It’s time for divisional play to start ramping up. The Rockies head out today for their first big divisional road trip of 2018. They’ll start with two games against the San Diego Padres, then follow it up with a four against the San Francisco Giants, and conclude a three-game series Los Angeles Dodgers. In three notorious “pitcher’s parks,” there is extra pressure on this streaky offense to score early and often, and for the defense to play well to prevent the other team from doing just that against them.
Currently, the Rockies trail the Arizona Diamondbacks by 2.5 games. The Giants are third, only two games behind the Rockies. The Dodgers and Padres are fourth and fifth respectively, sitting 8 and 9 games out of first place. Out of the entire National League West, the Rockies and Diamondbacks are the only teams with a winning record. The Giants just broke a six game losing streak yesterday, and the Dodgers have lost four straight.
Here are some things to pay attention to during this upcoming road trip.
Familiarity helps (or not)
Just like any divisional series, it can help that these teams see each other 19 times per year. Everybody knows how everyone works, so they know how to attack them (but hopefully not physically). They also know the parks much better than the others that they see only a handful of times per year. That doesn’t mean they still don’t have to be prepared, but it might help a little bit.
The Rockies’ offense has been streaky. They seem to either score enough for fans to get tacos or score fewer than two runs. In order to be successful on this road trip, they need to find a way to score if they want to outduel the opposition. In their last ten games, they have scored 43 runs to their opponents’ 48 and, again, the team seems to either earn tacos for the fans or barely get off the ground. Nolan Arenado, Noel Cuevas, David Dahl, Carlos González, Gerardo Parra, and Trevor Story all hit above .300 on this home stand, whereas Ian Desmond, Charlie Blackmon, and Tony Wolters all hit under .200.
Finding a way for the whole team to play well
Again, the season narrative has been that the offense needs to step it up. However, there have been some games where the pitchers need to play well too. Take Friday night’s game against the Brewers. The Rockies scored 10 runs! However, they fell in the tenth inning 11-10 after a bullpen meltdown. It started with Manny Piña’s two-run home run off of Wade Davis in the top of the ninth and was finished by an RBI single by Travis Shaw to win the game for the Brewers off of Jake McGee. Starter Chad Bettis only pitched 5.0 innings and gave up seven runs on ten hits with three walks and three strikeouts. It was the second straight game in which the Rockies starter did not pitch a quality game after a franchise record nine straight quality starts.
Kyle Freeland was able to bounce back on Saturday with a nice quality start of 6.1 innings with four hits, four walks, and six strikeouts, but Trevor Story was the source of all of the team’s runs with a two-run home run, a solo home run, and an RBI double. He alone went 3-for-3 with two runs, four RBI, and a walk. The rest of the team went 6-for-30 with two doubles, one triple, two walks, and five strikeouts combined.
The Clayton Kershaw-less Dodgers
On May 7, the Dodgers placed ace Clayton Kershaw on the 10-day disabled list with bicep tendinitis in his pitching arm. This is the third straight season that Kershaw has landed on the DL. In 2016, the Dodgers won the NL West after finishing 91-71 without their ace for two months, and in 2017, they won the west again with a record of 104-58 and ended up going to the World Series. That being said, they are currently in the middle of a three game losing streak and are 4-6 in their last ten games.
Their season so far has been marred by injuries, and not just of Kershaw. Third baseman Justin Turner went down with a broken wrist in spring training but is expected back shortly, shortstop Corey Seager recently had season-ending Tommy John surgery, and top starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu is out until at least July with a severe groin strain. Earlier this year, outfielder Yasiel Puig spent time on the DL with a bruised hip and ankle but was recently activated.
That being said, they’re still the Dodgers and they are still really good and will be a tough opponent for the Rockies. They’ve been faltering a bit even with Kershaw on the mound, but they still can’t be overlooked.
What needs to happen
Overall, it’s not a bad time for this road trip. The division as a whole is squandering a little bit, so everyone will be looking to make up some ground, especially since the Diamondbacks have seemingly hit a wall. The expectations are certainly higher since we’re now in May and playing more within the division. The team is 15-8 on the road and 7-11 at home, so if they can rack up some division wins on the road and go 5-4 or better, that would really help propel them up since they have a stretch of 12 out of 15 games at home against the division coming up next.
Probables (subject to change)
Monday, 5/14 - Tyler Anderson vs. Joey Lucchesi
Tuesday, 5/15 - Germán Márquez vs. Jordan Lyles
Thursday, 5/17 - Chad Bettis vs. Jeff Samardzija
Friday, 5/18 - Kyle Freeland vs. Derek Holland
Saturday, 5/19 - Jon Gray vs. Chris Stratton (ESPN)
Sunday, 5/20 - Tyler Anderson vs. Ty Blach
Monday, 5/21 - Germán Márquez vs. Walker Buehler
Tuesday, 5/22 - Chad Bettis vs. Kenta Maeda (ESPN)
Wednesday, 5/23 - Kyle Freeland vs. Ross Stripling