The Rockies just finished up one of the most difficult stretches in recent memory, in terms of their schedule and results. Colorado went 9-21 in that stretch, falling from a near-.500 club to one that is just a couple of losses away from being the worst team in the league. The team finally gets a little bit of relief beginning on Monday when the 39-49 Padres come to town.
Colorado 4-3 against San Diego this year, including a 2-1 series victory in mid-May that was their last at Coors Field. Since Justin Morneau's walk-off home run against Dale Thayer to cap that three-game set, the Rox are a woeful 6-16-1 at 20th and Blake. That kind of performance can lead to some serious anger, and sure enough, we're now being subject to daily conversation about how the Rockies should trade their two star players.
Hopefully a swing in the schedule, along with some improved health, will change things at least a little bit. The Rockies have six home games against sub-.500 squads starting tonight, but that doesn't necessarily mean six wins are in order. The Padres, for one, are playing decent ball since the firing of former general manager Josh Byrnes, winning seven out of 10 before a pair of weekend losses to the Giants. They've been carried by a former Rockies slugger, an impressive rookie pitcher (Jesse Hahn, who the Rockies fortunately won't see in this series), and a late-game bullpen duo that is among the best in the game.
Here's what to watch for from the Friars:
Mr. Late Night is pretty much Mr. All Day now
Seth Smith is the best offensively player the Padres have to offer, hitting a robust .273/.373/.490, which is good for a career-high 150 OPS+. Smith probably deserved an All-Star bid over current Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon, but hey -- we're not complaining. What's perhaps most impressive about Smith is that he is playing slightly above-average outfield defense in a fairly cavernous park, and for that, he certainly deserves kudos. The Padres recently gave him just that, in the form of a two-year, $13 million contract extension.
As for this series, Smith obviously is a big-time hitter at Coors Field, posting a career line of .299/.372/.573 at altitude. However, he'll see a left-handed starters in each of the first two games of the series, and Smith is a lifetime .199/.276/.313 hitter against southpaws. Quite the interesting predicament, indeed.
The token All-Star
OK, you're right -- that's not exactly fair. But Tyson Ross' 116 ERA+ doesn't exactly scream All-Star. And, for wins-losses purists, neither does his 7-8 record. That doesn't mean the man can't pitch. Ross owns a 2.93 ERA and has whiffed 111 batters in 116⅔ innings. The 27-year-old's numbers don't appear to be a fluke, either, as he's posted the exact same peripherals that he did in his 3.17 ERA campaign a year ago.
Ross has flummoxed the Rockies, boasting a 2.75 ERA in five appearances. He's made only one start at Coors Field, and it wasn't a good one. He allowed three runs on three hits and four walks in only four innings on April 6, 2013. In all fairness to Ross, that was basically a lifetime ago.
Whatever you do, don't let them get a lead
The Padres have a woeful offense, but in the event that they score enough runs to get a lead into the eighth inning in this series, the Rockies will probably be screwed. That's because Joaquin Benoit and Huston Street make up perhaps the best late-inning duo in the majors. Benoit, who serves as the setup man, has struck out 41 batters and walked only seven in 36⅔ innings. He has given up hits at a rate of fewer than one every two innings and has serve up only one home run all year. That's dominance.
Speaking of dominance, Street -- another former Rockie -- has achieved just that, regaining his 2009 form by whiffing more than a batter per inning while racking up 23 saves. Like Benoit, Street rarely issues walks, so batters generally need to put in work to have any shot of success. Problem is, the 30-year-old right-hander has given up only 18 hits in 32 innings. Also, how the hell is he only 30? Baseball, man ... it's crazy.
Editor's Note: SB Nation's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $18,000 Fantasy Baseball league for tonight's MLB games. It's $2 to join and first prize is $2,000. Jump in now. Here's the FanDuel link.
Game 1: Monday, July 7 at 6:40 p.m. MT (ROOT Sports)
Game 2: Tuesday, July 8 at 6:40 p.m. MT (ROOT Sports)
Tyson Ross vs. Franklin Morales