Rockies’ faint second-half hopes rest on rotation rebound – Greeley Tribune

The Rockies were brimming with optimism ahead of the All-Star break.

Sure, Sunday had that pesky 8-3 home loss to the Pirates, but the Rockies went into the break with a 7-3 throw. Left fielder Kris Bryant, who missed 44 games in the first half, is back and healthy.

“We’re playing better – we’re pitching better, we’re playing good defense, hitting has evolved a bit. Kris is back in the lineup,” said the ever-optimistic manager Bud Black. “That’s good. So we’re picking it up on Friday. Hopefully pick up where we left off — play some good baseball.”

The realities, however, could quickly burst the Rockies’ bubble.

Begin with a four-game litmus test beginning Friday night in Milwaukee, where the Rockies (43-50) take on the Brewers (53-43), leaders of the National League Central. The Rockies — lather, rinse, repeat — are struggling to hit the streets. Meanwhile, Milwaukee pitchers possess a 3.63 ERA and keep their opponents in American Family Field at a .226 batting average.

The Rockies are on track to finish 75-87, but FanGraphs predict they will finish 71-91, in part because they face a tough schedule. The .522 win rate for their remaining opponents is the toughest in the majors. Also, the Rockies play 30 games home to 39 away in the second half, where they have a 15-27 record.

The Rockies went into the season believing their initial pitching was their forte. It didn’t work out that way, but the starters will have to take the load off Coors Field if Colorado has any hope of being on top. 500

Colorado has pledged $155 million in long-term contracts to left-hander Kyle Freeland and right-handers German Marquez and Antonio Senzatela, but this season they have a combined ERA of 5.17. Overall, the rotation boasts a 5.01 ERA (third-highest among the majors), a WHIP of 1.46 (second-highest), and an opponent average of .288 (highest).

Veteran right-hander Jose Urena, who has a 1.45 ERA in three starts since being called up from Triple-A Albuquerque, has been a nice find, and right-hander Chad Kuhl (6-5, 4.11 ERA) has done quite well beaten. There’s a chance the Rockies will field a six-man rotation with right-hander rookie Ryan Feltner (1-3, 6.15) in the mix, at least in the near term.

“We’re going in the right direction,” Black said. “I think German threw better and statistically he was better.

“And Kuhl had a solid first half but he has to keep going. He will get his beginnings. (Lefty Austin) Gomber (5-7, 5.97) has served well enough in his last four or five games to win games and keep us close. Urena was great in his three and I think Kyle’s stuff is fine. He will do what he does. So I have a good feeling about our appetizers, really.”

Marquez, who was so poor early in the season, has done much better in the last five starts, posting a 3.82 ERA and capping opponents at a .211 average.

“I feel really good,” he said. “I like my pace and my fastball command is back where it needs to be.”

However, Freeland has been very fickle, posting an 8.44 ERA on three starts in July with a 0.307 average against.

On offense, the Rockies are counting on All-Stars CJ Cron, Charlie Blackmon, Brendan Rodgers and Bryant to stay hot.

The Rockies went 14-30 in games, which Bryant missed due to his back injury, but since being taken off the injured list on June 27 he has gone .333/.391/.587 in 16 games with four home runs, four doubles and eight RBIs.

Colorado enters Friday night’s game fourth in the NL West and 6 1/2 games from the final wildcard spot. General manager Bill Schmidt hopes the club can somehow play back into the competition. How the team fares through the August 2 close will determine whether they stick with Daniel Bard, setup man Alex Colome, shortstop Jose Iglesias or Kuhl, all of whom are slated to be free agents.

Though there are rumors that teams like the Mets and Red Sox are interested in Cron, it’s doubtful the Rockies will part ways with the first baseman, who is contracted for $7.25 million next season. Rockies’ faint second-half hopes rest on rotation rebound – Greeley Tribune

James Brien

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