HOUSTON -- The Rockies will be spending the remaining seven-plus weeks of the season intending to build on what they started post-All-Star break, when losses occurred a little less frequently and offensive lapses weren’t as pronounced.
But they still have work to do, especially on the road. It’s not unusual for a team to perform better at home, but no team has more dramatic home-road splits than the Rockies, who look like two different teams depending on where they’re playing.
Including their 5-1 loss to the Astros at Minute Maid Park on Wednesday, the Rockies are now 13-42 away from Coors Field. That’s the worst road record in baseball, whereas their 38-21 mark at home is third-best. It’s the largest differential in home and road winning percentage by a single team in a single season in MLB history.
The most glaring contrast is related to run production. Entering Wednesday’s game, the Rockies had the best runs-per-game average at home at 5.8, and the worst on the road at 3.1. Wednesday’s game punctuated this stat; Colorado scored one run in the first inning off Houston lefty Framber Valdez, but despite producing three more baserunners that frame, which forced Valdez into a high pitch count, it was not able to capitalize further.
“There's pitchers on the other side who are trying to get us out at the same time -- Major League pitchers with good arms,” manager Bud Black said. “Our guys are battling like hell trying to get ahead. It's not happening. We’ve got to do better. There's no doubt about it. You look at our road averages. It's real, and we’ve got to get better. There's always a team on the other side trying to get you out.”
Connor Joe led off the game with a base hit to right and later scored on C.J. Cron’s single, also to right. Ryan McMahon loaded the bases with a walk, but the inning ended when Taylor Motter grounded to short.
The Rockies sent seven batters to the plate in that inning, and ran up Valdez’s pitch count to 31, but their inability to capitalize further proved costly. They managed just five baserunners over the next five innings.
“I thought we had some really good at-bats there in the early part of the game and just really couldn't really capitalize on having some action, some traffic out there,” said Trevor Story, who contributed a base hit that inning and finished the game 2-for-3 with a walk. “A little frustrating for sure, but better than yesterday, no doubt.”
The first-inning run allowed the Rockies to avoid being shut out for the second day in a row against the Astros, who they beat twice at Coors Field in April. It may not get easier for them this weekend, when they travel to play the Giants, who, like the Astros, are in first place in their division.
Wednesday’s Rockies lineup was missing a few key players, including Raimel Tapia, who’s on the injured list with a right big toe strain, and Charlie Blackmon, who was not in the starting lineup but pinch-hit in the ninth inning. The one standout is Story, who is hitting .303 over his past 20 games and having success no matter where he’s playing.
But even when all of the regular position players are in the lineup, that’s often not enough to solve the Rockies’ struggles away from Coors Field. Until they find more consistency, the questions are likely to continue to follow them.
Psychologically, is it tougher to push through this late in the season?
“Maybe,” Story said. “It's obviously been a year-long thing. I think last road trip we made some headway on that. Just kind of the first couple of days, out of altitude, we're kind of adjusting. I'm looking forward to seeing how it goes in San Fran. I think it will be better.”