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Rockies surge through challenging stretch

August 21, 2018

DENVER -- The Rockies are playing their best baseball of the season at just the right time. They're coming home to Coors Field after a 5-1 road trip against a pair of first place teams -- the Astros and Braves -- and they've just finished 46 games against teams playing

DENVER -- The Rockies are playing their best baseball of the season at just the right time. They're coming home to Coors Field after a 5-1 road trip against a pair of first place teams -- the Astros and Braves -- and they've just finished 46 games against teams playing over .500, going 30-16 against the field.
To top it all off, they've reclaimed their home-field advantage after struggling early in the season. The Rockies are 20-7 at Coors Field since June 18, putting them four games over .500 for the season.
"We've played good baseball, but as an offense, we haven't played anywhere near what we're capable of this whole second half," Nolan Arenado said before Tuesday's series opener against the Padres. "We have room to get better, and that's a good sign. We're doing great things right now, which is fun, but we're a better offense than what we're doing. We're not really scoring a lot of runs, and we're usually a team that scores runs. So if we can start doing that and continue to pitch like we have, I think we're going to be in good shape."
The Rockies have thrived of late despite a minor shoulder injury that took Arenado out of a couple games and relegated him to the designated hitter role in Houston. He was back at third for the sweep in Atlanta and seems to be back in usual form.
"The shoulder's fine, I think," Arenado said. "I haven't really done a lot today, but it feels good. I'm ready to go. This time of year, you just deal with anything."

While the offense may be underachieving, the pitching has hit heights never seen at Coors Field. The starting rotation posted a 1.71 ERA at home for the month of July (89 2/3 innings, 17 earned runs), the best home month for starters in the team's 25-plus year history.
"Starting pitching has been the key, and the bullpen is coming together," manager Bud Black said. "It takes a complete game to win games, put up winning streaks and stop losing streaks. We've played solid defense and got some timely hitting, which is critical as well. I still don't think our group has hit its stride offensively. We've had stretches of games where we've really hit the ball well. Hopefully we can get six or seven guys swinging the bats. Timely hitting has been great."
The schedule gets only slightly better the rest of the way, with the Rockies set to play 12 more series against eight more teams, all but two of which (the Padres and Giants) are playing over .500 baseball. But the Rockies clearly rose to the challenge during their toughest stretch in the schedule.
"It definitely tested us as a team," Trevor Story said. "We performed well. It just kind of confirmed what we always thought about ourselves. We felt like we can play against anybody and we felt like we could beat anybody. It was a long stretch, and a good one."
Desi does it
Shortstop-turned-outfielder-turned-first-baseman Ian Desmond has been emblematic of the team's season, struggling early with his bat but coming around of late and contributing in all facets of the game.

He entered Tuesday with seven RBIs in his last two starts, including matching his career best with a five-RBI game on Friday in Atlanta. He's hitting .279 (58-for-208) since June 10, putting up 33 runs, 34 RBIs and eight homers after suffering through a .190 average in the previous 62 games. He hit .321 (27-for-84) in July.
"You can go back and look at a number of games where the big swing really helped us out," Black said of Desmond. "His defense, his stolen bases, aggressive baserunning. What he means in the clubhouse, what he means in the dugout. The overall intensity that he brings as a player. It rubs off on the other guys. He plays at a high level of intensity. He plays an upbeat game, which is good for our group."

Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com.