Carney Column: Historic month propels Rockies right back into thick of things
So much for the Rockies not being able to win with pitching at Coors Field, right?
All Colorado did in the month of July at the mile high park was put up a franchise record for earned run average with a 1.71 mark, helping the Rockies go 12-2 at Coors Field, sweeping the Seattle Mariners, San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics — arguably the hottest team in baseball coming into last weekend’s pivotal three-game series in Denver.
Usually, all you hear about at Coors Field is the supposed inflated numbers the park gives to hitters, but what the Rockies’ pitchers just did in the month of July at home is very noteworthy, considering it’s never been done in the 25 years the franchise has been around, and that the Rockies finished with the second-best team ERA in baseball for the month of July — road included — with a mark of 3.21, just 12 percentage points behind the NL West rival Los Angeles Dodgers.
When you think of the Rockies, you think of offensive guys like MVP candidate Nolan Arenado, fan favorite Charlie Blackmon, and powerhouse shortstop Trevor Story. Maybe it’s time to include guys like Kyle Freeland and Tyler Anderson — two young, lefty starters — in that conversation, giving them some appreciation — especially Freeland.
The Denver native has posted a 3.13 ERA on the season through 20 starts, including a sterling 2.45 ERA at home in 55 innings of work, which is unheard of for any starter at Coors Field. On top of his tremendous numbers at Coors Field (47.7 percent groundball rate, 7.53 K/9), Freeland sits 17th in baseball in ERA, providing the Rockies with a bonafide ace for the first time in years.
Speaking of aces, Jon Gray might be back all the way for Colorado.
Gray, who was sent down to Albuquerque to find himself again, came back up to the big leagues in a pinch in the middle of July and responded in a big way, sporting a 1.26 ERA in 14.1 innings of work in the rotation, giving the Rockies a hard-throwing right-hander that can shut down most lineups on any given night.
While the pitching responded in a big way, Arenado, Blackmon, Story and the rest of the lineup continue to hit the ball well, pulling the Rockies right back into the Wild Card picture (just 1 game back of the division, and half a game back in Wild Card race). So, it was curious to see the Rockies do very little prior to Tuesday’s trade deadline.
Colorado continues to have one of the worst bullpens in baseball, and yet all the Rockies did was add a 36-year-old reliever with a terrifying flyball problem in Seunghwan Oh. As the Rockies added Oh, the Dodgers went out and traded for second baseman Brian Dozier, while the Arizona Diamondbacks traded for relievers Matt Andriese, Brad Ziegler and Jake Diekman, as well as infielder Eduardo Escobar. The Rockies are probably banking on the pitching continuing to stay red hot and the offense to continue to put up runs in bunches, but with a serious Achilles heel in the Colorado bullpen, the Rockies should have done more at the deadline.
Who knows though, that could all be a moot point as long as the starters continue to turn in gem after gem, and Arenado, Blackmon, Story and the rest of the lineup continue to put balls over fences on a nightly basis.
July was a great month for the Rockies. August will be a massive test, especially at home with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Dodgers coming to Coors Field for a seven-game homestand the second week of August.
Based on the way the Rockies played in July, it’s hard to envision the Rockies all of a sudden falling apart with the turn of the calendar.