The Rockies have the pieces for success.
They just haven't been able to keep the puzzle in place so far this season.
They had strong pitching early, but they couldn't hit. When they opened the season by losing 12 of 15 games, the Rockies hit only .203, and averaged 2.8 runs per game. How bad were things? So bad that the bullpen only had one unsuccessful save opporunity in the 15 games.
Then came a 7-2 stretch from April 14-23. Everything fell in place. The Rockies hit .272. They scored 46 runs, averaging 5.1 runs per game. And the pitching staff? The Rockies had a staff ERA of 3.11. The bullpen converted both saves.
And since April 24? Well, the Rockies are 7-6, keeping them from being able to make up ground. Don't blame the offense. The Rockies have hit .270 in the 13 games. They have averaged 7.2 runs per game. But the pitching staff has a 7.03 ERA.
What underscored the last two weeks was Thursday's 12-11 win over the Giants at Coors Field. They saw a 7-0 lead after two innings evaporate, and were tied 8-8 going into the bottom of the sixth when the Rockies responded with a three-run six for an 11-8 lead. Then it was a matter of holding on. Yes, Wade Davis earned his sixth save (in six opportunites) but after allowing only one run prior to Thursday, he was charged with a pair of ninth-inning runs.
It wasn't all offense and pitching, though. The Giants did rally for three runs in the fourth and they came courtesy of errors by center fielder Ian Desmond and left fielder Raimel Tapia. That's right. Errors by the Rockies.
That's right, two errors in the same inning by a Rockies team that is in a virtual tie with the Brewers atop the NL defensive standings.
The Rockies, however, answered the challenge.
"Great resiliency," said manager Bud Black. "We gave up a big lead. They came back against us, and we kept playing. I think it shows the mental toughness of our group. Sometimes you are going to win a game 1-0 like we did in Tampa. And sometimes we are going to win a game 12-11 like we did (Thursday). You know what that is?"
It's baseball.It's a team that suddenly showed big-inning offense. The Rockies scored three or more runs in an inning three times Friday.
They jumped to a 7-0 lead with a three-run first and a four-run second.
They had back-to-back home runs by Nolan Arenado (after a Trevor Story double) and Mark Reynolds (No. 298 of his career) in a first-inning that saw all nine Rockies come to the plate.
They had Arenado shaking off a questionable foul call on a towering shot he hit to left field to draw a walk that helped set the stage for a four-run rally in which Desmond unloaded his first Coors Field home run of the season.
And then, after the Giants tied the game at 8-8, the Rockies answered San Francisco's three runs in the top of the sixth with three runs of their own in the bottom of the sixth, keyed by a two-run double from Chris Iannetta, who scored himself on an ensuing single by Daniel Murphy, snapping a 15-at-bat hitless struggle for the Rockies first baseman.
"We're trying to score runs," said Arenado, who hit his 10th home run in the first inning, all 10 coming since April 14, in which time he has 70 total bases, 33 runs scored and 24 RBI.
"We've got to get more shutdown innings and we'll be all right," he said. "But early on in the year, everybody was wondering where our offense was, and we were pitching good. Good teams put it together. We haven't done that yet, but hopefully we are starting."
Arenado certainly has things headed in the right direction. The Rockies 9-game surge in mid-April was where he took off, and even though the pitching has struggled lately, Arenado has been an offensive factor that has been critical to the Rockies winning seven of their last 13 games.
"When the team goes well you hear managers, coaches, the front office folks say, `Our starters got on a roll and gave us a chance to win every night," said Black. "We are playing defense and we are getting going on offense. If we get the starting pitching going we are going to rattle off some wins. Until then it's going to be a little uneven."
What Black knows well from his four decades in the game is there are going to stretches where even good teams struggle. When those stretches come can be magnified if it is early or down the stretch. But if it comes in the middle of a season, where the numbers in the standings aren't as glaring, the issue isn't magnified.
Consider that a year ago, the Rockies advanced to the post-season for the second year in a row, and at the end of 162 games they were tied with a Dodgers team that won the NL pennant, which forced a Game 163.
But in the midst of a 91-72 season, one win shy of the club record, there was a reality check. For a month-long stretch, the pitching staff stumbled. The Rockies, however, rebounded with a strong second-half of the season.