Sunday, June 8, 2014

Homestand shows why Colorado Rockies must find a way to win on the road

There was no winning against Clayton Kershaw on Sunday.
The Colorado Rockies road struggles are baffling. There are theories, but nothing to nail down why the Rockies have struggled on the road for 21-plus years.

The struggles have become so prevalent, that the idea that the Rockies must simply accept that they struggle on the road and win as many games as they can at home. The problem with that theory is that the club will never contend if they can't figure out how to win in someone else's ballpark.

This homestand has shown the Rockies exactly why they can't depend on taking care of business at home and picking up wins here and there on the road. They must be consistent and figure out their road issues if they ever want to succeed.

The issue with assuming wins will always come easy at home forgets the fact that oftentimes it requires winning a game against some of the best pitchers in the game. Even with ace Jorge De La Rosa on the mound for the Rockies, the team had to face Clayton Kershaw, perhaps the best pitcher in baseball.

After a terrible road trip, the consensus from the experts was that the Rockies would have to win eight games in their 10-game homestand. Think of the pressure that comes with that expectation. Winning eight out of 10 is tough against league average pitchers, even at Coors Field. Winning eight out of 10 when you have to face the likes of Kershaw and Greinke in the same series makes it nearly impossible.

Figure in any 10-game home stretch, the Rockies will face at least one or two aces from other teams. Those aces might not be as good as Greinke and Kershaw, but they are still good enough to win the No.1 spot on their respective team. That means that they are one of the best pitchers in baseball, regardless of the team that they pitch for. To expect to win every time a team faces an ace isn't realistic.

The other side of the coin is oftentimes that start lines up with the Rockies ace, like it did on Sunday. With De La Rosa on the mound, and little chance to put up a decent amount of runs on Kershaw, the start of De La Rosa was essentially wasted. That means that the club not only has to win eight games out of the eight that they won't face an elite pitcher, but they must do it while matching their ace up with another teams ace, losing a chance to pick up an easy win if he were to face another team's back-end starter.

The other issue that must be addressed is the Rockies would have to plan for games like Friday night's, where Eddie Butler made his debut. Butler may be the future of the Rockies, but to assume that he is going to be an instant ace is putting far too much weight on his shoulders. There has to be patience with him as he learns his way around the big league mound. However, if the team needs to win eight out of 10, they don't have the ability to allow a guy like Butler to have a bad outing, even if it is his first one.

It is fine that the Rockies want to dominate at home. Every team should look to be dominant on their own turf. However, it has to coincide with a team that also wins their fair share on the road. To completely fall apart on the road will be disastrous to any team.

Obviously the Rockies are in the midst of reality setting in. They have now lost five of the first six on this 10-game homestand. It shouldn't come as much of a surprise. It is hard to win when the pressure starts being poured on. When it is early June and the thought is already there that winning a minimum of seven games on a 10-game homestand might be enough pressure to make a team start to press. Consider that the Rockies were already struggling to score runs on the road, then suddenly they needed to not only figure out their issues, but hit well enough to dominate night-in and night-out.

Are the Rockies done? The answer to that isn't as black and white as many writers (myself included) have opined. Stranger things have happened, and the Rockies certainly have a lineup that would allow them to go on a crazy, unexpected run. However, the lineup might be good enough to win some games by throwing the team on their back, but the bullpen might be bad enough to blow any lead that the offense gets them.

Forget contending. If the Rockies want to make major strides from where they were a year ago, the Rockies must improve their pitching. They will get a boost when Brett Anderson and Tyler Chatwood return, but that doesn't solve the bullpen woes. The reality is, there are no answers to a team that can't hold any leads, and can't keep the opponent from scoring once the starting pitcher has left the game.

The Rockies are in a world of hurt currently. They have to figure out who they are. They have to refine their approach at the plate and someone will have to emerge as a leader in the bullpen. If they don't do that soon, things could slide out of control and the Rockies will look eerily similar to the team that we saw in the second half of the 2013 season.

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