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Colorado Rockies begin a crucial road trip in Minnesota today

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Long road trips in May and June have sunk Rockies teams before, so this will tell us a lot about their hopes to contend

The Colorado Rockies currently sit at 24-15 and are in first place in the National League West (I’m going to keep saying it until it’s not true). This is good. They just finished their season-long 10-game homestand with a 6-4 record against two divisional opponents currently nipping at the Rockies’ heels in the playoff chase and the defending World Series champions. This is also good.

Now they embark on their longest road trip of the season, a crucial test for a team that is currently 11-5 on the road and holding legitimate aspirations of playoff glory. Travel and the hostile work environments make all road trips tests of just how competitive a team is. But then consider the Rockies have only finished a season above .500 on the road once in their history (2009, when they went 41-40), and it becomes an especially telling litmus test for their immediate success.

There’s also the matter of recent history to overcome. In the May/June stretch of the season the Rockies hit the road for an extended trip back east (central/eastern time zones). These trips usually spell disaster for the Rockies. Seven out of the last ten years these road trips have been nine games or longer. In 2009 they had two such road trips (including an 11 game road stretch), and it was the only time they finished one of these trips above .500 (one trip they went 5-5 and the other they went 8-3). That winning road trip came on the heels of Jim Tracy taking over for the fired Clint Hurdle. Five times the Rockies went into these trips with winning records, and every time they came back with a .500 record or worse. After getting the month of May off to a winning start, it becomes critical that they keep it going over this trip.

It won’t be easy, though. Heading into the season, this seemed to be the longest but the softest road trip of the season. The Minnesota Twins, Cincinnati Reds, and Philadelphia Phillies finished 2016 a combined 90 games below .500 with a total of 288 losses. However, the Twins are currently 19-15 and have a one game lead in the AL Central, and the Reds (19-18) are one of the biggest surprises of the early going thanks to their high-flying offense. The Phillies are a professional baseball team that plays their home games in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

There are a number of Rockies who are struggling a bit offensively who could use this trip as a jump start to their seasons. These next ten games feature some of the worst pitching the Rockies have seen this season: the Twins are 27th in pitching fWAR, the Reds are 24th, and the Phillies are dead last. Trevor Story will miss most, if not all, of the road trip as he recovers from a shoulder injury, but Carlos González, specifically, and the rest of the team, generally, could feast on this lower quality of pitching. Add that to the fact that Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati and Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia are the two most hitter friendly National League parks outside of Coors Field, and we could see a lot of runs from the Rockies on this trip.

On the flip side, the Rockies pitching staff (third in baseball in fWAR) will be tested yet again. The Rockies have already faced some top ten offenses in the Nationals (first in fWAR), Dodgers (fifth), Diamondbacks (eighth), and Brewers (ninth). But the Reds (fourth in fWAR) and Twins (eleventh) are currently above .500 due in large part to their offense. Even the Phillies, who are just ahead of the Twins at tenth in offensive fWAR, haven’t had problems producing runs. And, lest we forget, their hitters get to hit in these bandboxes just like the Rockies do.

Bud Black will also get a designated hitter for the first time in 2017, and there are two players who could see more playing time because of it. Raimel Tapia, who was hitting .400/.434/.583 in 25 games in Triple-A before being called up last week, could get some regular at bats in Minnesota. But we might see Gerardo Parra, who is hitting just .211/.243/.310 since April 11, designated as “hitter.”

Because of the Rockies distinct home park, road trips are critical. If this team hopes to continue to push for a playoff spot, it is trips like these that prove their mettle as a contender.

Probable Starters vs Minnesota

May 16: Kyle Freeland (3-2, 2.93 ERA) vs Phil Hughes (4-1, 4.74 ERA), 6:10 pm MDT

May 17: Germán Márquez (1-2, 4.88 ERA) vs Ervin Santana (6-1, 1.50 ERA), 6:10 pm MDT

May 18: Tyler Chatwood (3-5, 5.25 ERA) vs José Berríos (1-0, 1.17 ERA), 11:10 am MDT

Poll

What would a successful road trip be?

This poll is closed

  • 52%
    7-3; we need to win every series
    (220 votes)
  • 45%
    5-5; no such thing as a bad .500 road trip
    (191 votes)
  • 2%
    3-7; just don’t fall below .500 overall
    (12 votes)
423 votes total Vote Now