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San Diego Padres provide first true test for Colorado Rockies in 2017

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These are the kind of games the Rockies let get away from them in 2016, and it cost them.

The San Diego Padres come to Coors Field for a three-game series starting tonight that represents arguably the first real test for the Colorado Rockies in 2017.

That’s right, this is the first test of the season. Not starting with four games on the road in Milwaukee, not the big league debuts of Antonio Senzatela and Kyle Freeland, not facing the Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw. Why is this the first test? Because games and series like this are where the Rockies failed in 2016.

San Diego is projected by just about everyone to be the worst team in the NL West and among the worst in baseball. Their starting pitcher tonight, Jarred Cosart, has a 5.30 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in 127 13 innings since the start of 2015. If the Rockies expect to be a contender, this is a game they should win.

However, in 2016, the Rockies were just 21-23 against sub-.500 teams at home and 35-47 against sub-.500 teams overall. By contrast, they were 21-16 at Coors Field against teams that finished above .500 last season, 40-40 overall against that group.

The need to succeed against weaker opposition is magnified within the NL West, where you face each opponent 19 times. In 2016, the Rockies finished seven games ahead of the Padres and six games ahead of the Diamondbacks despite a record of 19-19 against those two clubs head-to-head. The top two teams in the division, the Dodgers and Giants, went 23-15 and 24-14 respectively against Arizona and San Diego. If the Rockies are going to contend in 2017, that is the performance they need against the division’s bottom feeders.

They can start that tonight. Cosart has faced the Rockies just once in his career, a game at Coors Field last September in which he allowed five runs on five hits in just 3 23 innings, walking four and striking out four in a 6-3 Rockies win. The Rockies need an offensive breakout tonight similar to that: all five of their wins this season have been by one or two runs. It would, to use a favorite term of former Rockies manager Jim Tracy, behoove the Rockies to get a win that does not require a save.

Someone who could really help them toward that goal is Tyler Chatwood starting on the mound tonight. In four games against San Diego last season, Chatwood posted a 3.76 ERA in 26 13 innings and the Rockies won all four games, a trend that would be nice to continue into 2017.

In the lineup tonight, Gerardo Parra gets a jump into the fifth spot ahead of a slumping Trevor Story and the Padres are batting Yangervis Solarte cleanup.

First pitch at Coors Field tonight is at 6:40.

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