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Rockies Review: Gaining Traction?

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Normally, it isn't cause for celebration when it takes until Memorial Day for your team to succeed in winning its second road series, but normally, your team isn't the 2009 Colorado Rockies. While the triumph today was quite surprising and enjoyable, not least because the defence showed up in a Jason Hammel start and the Toddfather continued his reign of terror, it -- to say the least -- leaves us with plenty of questions as we pass the quarterpole. For better or worse, scrounging out a 5-5 record on what was initially shaping up as a dismal road trip may have saved Hurdle's job for the foreseeable future.

Now, while I'm not the sort of fan to root against the team in the short-term for a longer-term benefit (canning Hurdle), it does seem to reinforce the fact that he's going to be "the guy" to help us dig out of the hole. We'll never know if O'Dowd would have pulled the trigger or not if we'd been swept by the Motor City Kitties, but I do think that he's grateful to have an excuse not to. Still... there is that fact that it took until Memorial Day to win our second road series. Let's not get too attached to spur-of-the-moment results in thinking that the comeback starts now and there's more incentive to stay the course.

Which leads us to the question: Does the comeback start now? As I seem to recall, it was at the end of May that the 2007 team finally sorted hats from asses and began to play at a higher calibre. While it's unfair to this team to constantly hold 2007 up as a yardstick, it does provide a (however faint) spark of hope that the days of 9 and 10-run innings, and other epic and agonising fails, may be over. In 2007, this moment was reached when the guys took 2 of 3 from the Reds at the start of June -- the third game of which was highlighted by a Garrett Atkins walk-off single to help him shake a consuming early-season funk (sound familiar?)

But the competition this time around will be a lot stiffer, as we head home to resume divisional play, facing the 15-games-north-of-.500 Dodgers and then the streaking Padres. Chris Iannetta is headed to the DL, so we're going to be seeing a heck of a lot of Yorvit (and Paul Phillips! Hooray). We may be DFAing Matt Belisle, but we're replacing him with Josh Fogg (why?!). Jorge de la Rosa is terminally unlucky and/or nuclear. Aaron Cook needs to show that he can replicate his last outing about 10 more times. Our youngsters (particularly Dexter Fowler, Ian Stewart, and Troy Tulowitzki) all need to pick up the slack. Garrett Atkins needs to be the one Hurdle benches to make a point. In short, there are a lot of dogs still not pulling their weight. Consistency remains a major sticking point. Hurdle's newest tack is to attempt to be a hard-ass. It's much too early to see how well the players are responding to this new level of discipline, or if they will. Or if they stay there. If, if if. A series win feels good, but let us not forget the problems that remain. And we don't have much, if any, time left to figure them out for good.

June promises to be make-or-break in judging if we're going to have much excitement post All-Star Game. We play only nine games at home all month, and have two brutal tri-city road trips. It shapes up thusly: four-game sets in Houston and St. Louis, and a three-gamer in Milwaukee, coming back for the homestand to face the Mariners, Rays, and Pirates, then swinging out West to visit the Angels, our old friend and the A's, and the Dodgers (again). That's an incredibly rough gauntlet to run, and it's fair to say that if the Rockies emerge from June in the same shape they've struggled through April and May, they're just going to be too far behind to resurface this year. 2007, after all, had the help of a miracle. That is one measuring stick we're going to have to go without. But streaks like that aren't needed if you play solid baseball all year. You don't need to sweep everyone, just win series.

Conversely, if the Rockies can put up a respectable showing, then there might be glimmers that all is not lost -- despite how horrible they've looked thus far. There are, of course, indicators that they could still turn this around: their downright unbelievably horrific luck in one-run games, the warmer weather usually tends to bring out a little more juju in the bats, and they've played the most road games in the NL. In addition (this surprised me as well) they have the best record in the NL for Interleague play over the past few seasons, and the Mariners, Rays, and A's have all looked plenty vulnerable this year. Even the Angels, seemingly immortal last year, are only three games above .500, and with the punchless Pirates mixed in, there's definitely opportunity to snipe off a few wins in the not-so-elysian-fields of June. But that's the thing: Aside from the offensively incompetent Nationals (thank you, Jim Bowden) we are the worst team in the NL. We have to look up instead of down, since we're the ones at the bottom of the well. We're the ones who have a lot to prove. We're the ones who are (fairly, if aggravatingly) looked upon as a cupcake, so those struggling teams will also be eyeing us as a chance to get well. We haven't particularly showed anything thus far to make them think that we won't be a cupcake. Thus, cupcake status must remain until conclusively disproven. Capisce?

Come on, guys. Give us another September to remember. Or failing that, at least avoid a June swoon. Time for the Charge of the Light Brigade.

Or something.