The Colorado Rockies just finished their best April in club history. At 17-9, they hold a four game lead over the second place Dodgers, and a five game lead over the third place Giants.
Despite their fast start, something that has eluded them since the club has established themselves as contenders, the Rockies cannot afford to get complacent now.
At some point in the season, the Rockies will almost certainly have a tough road trip, whether that is a 1-5 road trip, or even worse. However, the time for that bad road trip is not this week.
At this point in the season, it would be easy to wipe away all of the good work that the Rockies have done.
Going 1-5 on the trip would give the Rockies a 18-14 record, still very good, but not exactly where they would like to be after starting the first month of the season as the league's best team.
So what would be acceptable? The common saying in baseball is to win home series, and split on the road.
With that logic, the Rockies can afford to go 3-3 on the trip, which would leave them at 20-12, still eight games over .500, and most likely would only lose a game or, at worst, two games in the standings.
To do well on the road trip, the Rockies could help themselves quite a bit by doing well against the Diamondbacks, a team that the Rockies are clearly superior to, and if they play well, should be able to win the series with relative ease.
However, losing that series puts pressure on the Rockies to salvage the road trip in a place where they traditionally struggle, AT&T Park.
If they win two in Arizona, they can go into San Francisco and take one game and have a good road trip. Squeaking out two wins would make the road trip extremely successful.
The key for the Rockies is simply to continue doing what they have been doing. They need to continue fighting back when they get behind. Situational hitting and finding ways to score runs with two outs has been a huge part of that equation.
They don't have to be perfect, but they need to stay relaxed at the plate and get the job done when it presents itself.
Good starting pitching, and a solid bullpen has also been a huge part of the Rockies ability to come from behind. Continued strong pitching will go a long way to a successful trip.
Tuesday: Jorge De La Rosa (4-0, 2.61 ERA) vs. Joe Saunders (0-3, 5.93 ERA)- The Rockies have the upper-hand in this matchup. Saunders has struggled since the beginning of Spring Training, and De La Rosa has thrived so far.
Wednesday: Jhoulys Chacin (3-2, 2.91 ERA) vs. Barry Enright (5.76 ERA)- Colorado once again should have the advantage in this matchup. Chacin lost his last two starts, but the Rockies offense has given him a total of one run of support his last two times out.
Thursday: Jason Hammel (3-1, 3.23 ERA) vs. Armando Galarraga (3-2, 5.46 ERA)- Jason Hammel seems to have turned the corner after being a slight question mark through his first two starts. He looked good against the Pirates, settling down after giving up a leadoff home run to Andrew McCutchen.
Friday: Ubaldo Jimenez (0-2, 7.20 ERA) vs. Matt Cain (2-2, 5.35 ERA)- The biggest question mark of the season for the Rockies is Jimenez. Despite his excellent season in 2010, Jimenez seems completely lost on the mound. His velocity still touches the upper-90's, but he is working closer to the mid-90's. The club is saying that the cuticle issue is completely gone, which only raises more questions about Jimenez's health and/or confidence.
Saturday: Esmil Rogers (3-1, 7.66 ERA) vs. Madison Bumgarner (0-5, 4.75 ERA)- Rogers has shown some kinks in the armor the last few times out. He did a good job of limiting the damage after a tough first inning in Chicago, but was lit up against the Giants the last time out, and gave up four runs in one inning of relief against the Pirates on Sunday, throwing 40 pitches. Bumgarner has had a rough start, but was a hard-luck loser against the Nationals his last time out. He gave up two runs, both unearned, in seven strong innings. His offense was shutout, however, and he took the loss.
Sunday: Jorge De La Rosa vs Ryan Vogelsong (1-0, 1.74 ERA)- Vogelsong is a great story. He made it all the way back to the big leagues after making his last appearance in 2006. He will face the Mets on Tuesday, before facing the Rockies on Sunday. De La Rosa will lead off and cap the trip for the Rockies.