Monday Rockpile: Welcome to the summer of excitement

Ezra Shaw

Buckle up Colorado fans. It's going to be a very entertaining few months.

Ten days ago, Jay Tymkovich used the Rockpile to examine the first two months of the season in game by game detail. He concluded that the Rockies have probably given away more games than they've stolen this season and that Colorado had not really pulled out a game "should have lost" since April 24th.

Fast forward ten days and the pendulum has started to swing. The Rockies have now pulled out at least four games they could have lost in the month of June. Here's the quick list.

June 2nd: Rockies 7, Dodger 6 (10 innings) - The Rockies trailed 6-4 in the seventh and tied it up on a Troy Tulowitzki single and a Michael Cuddyer home run. They would later win the game in ten on three straight two out hits capped by a Dexter Fowler walk off single.

June 4th: Rockies 5, Reds 4 - This is easily the biggest road win of the year in my mind because it's exactly the type of game the Rockies had been losing all season to this point. Colorado took an early 3-0 lead before the bats went cold and the Reds retired 13 straight hitters. While this was going on, Cincinnati mounted a comeback and by the 8th inning, the Reds had the lead with a guy who has held opposing hitters to a .559 OPS this season in Sam LeCure on the mound.

It looked like it was going to be another game where the Rockies went quietly into the abyss after their opponent pushed them around and created adversity for them - But on this night, the Rockies retaliated. Carlos Gonzalez started the rally by keeping the inning alive with a two out walk before Troy Tulowitzki hammered a two out, two strike, two run home run over the left field wall that would prove to be the different in the game.

June 7th: Rockies 10, Padres 9 - This one would have been a heart breaker to lose as the Rockies had a 9-3 lead after three innings and seemed to have the game on cruise control with Jorge De La Rosa on the mound. However, Rob Scahill blew up in the seventh and the Padres came all the way back to tie the game and actually had a golden opportunity to take lead as they still had the bases loaded with just one out.

This is where Nolan Arenado made it clear that he'd had enough and was not going to allow the Rockies to lose the game on his watch. After Josh Outman struck out Chase Headley, Arenado made a gorgeous defensive play to end the threat that included both a difficult pick and a cannon throw across the diamond to retire Carlos Quentin.

Then, with game still tied in the bottom of the ninth, Arenado launched a walk off home run that sent the Rockies bench into a state of euphoria. This game never should have needed the Arenado heroics, but sometimes the games you don't give away can be just as important to a team's psyche as stealing a game they had no business winning, and well, this is probably one of those games.

June 9th: Rockies 8, Padres 7 (10 innings) - Yesterday's wild game was one of those rare contents where it was a "should have won" game for both teams. The Rockies had a win probability of 93% when they led 4-0 in the sixth with Juan Nicasio retiring every batter he'd faced and the Padres had a win probability of 98% when Yorvit Torrealba made the first out of the ninth with San Diego up by three runs.

Carlos Gonzalez recorded his biggest hit of the year when he lined that 0-2 pitch into the right field corner with the game on the line before Dexter Fowler ended it with his second tenth inning walk off single this month.

* * * * * *

For the first time all year, the Rockies are consistently showing fight late in games. This stretch could have been a disaster for Colorado as their pitching staff got squeezed on both ends with the loss of both Rafael Betancourt and Tyler Chatwood. Instead, the offense stepped up in a big way and pulled the Rockies to a 6-4 record so far this month while the arms battle the rough seas. These are the types of games you're going to have to take if you want to win the NL West this season because it's looking more and more like the division lacks a truly great team.

Detractors will be quick to point out Colorado's flaws (and they certainly do have them), but the reality is that all five teams have issues right now that should prevent them from breaking free of the log jam atop the division. Don't mistake that for the division being weak - It's not. The five teams as a whole are three games above .500.

Instead, what's happening here is that there's no terrible team in the bunch for the other four to feast off of and inflate their record. It's just five teams with a mixture of different strengths and weakness and all are capable of finishing anywhere from the penthouse to to outhouse. It's becoming increasingly likely that the tug of war type games the Rockies have won this month (the same types of games they've been losing for most of the season) are going to be the games that determine who wins the NL West.

And that folks is why we have entered the summer of excitement. Not only are the Rockies playing meaningful baseball, but they are playing meaningful baseball in a tight division which is likely to produce multiple edge of your seat games a week for the foreseeable future. Something's telling me that the last few weeks are just the beginning of a roller coaster ride to remember. I can't promise you that this isn't going to end in disappointment, but for the first time in a long time, Coors Field (and possibly every other NL West park) is going to be filled with summertime drama.

* * * * * *

One last thing. I can't end this Rockpile without mentioning what Troy Tulowitzki is doing. I've actually tried to avoid writing about Tulo too much in the Rockpile since I started doing them on a weekly basis last fall since I get kind of excited just typing his name, but he's been so good lately that today I have to crack and get the pom poms out. So here's a few stats.

Troy Tulowitzki is now leading all of baseball in fWAR at 3.9 despite having fewer plate appearances than anyone else in the top 17 on the board. He's setting such a blistering pace right now that if he gets 600 plate appearances this year and continues putting up the same level of production, he will end the season with 10.0 WAR.

It's not just about Tulo's face value production either. It's even more impressive when you look at how he's gotten there. His line drive rate is higher than it's been at any point since he changed his stance in 2009, his infield fly ball percentage (IFFB%) is lower than it's been in any season in which he's had at least 200 plate appearances, and his BABIP is lower than anyone else's on the top 16 of the fWAR leader board.

Tulo is also quietly making himself a contender in all three NL triple crown categories. He's second in batting average to only Yadier Molina (.354 to .351), he's third in home runs behind only Domonic Brown and Carlos Gonzalez (19, 17, and 16), and he's second in RBI behind only Paul Goldschmidt (58 to 51). Tulo is also leading the NL in both slugging percentage (.654) and OPS (1.073).

Troy has also balanced his splits making it difficult for opponents to find a weak spot to attack him. He has a 1.171 OPS at Coors and a .975 OPS on the most pitcher friendly road schedule in baseball. He has a 1.112 OPS against righties, and a .984 OPS against lefties. He has a .967 OPS with runners in scoring position, a 1.194 OPS with the bases loaded, and a 1.242 OPS with two outs and runners in scoring position. Tulo also has a .967 OPS in innings 1-3, an 1.138 OPS in innings 4-6, and an 1.164 OPS in innings 7-9.

And in typical Tulo fashion, he's getting better as we go deeper into the season. In April his OPS was .996, in May it climbed to 1.043, and so far in June it's been a ridiculous 1.348! He's also riding an active streak in which he's reached base in 24 consecutive games and has multiple hits in half of them; and oh by the way, he's still playing some of the best defense in the game at shortstop. I'm sure he'll hit a slump at some point, but wow has this been a spectacle to behold so far.

(PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE LET HIM STAY HEALTHY BASEBALL GODS!!!!)

Links

If you want more Tulo, Troy Renck wrote about him in his Sunday feature.

Michael Cuddyer and the Rockies are hopeful he'll be back in the lineup when Colorado takes the field again on Tuesday.

Patrick Saunders has more on the excellent start and nerve rattling finish to Juan Nicasio's outing yesterday.

James Gentile of Beyond the Box score has an interesting piece up this morning that asks if prospects are debuting too early.

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