Series Recap: June 23-25, 2014
St Louis Cardinals at Colorado Rockies
Let’s do ourselves a favor and look at this series as an isolated event. After all, the Rockies were mired in a 6 game losing streak coming into the series, on top of an already disastrous stretch of baseball, so maybe if we remove that from our consideration it will make it look better.
Woof. Well that didn’t help, did it? Ah, well. We already agreed, right? Let’s soldier on.
As JJ noted in the series preview, the Cardinals came into this series looking for a bit of a boost. Trailing the Milwaukee Brewers—the previous masters of the Rockies torture chamber—by 5 games in the National League Central Division, they were looking to take advantage of a team down on their luck.
The Cardinals last year were one of the best offenses in all of baseball (783 runs, good for third in all baseball, tops in the NL), fueled in part by their record-setting batting average with runners in scoring position. Predictably things have not gone as well in that respect for the Cardinals this year, as they are hitting just .248 through 77 games with runners in scoring position, much closer to their .251 average. This brings their total runs scored down to 281, fourth least in baseball. When Jhonny Peralta is leading your team in home runs, something is not going right with your offense.
Nothing like a trip to Coors Field and the woebegone Rockies pitching staff to fix what ails ye.
That’s good for a triple-slash (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) of .287/.342/.495, or roughly the career line of Andres Galarraga. In three games the Cardinals managed nearly 8% of their total runs scored from the previous 76 games. In fact, Jhonny Peralta still leads the team in home runs, though Matt Adams tried to wrest it away from him, going 6-for-14 with 3 home runs and 8 RBI over the course of the series. While it would be far too much to say that this portends a turnaround for the Cardinals offense (again, Coors), it is certainly closer to the level of production that many expected from this team.
That’s the big story with the Cardinals. So what happened to the Rockies?
Broken Hands, Broken Records
As has often been the case this month, the Rockies found several ways to lose, sandwiched around a complete—well, as complete as it gets these days—win. Let’s start with the happy news.
On Tuesday Jorge De La Rosa did not have his best stuff, but he managed to pitch through the 7th inning to give the beleaguered bullpen a bit of a rest. He gave up 5 runs (4 earned), but combined with Rex Brothers, Adam Ottavino and LaTroy Hawkins to throw 4 clean innings. The offense, meanwhile, took advantage of the Cardinals phenom Shelby Miller leaving early due to an apparent back injury. In particular, Justin Morneau (now hitting .305/.341/.520) had a 3-for-5 performance, including 1 HR and 6 RBI, as he continues his stellar, Comeback-Player-Of-The-Year campaign.
The rest of the series was not so great. The Redbirds jumped all over Jhoulys Chacin on Monday (5 ER in 6 IP). The curious thing in this game was the lack of hits for both sides. Thanks to 5 walks between Chacin and Franklin Morales and well-timed home runs from Matt Adams (6 RBI), the Cardinals needed only 6 hits to get their 8 runs. On the other side of the ball, the Rockies managed only 3 hits against the vaunted Lance Lynn, who appears to be enjoying a very good year, but would not be mistaken by many for a top-of-the-rotation stalwart.
The real kick in the shins came on Wednesday afternoon, a game many Rockies fans were, fortunately, unable to see due to the lack of a ROOT broadcast. It seemed that the offense was going to carry the day as they got to the pride of Rocky Mountain High School (Ft. Collins, Colorado), Marco Gonzales, to the tune of 5 runs in 5 innings. (As an aside, what a cool opportunity it was for young Marco to be able to make his MLB debut in his home state in front of dozens of friends and family:
Except for that whole “seems like a Cardinals home game” thing. Gosh, that’s annoying, isn’t it? But at least it meant a big cheer for that first big league hit (and what a swing to boot!).
The game did not go the Rockies way, however. Thanks to ANOTHER hand injury (it’s beginning to sound like a broken record at this point, isn’t it?), this time to one of the replacements to the starting rotation, the Rockies were compelled to call upon 12th starter (yes, the 12th starting pitcher the Rockies have called upon this year) and 28-year-old rookie Yohan Flande. To his credit, Flande gave the Rockies everything they could have asked for—5 IP, 6 H, 4 R/ER, 1 BB, 4 SO—and the offense backed him up with 6 runs. But, as has seemingly been the case all to often this year, the bullpen couldn’t hold the lead. Save for Tommy Kahnle’s 6th inning, the relief corps could not hold the streaking Cardinals down as they broke though for 5 runs over the final 3 innings to turn a 6-4 Rockies lead into a 9-6 Rockies loss. Adam Ottavino (4.63 ERA), who had been so good for so much of the season, gave up the go-ahead runs and seemed more than a little flummoxed at the whole situation. While the offense could conceivably contributed more, it’s hard to blame them when the bullpen coughed up a big lead.
But really, the lesson here is the Rockies should pull a Joe Maddon and call a shaman or something because whatever they are doing to protect hands is clearly not working (of course, Maddon’s shaman didn’t seem to help them, so maybe something else).
Colorado Rockies Record: 35-43
Games Behind, NL West: 11 (First place—San Francisco Giants)
Games Behind, NL Wild Card: 7.5 (Los Angeles Dodgers, St Louis Cardinals)
Run Differential: -13
ESPN Playoff Odds: 6.8 %
Games Left: 84
Next Series: 4 games at Milwaukee Brewers (48-32, First Place in NL Central)
The Cardinals, like the Brewers before them and the Dodgers before them and the Giants before them, are a good baseball team capable of making the playoffs this season. This series is what happens when you face contenders time and time and time again–if you leave them enough opportunities, they will take them. The Rockies finish the homestand 1-5 (after going 3-7 in their previous homestand) as the hope that buoyed the beginning of the season continues to fade with every broken hand.
Instead of facing a bunch of playoff teams, maybe a series against some come cellar dwellers? Really, what the Rockies need is a good series against someone like the Twins or the Padres, because good things happen when you play teams like that, right?
Oh, you have got to be KIDDING ME!
The next 10 games against Milwaukee, Washington, and Los Angeles? This June really is a killer to the Rockies.