The Colorado Rockies are 46-26. That's good for the best record in the National League and the second best record in all of baseball behind the Houston Astros. There's one big difference, though: the Astros are enjoying a 12-game lead atop the American League West, while the Rockies are just half a game up on the Los Angeles Dodgers and one game up on the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Rockies are preparing for a 12-game stretch in the division that includes six games against the Diamondbacks and road series against the Dodgers and San Francisco Giants. These would be crucial games no matter what, but they are especially so given the fact that it is already such a tight race.
It's not early anymore, at least not to where any of these teams need to prove they are for real. All three NL West powers will be in the playoff race; that was expected for the Dodgers, not so much for the Rockies and Diamondbacks. Even still, this isn't about proving the Rockies are ready to contend. Now it's about identifying the spots in the schedule where the team has opportunities to make a real impact on the standings. These next 12 games are exactly that.
The Diamondbacks, currently the second wild card team, have an 8.5-game lead over the Chicago Cubs in the Wild Card standings. The Rockies, like their opponents in Los Angeles and Arizona, will be trying to avoid any losing skid that might put them closer to the pack as much as they will be trying to take the spot as king of the mountain.
These teams are even hotter
Nobody's hotter than the Rockies, right? Wrong. The Dodgers are. So are the Diamondbacks. Both teams have gone 9-1 in their last 10 games, including a seven-game win streak for the Diamondbacks.
Start with more wins at Coors Field
Colorado opens with three games against Arizona in Denver starting on Tuesday night before heading out on the road. It feels especially important that they win this series, because both the Dodgers and Diamondbacks are dominant on their respective home fields. The Dodgers are 26-10 at home while the Diamondbacks are 26-9 in Arizona.
Stealing a game in those series might be enough for now, but it makes winning at Coors Field more important.
Don't overlook the Giants
Yes, the Rockies just humiliated the Giants to the tune of a four-game sweep, walk-off wins, and Nolan Arenado auditioning for a role in some sort of Braveheart spin-off. Yes, the Giants look like a beaten down doormat of a team this year, and yes, the Rockies have done well against them in recent years even before this one.
I know better. You know better. A series at AT&T Park is daunting no matter what, and the Rockies would be wise not to overlook that series and risk stubbing their toe at the stop between Los Angeles and Arizona.
Can you name the Diamondbacks manager?
The bullpen needs to bounce back
The Rockies have enjoyed success in close games this year, but that feels like it might take a turn soon if the bullpen doesn't get back on track. The bullpen ERA has jumped up to 4.73 for the month of June. For this stretch, it feels like guys like Chris Rusin and Jake McGee need to offer a level of stability; despite getting roughed up this weekend, they have been two of the more consistent guys in front of Greg Holland.
Otherwise, the Rockies will keep riding the ups and downs of those fickle creatures who are relief pitchers, hoping to find some more reliable bridges in the bullpen when they need them. As we know, the margin for error in the bullpen in close games really tightens up when you're out on the west coast.
What strings will Bud Black need to pull?
It will be interesting to see how Black treats things and how much he goes with the hot hand, especially if the Rockies find their offense cooling off out west. He’ll be watching for answers to the same questions as us, including:
- Can Carlos Gonzalez get on track?
- Can Raimel Tapia stay hot?
- Can Ian Desmond continue to hit the ball hard?
- Can he get enough length from his young starting pitchers to put his bullpen in the best spots to rebound?
The answers to these questions, among others, will go a long way towards deciding how this stretch of games goes. Thankfully, it’s Black, and not us watching, who has to decide what to do with that information.
Which superstar will come through?
Nolan Arenado is gaining his deserved appreciation beyond the division as a superstar. This is also happening for his underappreciated peer: Paul Goldschmidt is a stud once again. And Dodgers’ rookie Cody Bellinger is entering the national conversation as well with 21 home runs in his first 51 career games. As these games get more attention, so too will these star players. Here’s hoping that Nolan is the one to continue delivering the big moments.
Treading water is OK
Obviously it is tantalizing to think about the Rockies building on their 13-4 start to the month and tearing through these games, taking hold of the top of the division. Of course we'll all be cheering for that, but it's a tough road ahead. Given how the NL West cluster has distanced itself from the rest of the league, staying in the cluster will be good enough for now.
What would you consider a good result from these next 12 games?
This poll is closed
8-4; just win every series
6-6; treading water is okay against tough competition
4-8; just avoid the sweeps and falling behind