SAN DIEGO -- It's June 4, a little early to obsess about the standings. But the Rockies are having a good time looking at them, considering they rest atop the National League West after Sunday's 3-1 victory over the Padres."The guys had an expectation when we started in Spring Training
SAN DIEGO -- It's June 4, a little early to obsess about the standings. But the Rockies are having a good time looking at them, considering they rest atop the National League West after Sunday's 3-1 victory over the Padres.
"The guys had an expectation when we started in Spring Training about where we could be and what we could do," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "Right now we're realizing it. It's happening on the field. It's a good feeling.
"The guys are digging it. We're loose. We're playing hard. We've got to continue it. It's a long season."
But a Rockies team that hasn't finished above .500 since 2010 -- right fielder Carlos Gonzalez is the only current player to experience those days -- might as well spend as much time as possible enjoying the record. Besides, the schedule is entering a tough stretch. They're five games into a run in which 21 of 30 games are on the road. Tuesday and Wednesday offer a brief respite, a two-game home set against the Indians.
It's not as if the Rockies are running away with the West. The Dodgers began Sunday in first but lost at Milwaukee. The D-backs, who like the Rockies haven't won much in recent seasons, are two games back after losing at Miami, on the heels of being no-hit by Edinson Volquez on Saturday.
"That's just how baseball is," said second baseman DJ LeMahieu, who went 2-for-4 with a double Sunday. "It was two years ago, the Central with the Cardinals, the Pirates and the Cubs. Every year is so much different.
"We've got three teams playing well in the West, and the Giants aren't even involved yet. I wouldn't be surprised to see them in it, too. It's a very good division. But the position we've put ourselves in so far will set us up well for the next part of the season."
Center fielder Charlie Blackmon, who went 2-for-5 Sunday, said looking at the television and watching other games is more fun now.
"When I see teams on TV, I know the teams that I want to lose," he said. "It's more about that than looking at the standings every day.
"It's easier. In past years, the worst was looking at the standings and being 10 games out."
Third baseman Nolan Arenado agreed.
"When we were playing Seattle and we were down by six early, I was like, 'I wonder what the Diamondbacks did today,'" Arenado said. "I don't check it when we win, and as long as we win ballgames, that's all that matters. But when we're getting our butts kicked, I'll check it for sure."
The player turnover in recent years helps. Over the past couple years, the Rockies have added Mark Reynolds, Gerardo Parra and Ian Desmond, who don't have to look back far to remember playing on winners. And the team has been infused with young players who haven't experienced much of the losing.
Right-handed pitcher Jeff Hoffman, who fanned a career-high nine Sunday while holding the Padres to one run and three hits in seven innings, debuted during the difficult, injury-addled end of last season. But his three starts this year in four call-ups have helped the Rockies stay at or near the division lead.
"It's a fun environment," Hoffman said. "In college [at East Carolina], we didn't win, really, a whole lot. This is fun for me and fun for everybody in here.
"When you've got guys in that mindset, going out just to do their job and everybody takes care of themselves, that's when ballgames are won."
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and** like his Facebook page**.