|It was a fun month of April for Rockies fans.|
Imagine that. Imagine someone saying that the club that many experts were predicting to lose 100 or more games was finished with one-sixth of the season in first place. No one would have believed it, but plenty of run down Rockies fans would have been thrilled.
That dream is suddenly reality. The Rockies are mysteriously in first place in a loaded up National League West.
With the Rockies sitting at 16-11, there is very little that can be complained about. However, if the Rockies want to stay in the position that they are currently in, they need to improve in a few key areas.
On Tuesday night, the Rockies spent the majority of their time at the plate being mesmerized by the pitching of Korean sensation Hyun-Jin Ryu. The lefty dominated with an un-hittable change up, a slider that had bite and a fastball low in the zone. In six innings, 12 Rockies at-bats ended in strikeouts.
On the other side, Jorge De La Rosa, who had been very surprising in his early starts, looked completely opposite of Ryu. The Rockies lefty didn't have it. In only four innings, De La Rosa gave up 11 hits and six runs, all earned. It was one of those nights that, frankly, the Rockies had no chance to win from the beginning.
In baseball, games like Tuesday night happen. It is part of following the game. Sometimes a team is going to run into an ace, and sometimes a team's pitcher isn't going to have his best stuff. On occasion, both of those situations will happen on the same night.
If those types of games are certainly going to happen over the course of a season. No team can avoid it over the course of 162 games.
Games like Tuesday hurt because when the body of work from a seven-game road trip is looked at, the team suddenly has to win the final game of the trip on Wednesday to salvage a decent road trip. A loss on Wednesday and the team comes home with a dismal 2-5 trip.
The reality is, the Rockies can't look back on the road trip and think about the missed opportunities on Tuesday night. This road trip was sabotaged by missed opportunities in two games in Phoenix over the weekend.
Twice in Arizona, the Rockies lost 3-2. In both games they failed to move runners over, they played sloppy defense and couldn't get clutch hits when they had runners in scoring position.
If the Rockies want to be contenders, they don't need to find a way to beat pitchers like Ryu. They don't need to get a great start from De La Rosa, or any of their other starting pitchers every time out. The area that the Rockies need to improve on is winning games that they are given plenty of chances to win. They must beat teams that they are better than, and they must take advantage of the opportunities that other teams give them.
If the Rockies would have been able to take care of business in Arizona over the weekend, they would have gone into Los Angeles with a record of 3-1 on the road trip. With that in mind, the loss to Ryu and the Dodgers on Tuesday wouldn't have been a big deal at all. The Rockies would have headed into Wednesday with a chance to have a very good road trip.
Instead, losing to Ryu on a night where he was nearly impossible to hit makes the road trip look like a small disaster.
One month isn't enough to say that a team is a contender. It isn't enough time to determine that a team has turned the corner. However, it is enough time to see the obvious. This team is far better than anyone expected them to be. To expect them to finish around .500 is not a stretch by any means. However, there are plenty of areas that this team needs to get better at before anyone can suggest that they will contend all season long.
This team doesn't need better offense. It surprisingly doesn't need better starting pitching. The Rockies need to become the team that capitalizes on the oppositions mistakes. They need to be a team that counter-punches when the opposition punches. They have shown fight. They have shown that they don't quit. However, they have yet to play with a swagger that instills fear into the opposition.
There have been signs that the Rockies will be a team that plays with that swagger. They displayed it in both games of the doubleheader against the Mets. They also showed it in the series finale against the Braves when they climbed back against Craig Kimbrel. However, they have yet to be consistent about that.
In order for this Rockies team to succeed long-term, they must win the games that are winnable, because there are going to be plenty of nights when the opposing pitcher is throwing like Ryu was on Tuesday.
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