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Monday Rockpile: A Diamond In The Rough

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The Rockies have played embarrassing fundamental baseball over the last few days, but if they can correct this aspect of their game, they may be on the verge of something great.

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Normally, I'd be seething after watching the Rockies lose three out of four like that. Normally, I'd be combing over every little detail throughout the series and lamenting how it could have been different. But this is not a normal circumstance. Amid a lost week of baseball against two of the better teams in the National League, Colorado may have accidentally stumbled on something very important, but to find it, you have to go through all ten of the Rockies loses this season.

1) Game 1: Brewers 5, Rockies 4 (Ten Innings) - The Rockies led this the season opener 3-1 into the bottom of the 8th inning when Wilton Lopez made his Colorado debut. It did not go well. Lopez surrendered three runs in the inning and seemed to lose the game on the spot, but Dexter Fowler's home run in the 9th pushed the game to extra innings and postponed the disappointment for a little while longer. The would still lose on a walk off Sac Fly in the 10th.

2) Game 7: Giants 4, Rockies 2 - This game came down to one pitch. Jorge De La Rosa game up a three run first inning jack to Hunter Pence and that turned out to be all the Giants would need, but the Rockies made a game of it against Madison Bumgarner who currently has a 1.87 ERA on the season. They pulled to within a run in the 6th and actually had a few chances to tie it up. San Francisco would tack on an insurance run in the bottom of the 8th to double their lead and win by that margin, but this is a game the Rockies could have won.

3) Game 8: Giants 9, Rockies 6 - The Rockies led 6-2 into the bottom of the 6th inning and seemed in complete control of this one, but Juan Nicasio walked the last two batters he faced and the bullpen had an uncharacteristic meltdown. The Giants would later take the lead on a three run bottom of the 8th and sail to a victory an inning later on a night where the Rockies should have won.

4) Game 9: Giants 10, Rockies 0 - Nothing good here. The Rockies got outplayed in every phase of the game from beginning to end.

5) Game 18: D'Backs 5, Rockies 4 - The Rockies were looking for their 9th win in a row and seemed on their way to sweeping Arizona as they led into the final frame. With Rafael Betancourt unavailable, Colorado turned to Wilton Lopez to shut the door with ground ball outs. He got the ground balls, but not the outs as the first two batters reached on a seeing eye single and a weak chopper down the third base line that hopped over the head of Herrera and into shallow left field for a double. Both runners would score, and when the Rockies left the tying run at third base in the bottom of the 9th, their longest winning streak since September of 2010 was over.

6) Game 19: Braves 4, Rockies 3 - This game unfolded in fashion that would usually be good for Colorado. The Rockies trailed by just one run in the 4th inning and did not give up another run for the rest of the game thanks to exceptional bullpen work, but unfortunately they were going up against the Braves bullpen which is also outstanding. Colorado could have won this game while Mike Minor was still on the hill, but there were missed opportunities in the middle innings and the bats were completely shutdown once they ran into the teeth of Atlanta's pen.

7) Game 20: Braves 10, Rockies 2 - The second game where they were completely outplayed. It wasn't nearly as bad as the game in San Francisco, but the Rockies were never really in this one once it turned sour in the 4th inning.

8) Game 22: D'Backs 3, Rockies 2 -Jorge De La Rosa pitched well for most of the night, but a two run shot off the bat of Paul Goldschmidt doomed his outing as the Rockies bats went just 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position and squandered a great opportunity to extend what at the time was a division lead over the D'backs.

9) Game 24: D'Backs 3, Rockies 2 (10 Innings) - Just a game that the Rockies gift wrapped to their opponent. Four walks in the first inning without scoring a run, 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position, and an amazing exchange in the 8th where Josh Rutledge was at the plate with two men on and nobody out and three pitches later he hit a line drive to right field that ended the inning. Awful, awful, baseball!

10) Game 25: D'Backs 4, Rockies 2 - More awful baseball!!! Eric Young Jr. hit doubles in each of his first two at bats and was thrown out trying to advance to third on each occasion, Troy Tulowitzki was thrown out at the plate and had to leave the game thanks to a questionable decision by third base coach Stu Cole, Jason Kubel came up with men on second and third with two out in the 3rd inning and struck out but thanks to both a passed ball and a wild pitch, both runners scored. Oh and if that wasn't enough the Rockies left the tying run in scoring position with a slumping Cargo at the plate.

The Rockies have now played 25 games in a season that's starting to come into focus. They have won 15 times, lost games they either could have or should have won 8 times, and have been thoroughly manhandled twice. In other words, they are in every single game. Two offensive explosions against Jeff Francis are the only games that left you believing that Colorado didn't belong on the same filed as their opponent. A complete reversal of 2012.

In bizarre fashion, this lost weekend in the desert revealed something very encouraging about the potential true talent level of this team. Despite not taking advantage of walks, despite not hitting with runners in scoring position, despite some of the worst base running I've ever seen at the major league level, despite Carlos Gonzalez suffering through a wretched slump, despite Jhoulys Chacin being on the DL, despite the Rockies playing on the road where they usually get blown out a few times, despite Tulo having to leave the last game of the series early, and despite Arizona having one of the best records in baseball, the Rockies didn't get blown out in ANY of these games.

Looking back, there's no prize for losing close, and the Rockies must tighten up the fundamentals if they they are serious about playing meaning baseball well into the summer, but looking forward, this series should really force some of the critics to at least question how high the ceiling is for this team. The 2009 Rockies won 92 games, but they were a dreadful 20-32 in to the first week of June while beginning the year 0-8 in one run games. This is not to say that the this team has been as frustrating as that one was early in the season, and it certainly doesn't guarantee that success is coming this summer, but there is value in looking back on how things have unfolded early in the season before a team develops a true identity; and there's quite a few positives to take away from the first 25 games here. If this team ever pulls it's head out their own tailpipe when it comes to doing the little things right, the Rockies may not just be a good team, they may be a great team.

Tulo Update:

Troy Tulowitzki had to leave yesterday's game with a left shoulder strain but thankfully it doesn't look like anything major as Troy Renck notes. The Rockies may keep him out of tonight's lineup just to be cautious, but our shortstop should be back in there soon.

Arenado Mania:

The beginning of this piece by Thomas Hardinghas more on Tulowitzki leaving the game yesterday, but it also includes notes on Arenado's call up and the Chris Nelson situation. It includes quotes from Tulo on all three subjects so be sure to check it out.

Troy Renck writes about Arenado's experience during his first game with the big club and Walt Weiss's plan for playing time going forward.

There's also some great Arenado links right here at Purple Row. If you've missed any over the last couple of days, we've got them stored in this story stream for you.

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