Colorado Rockies: What worked well before the All-Star break
By Ryan Ladika
The Colorado Rockies did not enjoy most of the early success that the 2017 season saw through the first half, but that didn’t stop them from pulling it all together in July to finish with a 51-45 record entering the 2018 All-Star Break.
"“Toward the end of the first half, we really put it together in the sense that we pitched and hit and played defense all at the same time…and if we can put all that together, I think we’re going to be really competitive and make things interesting.”"
In an interview with Nick Swisher at the 2018 All-Star Game, this was Rockies center fielder Charlie Blackmon‘s assessment of Colorado’s strong finish of the first half of the 2018 season … and he’s right.
One of the club’s main struggles early on in the season, the offense, has started to come around. The starters are going deeper into games than they were earlier this season. And the Rockies have been reaping the benefits.
After a forgettable June that saw the club win only 11 games, the Rockies enter the 2018 Midsummer Classic having won 8 of 10, 13 of 16 and their last five in a row after a three-game sweep of the Seattle Mariners.
Young pitching carrying the team … sound familiar?
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A huge part of Colorado’s recent success has been Denver native Kyle Freeland. He has taken a huge step forward after his rookie campaign last season, and is giving the Rockies length virtually every time he toes the rubber. He has thrown six or more innings in 12 of his last 15 starts, including 11 quality starts. Not to mention the fact that he has bested the likes of Robbie Ray, James Paxton and Madison Bumgarner, and that’s just his last three starts. With the recent struggles of Jon Gray this season and the inconsistencies of German Márquez and Tyler Anderson, Freeland has been Colorado’s most reliable starter throughout the first half.
The most impressive part? He’s pitched considerably better in Denver than he has on the road. After eight starts at Coors, his home ERA sits at 2.76, with a batting average against of just .223. For comparison, in 11 road starts, his ERA is 3.38 away from Denver, with a batting average against of .248. This is what makes Freeland so valuable for a team that struggled mightily to win at home early in the season.
Despite a shaky start to the season, Anderson has stepped up lately as well. In three July starts, Anderson boasts a 1.35 ERA in 20 innings with 23 strikeouts, including an eight-inning scoreless outing on the Fourth of July to help complete a three-game sweep of the San Francisco Giants. Even Jon Gray, fresh off a surprising demotion to Triple-A Albuquerque, came back and pitched like the ace everyone knows he can be with 7.1 innings of one-run ball and six strikeouts against the Mariners. If the Rockies want to stay in contention, they’re going to need this strong starting pitching run to continue.