|The Rockies have a pivotal homestand starting on Thursday.|
That may be the best way to describe the Colorado Rockies month of May so far. With a chance to win a three-game set in Chicago and salvage a road trip that started off on such a bad note, the Rockies barely showed up on Wednesday night, losing 6-3 to a Cubs team that could lose 100 games for the second consecutive year.
Throughout the past two weeks, the Rockies have had one aspect of their game play well and the other fail. If the pitching is great, the bats don't produce. Rarely has both happened at the same time. However, on Wednesday, neither the offense or the pitching did their part.
Jon Garland, who has proven to be a valuable pickup late in spring training, struggled early. He gave up a leadoff home run to David DeJesus. Despite a few solid middle innings, the dagger was delivered when Garland gave up a two-run blast to opposing pitcher Jeff Samardzija in the 2nd inning, giving the Cubs a 3-1 lead immediately following the Rockies offense tying the game.
The Rockies offense collected seven hits, only one of which was for extra bases, when Reid Brignac knocked a pinch-hit hoe run to center field leading off the 6th inning.
Frankly, it was one of those games in which the Rockies never gave the feeling that they were going to win. When they got behind, even a two run lead seemed like a pretty serious mountain to climb. While Samardzija was good, he isn't the type of pitcher who should be owning an offense that has been as highly touted as the Rockies.
The offensive struggles have helped in giving Garland a free pass. The right-hander has talent, but has quietly struggled in his last five starts. He has given up no fewer than three runs in each of those starts. Three runs isn't terrible, but considering he hasn't made it past the 5th inning in any of those appearances suggests that the job isn't getting done.
The reality for the Rockies is simple. They have a rotation that has three No. 5 starters with Garland, Jeff Francis, and Juan Nicasio, and two No. 2's in Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa. A fifth starter is a guy who is going to find himself on the wrong end of a blowout on several occasions. He is good enough to do well in half of his starts, but the offense is going to have to produce to win those starts.
With the Rockies having three guys in that boat, it doesn't give much room for error. It essentially ensures that the club will get beat handily at least once every fifth day. Of course, there will be the occasional impressive performance, as was evidenced on Tuesday night when Francis shut down the Cubs, but for the most part, the offense is going to have to out-slug the opponent. In baseball, that just isn't going to happen consistently all season long.
When the pitching struggles, the weight all falls on a Rockies offense that can't seem to get in a groove. The fact of the matter is, the outcome of most games is going to come down to how well Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki do at the plate. On Wednesday, when the Rockies scored a total of three runs, the duo combined to go 1-for-7 with a walk. Compare that to Tuesday night, when the superstars combined to go 8-for-10 with two home runs, three doubles, and 4 RBIs. There is no mistaking why the Rockies scored nine runs on Tuesday and just three on Wednesday.
With the road trip over, the Rockies must leave the past in the past. They are hovering just above .500, and have a pivotal homestand on it's way. The Rockies return to Coors Field to face the Giants for four games and the Diamondbacks for three. There is no way around the fact that despite it only being May, this homestand is a critical juncture for the Rockies. If they continue down the path that they have been on for the past nine games, they may be in a hole so deep that they would need a 2007 or 2009-type of run to get back into it.
More importantly, this Rockies team is at a place where they probably need a mental boost. With their recent struggles, it would be easy to understand if this team is having some doubts about whether or not their early success was more of luck than talent. If they are doubting themselves, it could put them in a bad position as the World Champions roll into town.
If this team is going to succeed, they must get their swagger back. They must go into series like they face on Thursday with the attitude that it doesn't matter who they are facing, or who the Rockies have on the mound for them, they are going to go out and get the job done. That might not be the easiest thing in the world when things are not going well, but it is the task the Rockies face.
The Rockies are a good team. They have plenty of talent. Their pitching staff is good enough to keep them in games, and their lineup is good enough to win slug fests. They need to get back to the attitude that they had early in the season. If they can play loose and play smart, this team can get back to where they were early in the year.
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