|The Colorado Rockies lack a sense of urgency.|
Collin McHugh, making his Rockies debut after dominating the minor leagues since he was acquired for Eric Young, Jr., fell flat on his face. He toughed his way through five rough innings, giving up three in the 1st inning, another in the 2nd and two more in the 3rd. He settled down to get through five innings before coming out of the game.
The Rockies offense made a strong push, putting four runs of their own on the board in the 6th inning, then a Troy Tulowitzki solo home run in the 8th inning pulled the Rockies within two. However, after a 1:45 rain delay, the Rockies went quietly in the bottom of the 9th, allowing the Brewers to even the series.
The message from the Rockies is that it is early. When they don't perform on a 10-game homestand against three of the National League's worst teams, the message is that it is only July and that they are still just six games out of the race. If they keep it close, they tell us, they can make a run and pull of something they have never done before, winning the National League West.
Frankly, it is the same message that has been pushed since 2010. The Rockies organization takes the old statement "don't let your highs be too high or your lows be too low" just a little too seriously. The message from the organization is that it is far too early to panic.
The problem is, the message isn't inspiring. The message from the top down doesn't have to be a win-ever-game-or-else mindset. This is baseball, every team loses to teams that they shouldn't, and every team goes on bad runs throughout the season. The problem is, when the organization depends on late season runs, they are missing the point.
It isn't about wins and losses in July, but what it is about is continuing to get better. This Rockies team continues to make the same mistakes over and over again. Maybe the reason for that is because their mindset is to essentially go through the motions, hang around in the pack, then make a sprint for it at the end. When a team plays like that, they aren't demanding improvement from themselves day-in and day-out. They aren't analyzing each loss and figuring out where they made mistakes. Baseball teams have to be very good at turning the page and moving on quickly, but this Rockies team does it a little too quick. They don't learn from their mistakes and get better.
When September rolls around, they aren't equipped to go on a run because for five months they have been playing with a mindset that winning that day doesn't really matter. They haven't gotten better over the course of the season, they have essentially just shown up to the park and hoped to collect as many wins as they could, without really demanding wins in certain situations.
Saturday night was a good example of a game that happens to every team on a fairly routine basis. The starter simply doesn't have it and pitches his team out of the game early. Those games are tough to win. Those wins don't come easily. However, the Rockies have put themselves in a position where they almost have to find a way to rally back and win a game like that because they went through the motions so many times already in the season that they can't afford to drop more games.
If the Rockies had spent July playing fundamental baseball, moving runners over, grinding out at-bats, doing whatever it takes to get into the bullpen of the opposition, a conservative estimate would suggest that they would have won at least four additional games. At six games back, those four games are huge.
Losing Saturday night also puts the Rockies in a situation where they must win on Sunday in order to finish their easy homestand with a .500 record. To finish the 10-game set at .500 is pretty bad, but to go back on the road with a 4-6 homestand against the Cubs, Marlins and Brewers is too bad to ignore. Yet, it seems that management is willing to ignore it.
As much fun as the 2007 and 2009 runs were for the Colorado Rockies, it may have been the worst thing for the organization. It seems that they don't realize just how rare runs like that are. It is also easy to forget that the runs didn't start in September, they started in May in '07 and June in '09.
The Rockies were the second best team in baseball in 2007 from May 21st on, and the best team in baseball in '09 from June 4th on. The late season run in 2007 came because April and the first part of May were so bad that it took four months of very good baseball just to get back into the race.
In both of those playoff years, the Rockies improved throughout the season. They found ways to scratch out runs. They took good at-bats. They played with a swagger that was tough to match. They played like every game mattered and that they were going to find a way to win.
The Rockies must stop counting the number of games remaining on the schedule, and get a sense of urgency. The number of games remaining might seem large, but at some point, ground has to be made up or the chance will go away. The reality is, the Rockies pitchers have been doing such a great job that it would be a shame to waste their season. The Rockies may be too late already, but if they want to surprise everyone again, the run has to start now.
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