Before thoughts of doomsday around the Rockies 2017 season manifest, remember this. The San Francisco Giants are 39 games out of first place in the NL West. They could win the remaining 35 games and still be short of the Dodgers 88 win total. The Rockies need 20 wins to reach that total. Nothing is normal about this season. This team is still in prime position to clinch a Wild Card spot.
According to Baseball Prospectus, the Rockies have 74.3 percent chance to make the playoffs. This time last year, the team had a 1.1 percent chance to make it to the playoffs.
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The Diamondbacks are in a more precarious position than the Rockies. They have the third worst record in the league since the All-Star break. While the Rockies have lost ground for the Wild Card race, the D’Backs have lost more. At the break, the Diamondbacks had a 9 1/2 game lead in the WC standings. It is down to 2 1/2 now as the Rockies have jumped them by one game.
The Diamondbacks have struggled mostly from a pitching perspective. They have allowed at least eight runs in six of their last ten games. The Rockies struggles have come from every facet of their game. But there is good reason to feel optimistic about the Rockies in the final six weeks.
(Again, nothing is normal about this season.)
More experienced (and rested) rookie pitching
The starting pitching has been a source of confidence. Rookie pitchers are getting rest while Kyle Freeland still showed promise and ate innings even in a loss. While Tony Wolters more than deserves a shot of being the future catcher of this team, rookie pitchers are now able to rely on the experience of Jonathan Lucroy and Ryan Hanigan only developing them more. But the best of all, they received an emotional boost from Chad Bettis. While the clubhouse is infinitely better with Bettis back, this was the club’s 2016 wins leader. They need him to solidify this rotation especially since Tyler Chatwood, Tyler Anderson and Jeff Hoffman currently are out.
Time for a Greg Holland bounce back
Greg Holland has not looked like himself lately but manager Bud Black still has every bit of confidence in his closer that he has all season. Before the last game against the Brewers, Black talked about how his conversations with him and how Holland feels fine physically. He talked about how his closer has been on the cusp of getting saves even though he has not been as crisp overall.
Black mentioned how good closers always seem to right themselves. He’s been on the front line seeing great closers in San Diego with Trevor Hoffman, Heath Bell and Houston Street. The Rockies manager has no hesitation that Holland can right the ship also. Holland is already one of the best Rockies closers of all time. The bullpen is the reason this club can make the playoffs and that will continue to end with Holland. Seeing his former team in the upcoming series in Kansas City, should bring all the more motivation.
Speaking of which, the upcoming schedule leading into the beginning of September is favorable. The Royals are still in the hunt for an AL Wild Card spot but are only a game above .500. After that, the Rockies play the Braves and the Tigers who are a collective 28 games under .500. The Rockies play the Diamondbacks at home starting September. This series should be the barometer if fans should start to panic or not. Not a series where they admittedly underperformed against the Braves and Brewers.
Bats are indigenous to Coors Field
The team was 0-9 with runners in scoring position in the rubber match against the Brewers. The offense isn’t inspiring any confidence, but there is hope on the horizon and why September 2017 won’t look like the collapse of September 2010. (This year’s Rockies have a better record than that 2010 did on August 22. The club would have to have a worse September to miss the playoffs than that team did which would very difficult to duplicate.) Ian Desmond ran the bases Sunday morning and Black said a rehab assignment is hopefully in the near future. Getting back one bat in the final month would be a godsend. But it looks like this team is getting another bat back from Carlos Gonzalez. Like the great LL Cool J said “Don’t call it a comeback” he’s been here for years.
This team won without Gonzalez being vintage CarGo. This month, the Rockies are seeing more of what has made him one of this franchise’s cornerstone players. After improving his average from .172 in June to .254 in July, Gonzalez is now batting .323 in August. He tied a season-high three hits on Sunday. Last year, CarGo’s great friend and teammate Gerardo Parra had the worst season of his career. Now Gonzalez is doing the same. But these guys are professionals. They know how to turn it around.
At the beginning of the season, no one would have predicted that Parra would be so integral to this offense or be starting in left for that matter. This team has found ways to win. Having CarGo back to his vintage self will be vital for this team going down the stretch. Black recognized that he has been elevating his game the last couple weeks and how much the team needs him in the last six weeks of the season. Number 5 is heating up at exactly the right time to give this offense a much needed lift.
Gonzalez summed it up best at the end of the Brewers series. This town isn’t switching to orange for the Broncos quite yet. In years past, that usually happens in May. This town is still painted purple. Don’t expect that to change, at least not until after October.