There are a number of depressing tidbits from yesterday’s loss to the Washington Nationals. Chief among them is the fact that the Rockies fell below the .500 mark for the first time this season since opening day (now 37-38 on the year). So maybe this five game losing streak is the inevitable moment when this team falls apart, but maybe not falling below .500 until now is a sign of a team whose steady play over the course of a long season will keep them relevant.
Tyler Chatwood owns the bright side of things when one discusses last night’s 2-1 loss. He was once again magnificent, throwing six innings of one-run ball. He was somewhat controversially pulled from the game after 97 pitches, prompting unrest among Rockies fans that starters are not given more of a leash. The thing is, a strict 100 pitch limit is not that much different than the malleable 100 pitch limit practiced by most other franchises. Unfortunately the ineffectiveness of Wilton Lopez and the recent struggles of Matt Belisle, among other factors, meant that Manny Corpas took the mound. He promptly surrendered the go-ahead home run to Ian Desmond.
Opposite Chatwood was Stephen Strasburg, who was magnificent in seven innings pitched, striking out nine. For his part he was also unhappy about being pulled from the game after 95 pitches. One would think he is used to it by now, but I guess the short leash doesn’t get any easier to stomach over time for a guy with his ability.
So the Rockies lost because of their offense and their bullpen, which brings us to the odd nature of this losing streak. A debacle from Jeff Francis notwithstanding, the starting pitching has been anywhere from average to great on this trip. The starters have consistently given the team a chance to win. Unfortunately the bullpen has suffered some lapses and the bats have been utterly dead. Those were supposed to be the strengths of this team, with starting pitching the decided weakness.
Can’t we take that as a sign that this Colorado Rockies team, as a whole, is actually pretty solid? I am inclined to believe the offense will turn around once it’s not facing the hottest pitching staff in all of baseball (the Toronto Blue Jays) and two legitimate aces (Strasburg and Jordan Zimmerman). The bullpen needs to be tweaked when it comes to the usage of guys like Lopez, but it has been a strength all year. It will only improve when Rafael Betancourt fully recovers from his groin injury.
Maybe the fact that the Rockies are losing in spite of good starting pitching is a sign that the wheels have come off. But it might also be that this means the Rockies have the pieces in place up and down the roster to be a decent team over the long haul of the regular season.
If optimism wins out, it has to start with the Rockies knocking around mediocre pitching like it will face today in the once-dominant Dan Haren. Jhoulys Chacin takes the mound for Colorado, hoping to repeat his dominance from his last start and provide the latest chance for the bats to snap out of it.