Against the San Francisco Giants last night, the Rockies provided the early ingredients for a second consecutive win. They got to stud starter Madison Bumgarner early. They had Jhoulys Chacin, who has mostly been solid since returning last month, on the mound. They just needed their pitching to hold up against a team that has been offensively challenged in recent years, even if they are currently in first place.
Their pitching did not hold up. Sparked by a 3 run homer by Bumgarner (yes, two straight nights with the pitchers going deep), the Giants exploded for 9 runs. Chacin surrendered 6 hits and 4 ER, followed by Carlos Torres giving up 4 of his own. The pair of paired pitchers struggled from the second time through the lineup on. On the pitching side of things, the only bright spots were the recently recalled Josh Outman and Rob Scahill working clean innings late in a game that ultimately had some drama at the end.
The offensive attacks for each team were distinctly different from each other. The Giants got 7 RBI from the combination of pitcher Bumgarner and Brandon Belt while the Rockies had their entire lineup scatter hits and drive in runs. Belt, whose career arc runs the risk of following that of a player like Ian Stewart, killed the Rockies on a night when the usual characters in the middle of the lineup were involved but held in check for the most part.
Tyler Colvin teased us with hopes for LoDo magic by bashing a 2 run homer off of de facto closer Sergio Romo in the 9th inning. With Coors Field abuzz, tickled by the combination of Colvin’s shot and the NWO Wolfpack music that meant Jason Giambi was rumbling up to the plate as the tying run, former Rockies great Javier Lopez entered the game. The Giambino, put into another nearly impossible situation off the bench at the end of the game, popped out weakly to left field to end the game.
The late drama notwithstanding, this game was an appropriate illustration of a problem that this franchise continues to have, even though many of the players are new faces. And that problem is not the pitching, even if they were terrible last night and have been all season. I am referring to the fact that this team continues to mash at home and then go to sleep on offense on the road. How they fail on the road is as important as anything else.
This is not about Coors Field. Of the 8 runs last night, only 2 came on the long ball (Colvin’s in the 9th). Otherwise the Rockies strung together hits to get their runs, knocking 17 in the game. 2 doubles, 1 home run, and 14 singles. Of course their success at home is helped by Coors Field, but that is not a sufficient explanation when the hitters are consistently showing a better approach at the plate and racking up singles. When people freak out about Coors Field, they do so about “ALL THE HOME RUNS!” They don’t say: “Well, his number shouldn’t totally count. He plays at Coors Field…think of all the singles he gets there!”
Where is that approach on the road? In his recap of the game, MLB.com beat reporter Thomas Harding writes: “The Rockies (58-84) have to play well to avoid reaching the club record for losses in a season — 95 in the expansion year of 1993 and 2005. Still, the Rockies believe their offense is a winning one.” How is that possible? How is it possible to believe this is a winning offense when they just completed a road trip in which they scored 15 total runs in 7 games, while being shut out in consecutive games and scoring 2, 2, and 1 run in three of the other games. Those numbers show another team that is woefully lacking when it comes to applying a good offensive approach on the road.
Until there is a Rockies team that can consistently produce on the road like they do at home, it will always be the same problem and it will never truly be a “winning offense.”