark days back in mid-April. Their record is now 33 wins and 31 losses. (Remember not so long ago that they were 10 games under .500?) And there’s more good news. All Star right fielder Charlie Blackmon has finally returned from the injured list, as has closer Wade Davis. If the Rockies can shore up the starting rotation, they’ll be in the hunt. The only drawback is the extended winning record of the Dodgers, which at this point, makes a run at the Division title unlikely. We’ll probably spend the rest of the season focused on the Wild Card standings – the other route to the playoffs.
This week the Rockies return home for another three-game matchup with the Cubs. Then they’ll face off against their Division rivals, the San Diego Padres, in a four-game weekend series.
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