For Starters, Rockies Strength of 2018 Has Been Concern in 2019

© Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

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The foundation to the Rockies success a year ago was the starting rotation.

With an offense that struggled through the least productive season in franchise history, the rotation picked up the slack, allowing the Rockies to finish the 162-game schedule tied for first with the Dodgers, and after losing a Game 163 to the Dodgers to become a wild-card, they advanced to the NL Division Series for the first time since 2009.

This year?

The rotation has been a headache. The same faces and same arms haven’t come close to the same results in the opening two weeks.

It may be early. The Rockies are only 12 games into the 162-game schedule, but there are frustrations in light of the fact they head to San Francisco for a four-game series having gone 0-5 in their first homestand of the season, which was cut short by the postponement of Wednesday’s game against the Braves.

They have lost nine of their last 10 games, after opening the season with back-to-back wins in Miami, the 3-9 record the second worst in franchise history 12 games into a season.

Oh, and they are in last place in the NL West, five games behind the division-leading Dodgers.

The rotation does lead the NL in innings pitcher this year, just like a year ago, but it's the quality of the innings that's the concern.

They were outscored 44-21 in the five-game homestand, losing three games in which they scored six runs. A year ago, the Rockies were 41-10 scoring six or more runs.

And it’s been a rotation-wide scuffle.

Kyle Freeland, who finished fourth in Cy Young voting a year ago when he set franchise records for season ERA (2.85) and Coors Field ERA (2.40), dominated at Miami in the season opener, allowing one run in seven innings. He, however, last lost in his last two starts, allowing 10 runs in 9 2/3 innings.

He gave up a career-high seven runs in Monday’s loss to the Braves. A year ago, he gave up five runs once (April 18) and four runs only three times. Monday’s struggle ended a stretch of 14 consecutive games in which he allowed three or fewer runs, compiling a 2.13 ERA in that stretch. He was 10-1 and the Rockies 12-2 in that stretch.

In, fact, in his career, he has allowed five runs or more only eight times and only two of those games came since the start of last season. He allowed five runs in four innings against the Pirates on April 18 last season, and then the game against the Braves on Monday.

German Marquez, rocked for five runs in five innings by the Braves in Tuesday’s loss, even gave up two home runs in his five-inning effort. He allowed only six home runs in 93 innings his previous 14 starts, and was only the second time in that stretch he had given up two in a game.

Marquez had been the bright spot in the rotation this year. He won his first two starts, allowing one run in 13 innings.

Tyler Anderson, given the honor of starting the home opener, went on the disabled list with left knee inflammation after the 10-6 loss to the Dodgers last Thursday in which he allowed six runs in four innings. It was the continuation of a struggle Anderson has battled since last July.

He is 1-8 with a 6.69 ERA in his last 14 starts, the Rockies winning only two of those 14 games. He has allowed four or more runs in seven of those starts, including giving up 11 runs in nine innings of the two starts this season.

Jon Gray has lost both his starts, including a 7-2 loss to the Dodgers on Saturday. He, however, has shown signs that give the Rockies reason for hope. A year ago, when the Rockies were 18-13 in his starts, Gray gave up three or more runs in an inning 13 times in the 13 losses, only once in the 19 wins.

And for all the consternation about his inconsistency, he does have the best winning percentage among Rockies starting pitchers since the start of the 2017 season.

Chad Bettis has overcome the battle with blisters that derailed his 2018 season, but the results are missing. He is 0-2 with an 11.88 ERA, having worked only 8 1/3 innings. It’s a far cry from a year ago, when he was 4-1 with a 2.05 ERA in his first seven starts before the blister issue flared.