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The Rockies remain so close to, yet so far from the Dodgers

Rockies continue to toil in the shadow of a baseball juggernaut

The Dodgers defeated the Rockies 6-3 on Sunday afternoon. It was their 10th straight victory over Colorado, dating back to last season and including the Game 163 tiebreaker. This Dodgers’ record is now 53-25, on pace for a 111 win season. The loss dropped the Rockies to 40-37, on pace for an 84 win season, though still in the thick of the Wild Card race. The two teams are now separated by 13 games in the standings.

There’s ample reason to be discouraged by the road sweep, but there are some silver linings of encouragement.

The big picture

If you think the two teams are far apart this season, it gets worse when you take a more big-picture perspective. As Renee Dechert laid out in her review of The MVP Machine, and as we discussed on the most recent Affected by Altitude podcast, there are foundational differences that widen the gap between the two teams.

The Dodgers are excelling in finding and developing talent in a way that is exceeded only by the Astros (hello Matt Beaty and Will Smith). Meanwhile, the Rockies tend to display a characteristic skepticism in regards to advanced player development technologies. Add to the fact that the Dodgers farm system remains well regarded, despite regularly graduating or even trading talent, while the Rockiess system is still in the process of replenishing all the talent that they have graduated over the last few years (Trevor Story, German Márquez, Kyle Freeland, Ryan McMahon, David Dahl, and the list goes on). When it comes to competitive windows, the Dodgers seem like a perpetual motion device, while the Rockies are more of a Rube-Goldberg machine.

When you lay it all out like that, it seems like there’s nothing to do but lament the fact that the Rockies’ Golden Age seems to have coincided with the Dodgers’, and it seems like they aren't doing quite enough to try to keep up or pass L.A.

Outside the lines, the Rockies are far away from the Dodgers. Between the lines though, it seems they might be pretty close. At least right now.

Silver linings

For starters, consider the fact that the Dodgers outscored the Rockies 15-8 over three games. That’s an incredibly low scoring weekend, especially for a Rockies staff that allowed 44 runs over four games to the Padres just a week prior. Those are also pretty small margins of victory for the Dodgers. In fact, it took three walk-off home runs, including one in the 11th inning, for the Dodgers to take down the Rockies.

Three walk off home runs allowed in a row doesn’t do great things for morale, but if we look at the first 8 (or 10) innings of those games, there’s a lot of encouragement to be found. German Márquez, Peter Lambert, and even Antonio Senzatella held the vaunted Dodgers lineup to seven runs over 19 13 innings. Though the offense was able to avoid Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Kenta Maeda have been excellent for the Dodgers, and the Rockies offense was able to grind out tough at bats and score enough runs to at least give them a chance to win. Even with break after break going the Dodgers’ way (like a base runner getting hit by the relay throw of a would-be double play ball and being awarded two bases when it goes out of play), the real break that mattered was they had the privilege of the last at bat.

Even though the Dodgers have that ten game winning streak against the Rockies, more often than not they have been close affairs (with the exception of the Rockies home opening series in April). This suggests that the Rockies are able to lock in and “play up” for the big game. The Rockies once again showed themselves to be resilient by going toe to toe with the Dodgers.

★ ★ ★

Unfortunately, even when the Rockies are playing their best, it seems to just not be good enough. The Dodgers boast every advantage over the Rockies, from budget, to player development, market size, and on and on. However this era of Dodgers’ history is remembered, it makes the Rockies’ own Golden age seem gilded in comparison.

One win in the weekend series would have been plenty to consider it a success for the Rockies. Three walk-off losses means that they were actually quite close to three wins, but got none. That’s annoying, but by no means reason for outright despair. It’s just that the path to the World Series for them goes through the Wild Card game, and then Los Angeles.

There’s still more than half the season left. This is still a good Rockies team. The big picture factors make competing with the Dodgers exceptionally difficult, but they showed this weekend that, right now, they surely can trade blows with the best the NL has to offer.