As trends go, the Colorado Rockies are exhibiting a dangerous trend a third of the way through the shortened 60-game MLB regular season—an inability to win close games.
Following back-to-back 2-1 road losses on Monday and Tuesday (the second loss went 11 innings) to Houston, Colorado now stands 3-6 in one-run games in 2020.
When you add in the Rox 1-2 record in two-run contests, eight of the 10 defeats for the Rockies this year have been by two runs or less.
After roaring to an 11-3 record to start the season (yes, all three losses were one-run setbacks), Colorado finds itself mired in a 2-7 slump that has not only dropped the club out of the top spot in the NL West but threatens to send the team even further down the division standings and jeopardize a possible playoff berth.
It would be difficult to fault Colorado pitchers for the team’s recent woes and failure to win close games.
Entering action Tuesday, Rox pitchers’ 3.92 earned run average stood third in the National League and their 1.85 road ERA through nine games was the best in the Majors.
And after a tremendous start to the season, Rockies starting pitchers have continued to perform well. Entering play Tuesday, their 3.46 ERA was the third-lowest mark in the National League and was fifth-lowest in the Majors.
So, if the Rockies pitching is not the problem, then it must be the club’s hitting. Right? Well, not so fast.
Entering action Tuesday, Colorado boasted not only the National League’s leading hitter in Charlie Blackmon (.437) but the Rockies’ .272 batting average was tops in the league (five points higher than the second-ranked New York Mets) .
So, then what could the issue be in the Rox dismal record in one-run contests?
Yes, quality pitching by opponents can stymie good hitting (e.g. Lance Lynn of the Texas Rangers shutting down the Rockies in the season opener, 1-0, and again in a complete-game 3-2 win in Denver last Friday).
Besides opposing pitching, perhaps part of the reason could be situational hitting by the Rox in close games. The narrow defeats in Houston on Monday and Tuesday provide a great microcosm for Colorado’s recent woes.
Against the Astros, both Colorado starting pitchers Kyle Freeland on Monday and Antonio Senzatela on Tuesday—turned in yeoman efforts that easily could have been winning performances.
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After surrendering three hits, including a two-run double, in the first inning, Freeland settled down and allowed just four more hits and no runs in six innings of mound duty with no walks and five strikeouts.
But the Rockies offense could muster just one hit off rookie Brandon Bielak and two hits total for the game. Colorado ended up 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position in the loss.
Meanwhile, Senzatela had one of the best performances of his career by tossing eight shutout innings, allowing only three hits with no walks and six strikeouts. In his no-decision, he became the third hurler in franchise history to pitch at least eight innings and not earn the win.
It was the seventh time in his career that he had gone at least seven innings. His eight-inning performance matched his career-high registered on May 26, 2017, vs. St. Louis.
But veteran Zach Greinke was on the mound for the Astros and matched Senzatela pitch for pitch.
Rockies hitters ended up striking out against Greinke and three Houston relievers 13 times, including twice in each inning from the eighth through the decisive 11th. Colorado stranded two runners in each of the last two innings with a runner left on third base in both of the final frames.
No matter the reason, not being able to win close games is a trend the Rockies certainly want to stop if they hope to remain in the playoff hunt for the 2020 campaign.