Thursday, September 3, 2009

Rockies Losing Games That They Need To Win

After a lackluster loss to the Mets on a sunny Thursday afternoon at Coors Field, the Rockies squandered an opportunity to gain another game on both the Giants and the Braves in the Wild Card race.

With Jason Marquis facing Pat Misch, it looked like the Rockies were a shoe-in for the victory.

Unfortunately, Marquis and the Rockies did not bring their best game to the field. After a flat performance in which the Rockies had put up just two hits in six innings, and Marquis had given up five runs in five innings.

With a Giants loss in Philadelphia the Rockies maintain a one game lead in the Wild Card race, which brings relief, but the Rockies cannot afford to be happy with a one-game lead.

After being swept in San Francisco over the weekend, it became clear that it is difficult to win in AT&T Park. The Rockies dropped three games against Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito and Matt Cain respectively. One quick look at the schedule should make the Rockies in a hurry to expand their lead. When they head to San Francisco in the middle of the month, the scheduled starters for the Giants will be the exact same three pitchers.

The Rockies are in the middle of an 11 game home stand in which they are playing three teams with losing records. The Rockies were successful in winning two out of three against the Mets, and if they can squeeze two out of three away from the Diamondbacks, they will be in a good position. However, if they can find a way to sweep one of the two upcoming series, the Rockies will certainly gain ground against the Giants, which will allow them to have their backs against the wall in San Francisco.

If the Rockies can get at least a three game lead over the Giants before heading into that series, they will only need to take one of the three tough games in order to maintain at least a two game lead in the race and give the Rockies some breathing room.

In order for this to happen, the Rockies must win games like Thursdays.

Winning Thursday’s game would have put the Giants two games back and the Braves five games out, making the Braves nearly an afterthought in the race.

The Rockies are a far superior team to the injury-riddled Mets. They had better pitching in each of the three games and they had the superior lineup. While a team should never expect a sweep, beating teams that they are better than should be done. It is something that playoff teams get done.

Considering the Rockies embarrassing sweep in San Francisco, a sweep of the Mets would have put them right back in control of the race for October and provided quite a bit of pressure for the Giants as the play on the road, a place where they are far less dominant.

For the Rockies to start dominating baseball games instead of just being in them, they are going to need two batters in particular to step it up.

Both Clint Barmes and Ian Stewart have been struggling mightily. Despite the fact that Stewart hit a long home run on Thursday he has not been able to string a hot steak all season. Stewart deals with the inability to swing at the first pitch and often times finds himself in an 0-2 hole, putting him a a position to have to fight for a base hit. If he would become more aggressive on the first pitch of his at-bats, he would see a marked improvement in his batting average.

Barmes is a curious case. He got extremely hot once manager Jim Tracy moved him to the two-hole in the lineup. He was able to see more fastballs and drive them to left field. The Major Leagues are very good, however, at making adjustments. Teams figured out that Barmes struggles to stay back on the ball and lay off the low and away breaking pitches. Instead of making adjustments himself and trying to hit the ball to the opposite field, Barmes has continued to try and pull every pitch and is often out on his front foot, which leads to weak pop flies to the infielders.

This weekend becomes huge for the Rockies. Discounting the Diamondbacks is a bad move. They have been playing better baseball lately and have a lineup that can crush the ball. A series loss to the Diamondbacks could be extremely debilitating to the Rockies and put them in a position to be forced to have a huge series in San Francisco.

At worst, the Rockies must go 5-2 over their next seven home games to feel safe and be in the driver’s seat for the rest of the way. A sweep in either series would be a huge lift for a club that has been dealing with injuries of late and having to dig deep for some of their wins.

However, the mark of a good team is how well they play through adversity. These next few games will go a long way in determining if the Rockies are serious about being a postseason contender.

2 comments:

  1. That's a great point about the Giants having their three horses (well, maybe two). Do you think the Rox would rearrange some things in order to get their best three in?

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  2. Schruender,
    Always good to hear from you. I don't think that Jim Tracy will alter anything for the Rockies. Right now they would have Marquis, Hammel and Contreras for that series in S.F. Hammel has been very good lately, but going against those guys does not seem like a good matchup. Ideally for the Rockies they would get back to a three game lead or so and be ok if they can avoid the second straight sweep out there. That series may well determine the NL Wild Card spot.

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