Thursday, May 23, 2013

No chance to breathe for the Colorado Rockies as tough stretch continues

Tyler Chatwood could set the tone on Friday night.
After a tough stretch in early May, the Colorado Rockies returned to Coors Field for seven games against the Giants and Diamondbacks. The homestand was a make-or-break set of games for the Rockies.

If the Rockies go on to do anything special in the 2013 season, they very well may point back to the homestand in May where they stopped the nosedive, reversed their May fortunes and put a whipping on the two teams in front of them in the standings.

Instead of going on a tailspin into oblivion, as they have in the past two May's, these Rockies altered their fate and went 5-2, climbing back into a tie for first place, and nearly putting them back to .500 for the month, despite the rough start.

With a tough homestand in the books, the Rockies have one problem. They have no room to take a breath and enjoy the view. With an off-day on Thursday, the Rockies made their way to what has been their house of horrors, AT&T Park in San Francisco. The Rockies, traditionally a slug-it-out kind of team, don't fare well in a park where the heavy air puts a parachute on fly balls that were destined for the seats.

The Rockies have already seen their momentum stripped away from them once in San Francisco in 2013. After taking two-of-three in Milwaukee to open the season, then sweeping the Padres in the opening series at Coors Field, the Rockies rode into AT&T looking like a new team. They were promptly swept and reminded that the Giants own World Series rings.

The struggles in San Francisco have been well documented. In 2012, the Rockies mustered just two wins in San Francisco.

After a strong week the Rockies bought themselves some favor back from the fans. Their win on Thursday, coupled with the Giants extra innings loss to the Nationals, created a three-way tie for first place in the National League West. The problem is, it is just a tie. After working so hard to crawl back into the race, including taking three of four from the Giants at home, the Rockies now must go into San Francisco and prove that it wasn't a fluke.

The Rockies will have no easy task if they want to duplicate the success that they created at Coors Field a weekend ago. On Friday night the Rockies send Tyler Chatwood to the mound to face Tim Lincecum. Saturday the Rockies will find out if scoring runs off of Barry Zito was actually just a dream, or if Sandy Koufax returns in the form of Zito to pitch against the Rockies again. The Rockies send Juan Nicasio to the mound to try and repeat his Sunday performance. After that, the Rockies have Jon Garland going up against Matt Cain.

When the most favorable pitching matchup is the one that features a former two-time Cy Young winner going up against a guy who has bounced between Triple-A and the big leagues, it doesn't bode well for the underdog.

The Rockies don't need to sweep this series. They don't even need to win it. However, they need to find a way not to get swept. That was the goal that many fans set for them in their first series by the bay back in April, but the Rockies couldn't make that happen. If the Rockies can take one game, they will go into a four-game, home and home set against the Astros no more than two games behind first place.

The Rockies must bring their bats to the park. It should help that Saturday's game is a day game. The ball tends to travel better during the day in San Francisco before the marine layer of the Pacific Ocean rolls in creates a heavy air that makes the ball have a hard time traveling.

The reality is, the Rockies need to continue to play with the swagger that they seemed to regain over the weekend. They need to continue playing team baseball, with no one player trying to be the hero, but taking the right approach at the plate every time up.

If the Rockies can avoid a sweep this weekend, they will be in decent shape. If they pull off a series victory, the bandwagon will be getting fired up for a summer of contention. Regardless of what happens, all Rockies fans would have been thrilled if they knew this team would be playing this well almost two months into the season.

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