Today, a new season and a new era begin for the Colorado Rockies.
After three seasons of more and more minuses, there are finally additions. For three straight years, Rockies fans had seen All-Stars depart and losses mount. Finally, this offseason, the Rockies signed free agents and traded to add power as Bill Schmidt transformed from long-time scout to general manager.
This opening day brings with it a renewed sense of hope for the 2022 MLB season. It won’t bring with it the World Series that Dick Monfort spoke of during Kris Bryant’s press conference, but there are some new elements that will make this opening home series more interesting and, hopefully, make the season more fun.
For the first time since 2011, the Rockies will host opening day in front of a full stadium. While the Rockies got to start 2021 at Coors Field, also against the Dodgers, COVID-19 restrictions limited the capacity to 21,000 fans. There are no regulations to start this season and LoDo will be rocking. To get the party started, former Rockies draft pick and current Denver Broncos quarterback, Russell Wilson, will be throwing out the first pitch.
Rockies fans are now a year removed from the Nolan Arenado trade shock and disgust. The Trevor Story and Jon Gray loses are still raw, but at least Bryant, Randal Grichuk, and Alex Colomé can try to fill the void.
Last season, the Rockies beat the Dodgers 8-5 on opening day, overcoming a short start from Germán Márquez and despite being outhit 15-11. Two Dodger errors and a baserunning mistake that turned a Cody Bellinger homer into an RBI single and an out also helped.
This year, Kyle Freeland will make his second opening day start. Outside of being a hometown guy and a crowd favorite who injects much-needed emotion to the field for the Rockies, K-Free shines in openers. In 2019, Freeland took the mound in the season opener in Miami and gave up one run on two hits and one walk with five strikeouts in a 6-3 win. In 2017, in the home opener against the Dodgers, the 24-year-old rookie made his MLB debut in style with a six-strikeout, four-hit, one-run performance in six innings on route to a 2-1 victory.
“L.A. is one of those teams I love matching up against, whether it’s at home or their place,” Freeland told MLB.com’s Thomas Harding. “Each stadium is going to be electric. There’s a lot of noise. There’s a lot of hype. And opening weekend is always massive in Denver.”
The revamped, power-focused lineup, which will also have the benefit of a DH, will face off against Walker Buehler, who like Freeland made his debut in 2017. Dodgers opening day opponents are used to seeing Clayton Kershaw, who has started on opening day for nine of the last 11 seasons for Los Angeles. Buehler, a two-time All-Star, will be making his opening day debut. Walker is 6-2 in 19 games (15 starts) with a 4.20 ERA against the Rockies, including a 2-1 mark and 5.03 ERA at Coors Field in 10 appearances (eight starts).
In last year’s opener, the Rockies won without hitting a home run. They rallied back with four the next day, including Charlie Blackmon and Ryan McMahon torching Trevor Bauer and Dom Nuñez and Sam Hilliard taking David Price deep. It wasn’t enough for the win, however, and they went on to drop the opening series 3-1.
After taking the next series 2-1 over Arizona, the Rockies lost seven in a row for a 3-11 mark halfway through April. By the end of the month, the Rockies were 9-17. Despite posting a winning record from June through October at 54-53, the hole the Rockies dug for themselves in April in May to be 20-34 was too deep to climb out.
This April, the Rockies need to finish around the 11-10 mark. It’s a shorter month and a .500 record is more doable with the Dodgers being the Rockies’ only NL West opponents in April.
While the momentum and the good times need to start at Coors Field in 2022, in order to be around .500 or even into winning territory in October, the Rockies have to be more consistent in their road-home play. The Rockies were 15 games above .500 at home in 2021 and a dismal 18 games under .500 on the road. Without dipping into the .593 winning percentage at Coors, that gap must shrink in 2022.
As Bryant brings winning experience to the club, maybe he can also help the Rockies with that balance. After all, he’s one of the few players who hasn’t thrived at Coors Field. In 16 games at Coors Field, Bryant has a slash line of .263/.354/.404 compared to his .278/.376/.504 career line.
Friday is the first step in a marathon season. Only time will tell if this year’s roster can bring homers back to Blake Street, even out the home-and-away record, and make 2022 a positive step forward in a new Rockies era.
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Rockies groundskeeper Mark Razum beat cancer, cherishes his 28th home opener at Coors Field | Denver Post ($)
Mark Razum, aka “Raz,” has a heck of a story. When the 60-year-old head groundskeeper prepares the field for opening day at Coors Field on Friday, he’ll be celebrating his 28th opener, meaning he’s been taking care of the cherished dirt and grass every season Coors Field has existed. He’s taken remarkable care of the field and his crew, despite battling colorectal cancer for the last three years. This is a heartwarming feature from Patrick Saunders, highlighting the triumphs and perseverance of a man who has scheduled most of his treatments and surgeries during road trips and the offseason since finding out he had cancer after a colonoscopy in 2019. Cheers to Raz.
On a day when optimism is at its highest, it’s also fun to have specific achievements be aware of in the upcoming season. Noah Yingling put together a nice collection here, including that Bud Black only needs two more wins before hitting the 1,000 mark as a manager and Charlie Blackmon needs nine homers to have 200 in his career and 50 hits to get to 1,500 in his career.
On the Farm
Albuquerque starter Dillion Overton was cruising through two innings before he gave up three runs to the Dodgers in the third inning, including a solo homer to former Rockie Kevin Pillar on Thursday. He finished with three strikeouts, walked two, and gave up four hits. Despite adding one run in the seventh and eighth innings, the Isotopes couldn’t come back and dropped to 1-2 on the season. On the bright side, after Overton departed, Brandon Gold pitched three scoreless innings with five strikeouts with only two hits, while Julian Fernández and Nate Griep closed out the effort with a scoreless inning apiece. Albuquerque left 13 runners on base and went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position. Ryan Vilade went 2-for-4, Colton Welker added one hit and one RBI, and Kyler Holder singled and scored a run. The Isotopes are halfway through their opening series with Oklahoma City and will be back in action on Friday at 6:05 p.m. MT.
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