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Rockies look to reverse fortunes at home

September 10, 2020

The Rockies are mercifully done at Petco Park, where they were swept by the Padres because they couldn’t win a low-scoring game, a high-scoring game or – in the case of Wednesday night’s 5-3 loss -- even a medium-scoring game.

The Rockies are mercifully done at Petco Park, where they were swept by the Padres because they couldn’t win a low-scoring game, a high-scoring game or – in the case of Wednesday night’s 5-3 loss -- even a medium-scoring game.

Box score

So it’s back to Coors Field. While the Rockies (20-23) -- who also absorbed a 1-0 walk-off and a 14-5 shellacking in San Diego -- are just fine at squarely .500 on the road (11-11), this is 2020 and weird stuff is happening.

They’re 9-12 at Coors. Even worse, they’ve dropped 10 of their last 14 at home. So the question is, will the Rockies welcome the Angels (three games), Athletics (two) and Dodgers (four) to 20th and Blake, or will those teams welcome themselves?

The home performance has highlighted enough problems that the Rockies can’t point fingers at one area. But they can fix it in the next nine games. Maybe the close nature of the games on the trip -- five of six were decided late -- could steel the Rockies for the stretch.

“I think just playing better baseball … I wish I could pinpoint exactly what it is that we need to do, but I think we're putting ourselves in a good spot to win each game,” said shortstop Trevor Story, whose first-inning solo home run, his team-leading 10th, was one of few good swings against the changeup oriented work of Padres starter Zach Davies.

Designated hitter Matt Kemp’s two-run shot in the sixth also came off Davies, but the right-hander controlled the Rockies with eight strikeouts in six innings.

Three takeaways, or look-aheads, however you want to see them:

1. Starting pitching in general could be a lift
Antonio Senzatela was nowhere near as sharp as in most of his starts. He had no fastball command, as a two-run homer by Mitch Moreland in the first and an RBI triple by Wil Myers in the two-run sixth can attest. A leadoff walk to Moreland before the triple was proof positive that Senzatela didn’t have it.

Between the first and the sixth, however, Senzatela worked through his poor command. He escaped bases loaded and one out in the second, for example. Good command or not, starters will have to compete. During the last 14 at Coors, the Rockies have had an 8.86 team ERA, with poor starts putting the team in a hole.

“I feel like my mechanics were good; I just didn’t have command of my fastball,” Senzatela said. “I just have to keep that in my mind and do better the next game.”

With days off Thursday and Monday, the Rockies will try to maximize four starters.

Manager Bud Black announced Wednesday that starters against the Angels will be Germán Márquez on Friday, Kyle Freeland on Saturday and Ryan Castellani on Sunday. Márquez (seven solid frames against the Dodgers) and Freeland (six scoreless innings against the Padres) are coming off good starts. Senzatela will keep getting chances.

Jon Gray has not thrown since he was placed on the injured list last week with right shoulder inflammation. Time is getting short, but Black said he hopes Gray can give the team starts before season’s end.

2. Could the lineup be coming around?
Kemp’s homer was his third off Davies this season, and his long ball won Sunday’s game at Dodger Stadium. Charlie Blackmon’s two hits were welcome, although he has struck out in a career-most 14 straight games.

But the most-awaited development has been the bat of Nolan Arenado, who doubled and walked Wednesday, after homering on Tuesday. Arenado has reached base in each of his last 15 games, with a .364 batting average and .435 on-base percentage. Tuesday’s homer was his only one in that stretch, so he will need to take advantage of Coors.

“The stats aren’t going to be there -- they just aren’t,” Arenado said. “We all want to hit .300 with a bunch of homers and a bunch of RBIs. So it’s just not getting caught up in all those things. It’s getting caught up in helping the team win.”

Black said, “We're starting to see some signs offensively. We got to string it together a little bit better to keep it going.”

3. Demystifying Coors
All the statistical and psychological and physical study of the Coors Field effect -- with none of the disciplines providing anything more than somewhat educated guesses at dealing with going in and out of Mile High City atmosphere -- may be missing a factor. When going well, large and vocal crowds give the Rockies a boost.

“We miss them for sure,” Arenado said.

The quiet at Coors leaves the players thinking of the physical toll of extreme atmospheric differences between home and road, on the body and on the way pitches travel from hand to plate.

“Denver is just a tough place to play,” Arenado said. “I mean, it’s tough [physically], and that’s a home-field advantage.

“But it’s a hard place to pitch. And hitters like coming there, so it’s not a home-field advantage like going to L.A. or San Francisco back in the day [pitchers parks]. That’s something we have to find a way to beat. Our pitchers have kept us in games, and the offense hasn’t been there. Then there are times when we’ve scored runs and the pitchers have given up some.”

Black said step one is simplifying thinking.

“We can think about, you know, nine games at home or 10 [days],” he said. “Whatever it is, we’ve got to think about Friday night.”

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and like his Facebook page.