If the season ended today, the Rockies would qualify for the postseason. At 15-15, they'd be one of the two National League Wild Cards in the expanded 16-team playoffs.
But alas, there are 30 games left. And if the first 30 are any indication of what is to come, the final stretch has the potential to be a wild ride.
The Rockies went 11-4 in the first 15 games of the season and 4-11 in the next 15, which included Tuesday’s 5-4 victory over the D-backs at Chase Field.
If Colorado wants to reach the postseason, it is going to have to pitch better, continue to play good defense and improve its timely hitting.
“That's sort of been the tale the last couple of weeks in that we haven't extended innings with consecutive hits, or that one big hit, to break through to get us some runs,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “That’s what we are going to need to do. We have to continue to pitch well, both in the rotation and the bullpen.”
Colorado's offense slashed .263/.329/.428 during the first 15 games of the season and .256/.317/.424 in the 15 that followed. It’s not a dramatic dropoff, but a closer look reveals the true culprit. The Rockies had a .300 batting average in their first 15 games with runners in scoring position. That average was .233 in their next 15.
The pitching staff got off to a hot start, limiting opponents to a .209 batting average and .614 OPS during the first 15 games. The Rockies sported a 2.84 team ERA during that stretch and cruised to the top of the leaderboard in the NL West.
They weren’t nearly as effective during the past 15 games, pitching to a 6.26 ERA and allowing an opponents’ batting average of .302 and opponents' OPS of .895.
Now, Colorado is in third in the NL West at the halfway point of the regular season.
“It's weird being at the end already. I think that's something none of us are used to,” said third baseman Nolan Arenado, who had a pair of RBI doubles in Tuesday’s win. “It feels like we just started, and now we're almost done. That's the disappointing part about playing a 60-game season, but at the same time, it’s better than nothing, so we're just happy to be back out here and trying to get in that playoff.”
Arenado's two doubles were his first extra-base hits on the road this season.
“[The urgency] is at an all-time high right now,” Arenado said. “And we have to find a way to win series and find ways to sneak in. We have to find a way to continue to battle and win. There’s not a lot of ground left to have bad streaks like the one we had.”
Trevor Story continues to play with a sense of urgency. He hit a one-out triple in the first and scored when the next batter, Arenado, followed with a double. Arenado scored on a double by Matt Kemp to push the Rockies ahead, 2-0. After the D-backs hit a pair of solo homers in the second, Garrett Hampson's fourth-inning solo shot put Colorado back ahead, 3-2. Again, Arizona responded, tying the game at 3 in the bottom of the inning.
In the seventh, Story stole his second base of the game to set up Arenado’s second double of the game, which allowed Story to trot home for the go-ahead run. Arenado later scooted home on a passed ball for an important Rockies insurance run.
The D-backs cut their deficit to 5-4 with a David Peralta RBI single in the ninth, but Daniel Bard recovered, striking out Nick Ahmed with the bases loaded to end the game.
Rockies starter Germán Márquez allowed three runs on six hits in five innings. He wasn’t crisp, but he was sharp enough to keep his team in the game.
Colorado is going to need more of those types of performances -- if not better -- down the final stretch.
“Every game is important, so we just have to try to take care of business,” Arenado said.