MINNEAPOLIS -- Just last Sunday, when the Rockies completed a home sweep of the Padres and were on a nice run within the National League West, general manager Bill Schmidt spoke of the team’s hopeful quest for .500 -- which would, in turn, put him in a position to add talent.
Five games into a road trip that ends Sunday, break-even seems a long way away. Saturday night, the Rockies were one-hit -- and couldn’t take advantage of five walks -- in a 6-0 loss to the Twins at Target Field. And a season that started with the promise of signing star Kris Bryant -- whose back injury the team hasn’t been able to absorb -- is flashing before them, already.
“We’ve got a chance to win this series tomorrow, and we need to win it,” said C.J. Cron, who logged the Rockies’ only hit with a second-inning leadoff single off Twins starter Chris Archer. “We’ve got to win. I think we know that.
“Seems like we have a good series, then a couple of bad ones and then a good one. The consistency isn't quite there for us. And I think getting this one tomorrow [before] going back home would be huge for us.”
At 10 below .500 already (31-41), the percentage chance of becoming competitive in the division is low. But shaking off Saturday’s loss to win a road series would be a boost. Not to mention Bryant -- who played his fourth game of a rehab assignment with Triple-A Albuquerque on Saturday night -- is due to return prior to a stretch of 17 straight games against division opponents starting Monday against the Dodgers.
But these three takeaways from Saturday’s loss highlight issues that have pulled the Rockies to where they are:
1. The inability to adjust to strong pitching
The Rockies have split the first two against the Twins, but Friday’s 1-0 victory belonged solely to starter Germán Márquez and closer Daniel Bard. Saturday, they were hapless against Archer for five innings and were unable to muster a hit against three relievers. They had two on with no outs in the second, and walks put two on with one out in the sixth and eighth.
“Especially their bullpen -- we didn’t do much,” manager Bud Black said. “A couple walks. We got some guys on base, but we didn’t get the hit to get any momentum.”
The road trip started with a 5-for-17 performance with runners in scoring position in the first of three losses at Miami on Tuesday, but since then, they are 3-for-32 in scoring opportunities. In that stretch, they were facing unfamiliar pitching.
The upcoming games against the Dodgers, D-backs and Padres offer familiar arms, but that doesn’t make them any easier to hit.
2. Road woes for Senzatela
Senzatela’s action on his breaking pitches was keen, but he missed on big pitches and yielded four earned runs on eight hits in five innings. For all the reputation of the difficulty of pitching in his home park, he is 3-1 with a 3.52 ERA in eight starts at Coors Field and 0-3 with a 6.87 ERA in four road starts this season. It’s something that has to change for Senzatela, who is in the first year of a five-year, $50.5 million contract.
“I try to throw good games on the road, too, but I’m still missing too many spots on the road,” Senzatela said. “I have to eliminate the mistakes on the road.”
3. The bullpen has settled -- or has it?
Bard and Alex Colomé have done well. The Rockies have lost Tyler Kinley, who is headed for flexor tendon surgery, but more often than not, those pressed into heightened innings have pitched well.
But they can’t have too many performances like Carlos Estévez’s on Saturday. With two out in the seventh, he walked Max Kepler. A Kyle Garlick single and an Alex Kirilloff two-run double pushed the deficit from four runs to six.
Around him, Jhoulys Chacín and Jake Bird authored scoreless frames. Though Estévez was unable to turn in a clean outing, he still boasts a 1.03 WHIP in June and has allowed no more than two earned runs in any of his outings this month. He must shake off Saturday, as it will not be the last time he is called on to pick up his teammates.