In their first series since the All-Star break, the Rockies came out on top, taking two out of three from the Chicago Cubs. The starting pitching gave up only three earned runs in 17 innings, and the offense was able to capitalize.
With a little over two months of regular-season baseball still left, the Rockies need to stay healthy and gain some ground to have a shot at playing in October.
State of the Rotation
Coors Field is undoubtedly the toughest ballpark for starting pitchers. Every Rockies fan for the last two decades is fully aware of that fact.
However, this year the top half of the Rockies starting rotation has clicked and, instead of sporadic flashes of brilliance, Jorge De La Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin and Tyler Chatwood have proved durable and consistent.
Last season, ESPN’s Dan Szymborski considered the Rockies as owners of the worst rotation in baseball and deservingly so. Deep into the 2013 regular season, that’s all changed.
After an injury-plagued season where he went 3-5 with a 4.43 ERA, many criticized Chacin for not having the “stuff” to be a true ace. Chacin, while being far from the best statistical pitcher in the rotation, has proved he can pitch in Coors Field. His 9-4 record and 3.50 ERA is a testament to that.
At a generous 6-foot, Chatwood has been the biggest surprise thus far. Chatwood, who struggled in 2012 with a bloated 5.43 ERA, has a 1.23 ERA on the road.
The 23-year-old right-hander has kept his team in some close games, allowing the Rockies to get away with some low-scoring victories.
De La Rosa is also having his most productive season to date, owning a 9-5 record with a 2.96 ERA at Coors. After six years in the purple pinstripes, the veteran southpaw has figured out the secret to pitching at Coors Field.
Chacin, Chatwood and De La Rosa have been great, but it’s the back end of the rotation that’s keeping the Rox below the .500 mark.
Juan Nicasio has pitched well in his last two starts, allowing just one run in his last 12 innings, but he has yet to go a month without getting shelled at least twice. He’s had his moments, but the 26-year-old has been unable to stay consistent.
The Rockies have lost six games in which Nicasio was given four or more runs of support.
As for the Roy Oswalt experiment that had every Rockies fan chomping at the bit, a left hamstring injury has the crafty veteran on the disabled list. Frankly, his injury may be benefiting the Rockies. Oswalt went 0-4 with a 7.64 ERA in five starts.
Drew Pomeranz, the Rockies' prized acquisition in the Ubaldo Jimenez deal, is averaging four innings a start this year with an ERA of 8.76. He’s not the answer.
The Rockies are truly one starting pitcher away from a competitive and playoff-worthy rotation. If general manager Dan O’Dowd can bit the bullet and acquire a starting pitcher at the trade deadline, the Rockies should be primed to make a playoff push.
State of the Bullpen
Pitching coach Jim Wright has done a masterful job with the rotation and bullpen this season. Each entity has improved immensely from 2012.
That being said, a Rockies bullpen that started the season as one of the best in the league has tailed off of late.
Rex Brothers, who had a microscopic 0.52 ERA entering July, has come back to earth with a 4.91 ERA this month.
Adam Ottavino and Wilton Lopez are also in the midst of their worst month yet with ERAs well over eight.
Closer Rafael Betancourt, who’s been no stranger to injury this season, found himself back on the disabled list this week after appendicitis prompted surgery.
There is some good news coming out of right field. After a horrid June, Matt Belisle has allowed just one earned run in seven innings this month, striking out over a batter an inning.
Overall, the Rockies bullpen is in a state of flux this month and desperately needs to improve for the Rox to have any shot at October baseball.
It begins with the rotation. Rockies starters are ranked 25th in baseball in innings pitched.
Walt Weiss relies on his bullpen to keep them in games and, for the most part, they did through the first half of the season.
The Rockies bullpen will be worked. The fans know it, Weiss knows it and the bullpen know it.
A move for a lefty reliever is vital to the Rockies' success moving forward. O’Dowd needs to seriously consider pulling the trigger on a guy like the Cubs’ James Russell or the Marlins’ Mike Dunn.
State of the Offense
Through the years, the Rockies have always been an offense-heavy franchise. This year is no different.
Colorado owns the seventh-best offense in baseball with 440 runs scored.
Their three All-Stars, Carlos Gonzalez, Michael Cuddyer and Troy Tulowitzki all started in the Midsummer Classic and all have averages above .300. Few lineups in baseball have that kind of firepower.
Gonzalez, who’s batting .340 in July, continues to get it done at the plate and in the field. He’s proving to be one of the premier talents in the game and worthy of the seven-year, $80 million contract he signed in 2011.
Fresh off the disabled list, Tulowitzki has yet to give the Rockies offense that same jolt he provided through the first half. He’s looking tentative at the plate and is swinging through some pitches he normally drives.
In his 22 at-bats since coming off the disabled list, Tulo has just four hits.
He just needs some time to get back into the swing of things. Regardless, the Rockies are a better team with their All-Star shortstop in the lineup.
It’s not surprising that CarGo and Tulo are having excellent offensive and defensive seasons. The biggest surprise on this roster in 2013 is the consistent production they’re getting from veteran outfielder Michael Cuddyer.
Cuddy is batting .329 with 16 homers and 56 RBI this season and finished in third in this year’s Home Run Derby. He’s also been a target regarding the perennial midseason trade rumors, but ownership finally put an end to all the talk.
On Thursday, owner Dick Monfort said that the organization will not be trading their All-Star right fielder, reported by Patrick Sounders of The Denver Post.
Cuddyer’s consistency and health are the reasons the Rockies are where they are in the division.
The final piece to the heart of this Rockies lineup is catcher Wilin Rosario, who’s proving to be one of the best in the game at his respected position.
Rosario is hitting .275 with 13 homers and 47 RBI and is continuing to hit in July.
As long as the core of this lineup can stay healthy for the remainder of the season, pitching will be the only thing keeping the Rockies from golfing or competing in October.