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The next five weeks will show how close the Rockies really are to contending

Colorado Rockies news and links for Saturday, July 23, 2022

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The Colorado Rockies entered the All-Star break on a good note, going 7-3 in their last 10 games and 12-8 in their last 20. Over half of each of those segments were constituted by games against the Arizona Diamondbacks and Pittsburgh Pirates – teams deeper in the basement than Colorado – but wins are wins. Kris Bryant has returned from injury and shown well with a 160 wRC+ since his return.

Friday also marked the return of Antonio Senzatela, who missed most of July with a back strain. His return puts the Rockies at full-force for the first time this season, minus Tyler Kinley who went down for the season in early June. Sans Kinley, this is the roster that Colorado’s brass thinks is close to contending. They’ll have their chance to show how close they really are over the rest of July and all of August.

NL WC remaining schedule

Team GB G vs >.500
Team GB G vs >.500
PHI - 27
STL - 21
SF 1 33
MIA 6 34
COL 6.5 48

In their first game back from the break on Friday, the Rockies sat “only” 6.5 games back of a wild card spot with 69 games remaining. They have five teams ahead of them though, which is a better indication of how far they need to go. Making a legitimate push to get into the playoffs would not only require the Rockies to play extremely well, but for Philadelphia, St. Louis, San Francisco and Miami all to slip, as well.

That’s a tough hill to climb on its own, but when you consider the remaining schedule it begins to look insurmountable. The Phillies and Cardinals are tied for the final spot and have the most games against losing teams while the Rockies have far-and-away the most games against teams with an even or winning record. 70% of their remaining schedule, in fact.

This kicks off right away, with the no days off until July 8th and the first matchup against a losing team coming July 5th against Arizona. This includes a stretch of nine games in eight days against N.L. West foes Los Angeles and San Diego from July 28-August 4. From there, only five of their final 15 games in August come against sub-.500 squads. So, for the next five weeks, the Rockies are slated to play 30 of their next 38 games against winning teams.

The stretch of nine games in eight days against L.A and S.D. overlaps with the August 2 trade deadline so, after six games against the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago White Sox before this stretch, the Rockies should have a good idea on what trajectory they are on for the final stretch. But it’s unlikely that will influence their decisions on the trade market, as General Manager Bill Schmidt has already expressed reluctance to selling any contributing pieces this season.

“I believe in these guys,” general manager Bill Schmidt said in Phoenix last weekend. “We realize some of our young guys are coming and are going to eventually help us. We have some guys here who are going to be with us going forward. People want us to trade guys, but the people they want us to trade are the guys that want to stay here.”

Once again, the Rockies appear content to maintain their current course. There may be some action from Colorado, likely involving a pending free agent like Alex Colomé or José Iglesias. But indications are the highest-valued players, C.J. Cron and Daniel Bard, are who Colorado is preferring not to move. There’s a non-zero chance they could adjust their strategy and make a significant move or two at the deadline, but history suggests we shouldn’t hold our breath for that.

Instead, we’ll be able to truly evaluate if the front office’s plan can hold water. It was easy to point to Kris Bryant’s lost first half as an excuse. Now he’s back, healthy and producing. C.J. Cron just made his first All-Star team, Brendan Rodgers is long removed from his dreadful start, Charlie Blackmon has an .875 OPS since the start of June and the rotation is fully healthy from top-to-bottom, including a revitalized José Ureña in the mix.

So will it be enough to hang with the playoff-caliber teams? That’s what we’ll find out. If it does, then credit where credit is due and maybe the Rockies are closer than most believe. But if it doesn’t, and Colorado’s best-laid plan produces little more than mediocrity, then it will prove the pundits correct. That, at least, will be worth watching.

★ ★ ★

From Kris Bryant to road wins: Running through the Rockies’ second-half what-ifs | The Athletic ($)

The start and finish of the Rockies season prior to the All-Star break was positive, but the time in between was not. Nick Groke looks at the dilemmas Colorado faced in it’s first 93 games and if they can be resolved in the final stretch of the season. Mainly, Groke ponders if Kris Bryant can stay healthy and find his power at the plate, if Germán Márquez can regain and maintain his ace status and if they team can find out how starting winning more consistently away from home.

★ ★ ★

On the Farm

Triple-A: Sugar Land Space Cowboys 12, Albuquerque Isotopes 8

The Isotopes fell into a deep hole early on, as the Space Cowboys plated five runs in the first inning against Ashton Goudeau who lasted just one out in his start. Wynton Bernard and Alan Trejo would hit solo homers in the bottom of the first and the second, keeping the game within reach for the time being. But that didn’t last for long as Jordan Sheffield surrendered four runs in his 13 of an inning in the fourth before Heath Holder served up three more in the sixth. Down by nine, Albuquerque tried to mount a comeback with five runs scored in the seventh, but that was as close as they could get.

Double-A: Hartford Yard Goats 6, Binghamton Rumble Ponies 5

Aaron Schunk kicked off the scoring for Hartford with a solo home run in the top of the second inning, giving the team an early lead. Hunter Stovall drove in a run with a single in the third before Willie MacIver tacked on two more with a homer in the fourth. Michael Toglia followed with a solo shot the next inning and after five innings the Yard Goats led 5-1. Michael Baird had been cruising to that point, but ran into trouble in the sixth. He was unable to get an out and departed with two runners in scoring position. They would come around to score, along with two more as the Rumble Ponies tied up the game with four runs in the inning. The score would remain that way until the eighth, when Toglia drove in the eventual game-winning run with his second solo homer of the night.

High-A: Vancouver Canadians 7, Spokane Indians 2

Trailing by a run early, the Spokane Indians gained the lead after Trevor Boone RBI single and a run-scoring wild pitch gave the team a one run advantage. Unfortunately, that would be all the offense for the Indians this night as the team went scoreless for the final seven innings. The Canadians would take the lead for good with three runs in the fourth off Anderson Pilar before tacking on two in the seventh and one in the eighth.

Low-A: Fresno Grizzlies 5, Stockton Ports 4

Fresno led through the first five innings thanks to an RBI groundout by Adael Amador in the first inning and double by Juan Guerrero in the third. Starter Case Williams was cruising along, but run into trouble in the fifth. After two hits and a walk loaded the bases with one out, a costly error by CF E.J. Andrews on a potential sacrifice fly allowed two runs to score and two runners to move into scoring position. They would both come around to score, leaving Williams with three of his four runs unearned and the Grizzlies down by a score of 4-2. But Braxton Fulford played the hero in the eighth, hitting a two-run home run to tie up the ballgame before Fresno loaded the bases and a wild pitch brought home Ben Sems with the eventual game winning run. Angel Chivilli pitched a perfect ninth to earn his first save.

★ ★ ★

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