Sunday, August 9, 2009

Colorado Rockies Still Can Win The National League West

Who would have thought on June 3rd, after losing the third game in a row in Houston, with the Rockies 15 games behind the Dodgers in the National League West race, that in just two short months, the team would have a serious chance at winning the division?

After Sunday’s 11-5 victory over the Cubs, to go along with a Giants loss and a Dodgers loss, the Rockies are in a prime position to make a serious run at the National League West title.

Sitting just 5-1/2 games behind the Dodgers, and tied with the Giants for the Wild Card lead, the thought of winning the division is not out of the question. This week the Dodgers travel to San Francisco to face the Giants. That means that if the Rockies are able to take care of business, they will gain a game in the standings on at least one of the teams. With the Rockies playing a depleted Pirates team starting on Tuesday, they have a very good chance at picking up some games in the standings.

While it may be exciting for Rockies fans to talk about the standings. The fact of the matter is, if the Rockies take care of business, and win the games that they should win, the standings will take care of themselves.

Sunday’s game was an example of what the Rockies are going to need to do to make their way to the top of the standings. Fifth starter Jason Hammel has struggled at Coors Field. Coming into Sunday’s game Hammel’s ERA at his home park was 7.11. Those are not the kind of numbers that a team likes to see when they are facing a tough rookie who has won his last eight decisions in Randy Wells.

Hammel struggled from the get-go. He labored his way through five-plus innings, giving up 11 hits, no less than two in any one inning, but was able to hold the Cubs to just three earned runs. His curveball was good enough to get him out of a few jams, one in particular in the second inning when he was able to induce a ground ball double play to third base. Ian Stewart’s throw pulled Clint Barmes off the second base bag, as replays showed, but the out call was made, and Barmes went on to get the out at first base as well. The call saved Hammel and the Rockies a run, and cost Lou Piniella his seat in the dugout, as he was tossed for arguing.

While the Cubs played sloppy defense for the second straight day, the Rockies mixed things up by making them pay for the poor defense on Sunday. The Rockies scored in all but three innings, putting up three runs in three separate frames.

While the Rockies have definitely not been in a funk, the performance by the offense was one that fans have been waiting for for a long time. Of late the Rockies have scored a few runs early in the game, taken the momentum, then simply been content with their lead. Late in the game the opposition has taken advantage of a tiring starting pitcher and gotten back in the game.

Sunday the Rockies kept adding dirt to the Cubs grave. When Chicago cut the Rockies lead to 3-1 in the third, the Rockies answered with a run of their own. In the fourth the Cubs scored again, but the Rockies answered that run in the fifth inning, never letting the Cubs feel that they were within a swing of getting back in the game.

That is exactly what the squad needs to do when they have Hammel on the mound, or when they have a pitcher who is off of their game. Instead of depending on that day’s starting pitcher to keep the team in the game, the offense needs to bring their bats to every single game and not be content with a small lead.

The Rockies have a great opportunity to take a four game series from the Cubs, a team that is near them in the Wild Card standings, then clean up against a very poor Pittsburgh team while the Giants and Dodgers beat up on each other. While there are two months left to play, the Rockies are in a position to prove that they are very serious about contending.

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