DENVER -- The Rockies rightly preach that it’s early, but outside their posh new clubhouse walls, what folks came into the season believing about a team with two straight postseason trips has been shaken.
Tuesday’s 7-1 loss to the Braves at Coors Field, the Rockies’ ninth in the last 10 games, did little to stabilize their fans’ fears.
Righty German Márquez , who had not given up more than three runs in his previous 15 games dating back to last season, coughed up five in five innings. After giving up just four homers in his previous 86 1/3 innings, he yielded two -- Ronald Acuna Jr.’s leadoff shot in the second inning and a Dansby Swanson three-run blast in a four-run fourth backbreaker.
“I missed a couple pitches there,” Marquez said in Spanish, with bullpen catcher Aaron Munoz translating. “That’s what ultimately cost us the game. Bad execution."
So, let’s look at various parts of this club and match expectation with reality, and contemplate where it all leads:
What we thought we knew: The rotation was the strength of the club last season, with the notable exception of June’s 5.37 starter ERA.
What we’ve seen: This April is the new last June. Marquez’s clunker meant all five have had at least one bad game. Kyle Freeland, after Cy Young Award contention last year, has had two straight bad starts. Jon Gray had some moments Saturday against the Dodgers, but he gave up five runs in six innings. Tyler Anderson (on the injured list with a knee injury) and Chad Bettis haven’t had a low-run game yet.
What we think: In a season of 30 or more starts, a cluster of bad games in April smells like last June -- bad but, given the talent level, hopefully temporary.
“We’re going to get out of it,” manager Bud Black said. “We’ve had three bad ones. So all these guys, they do their thing and perform and stay in the rotation, it’s going be 32, 33 starts. They’ve got 30 more.”
What we thought: When the lineup settled with Daniel Murphy hitting second and Nolan Arenado third late in spring and through wins in the first two games, a patient, pass-it-on approach would make some of the outages of recent years less likely.
What we’ve seen: Murphy, whose patience rubbed off on others, suffered a fractured left index finger in the second game at Miami. Ryan McMahon, who had some decent early at-bats, and David Dahl, the team’s most-consistent offensive player, have joined him on the injured list.
What we think: With Murphy being the only regular signed on the free-agent market, the injuries leave the Rockies the same as they were, only less-seasoned. Charlie Blackmon and Arenado are exhibiting patience in some situations where they maybe would have chased at times, even if it isn’t paying off (no homers apiece). Trevor Story has gone deep four times. Tuesday’s 10 strikeouts, four in six innings by effective starter Max Fried, ran the season total to 109 in 12 games -- “not good tonight,” Black said.
And for the foreseeable future, the Rox are trying to get offense from experienced and struggling Ian Desmond (whose three hits the last two games match his season total before that point), inexperienced and struggling Garrett Hampson and Ramel Tapia, and this week’s callups, Josh Fuentes and Yonathan Daza, who debuted Tuesday.
“We just need to play a little small ball, leave it on the next guy, get on base, make innings longer,” said catcher Tony Wolters, who had one of the Rockies’ six hits on Tuesday.
What we've thought: Mark Reynolds was brought in for late-innings thunder, and there was excitement about Hampson and Tapia, whose speed and defensive versatility could be dynamic if used in the right spots.
What we've seen: The league is taking advantage of the lack of Major League experience of the younger players, and the struggling starters have left Reynolds with little chance for impact.
What we think: Someone from Hampson, Tapia, Fuentes and Daza will have to provide a spark for a lineup that seems short.
“Obviously, we’re banged up,” Story said. “I feel like we’re being tested right now. The more veteran players, we’ve got to step up, bring those guys with us. These guys have a lot of talent. We just want them to play, just do their thing out there.”
What we thought: Scott Oberg, Wade Davis and Seunghwan Oh looked to be an effective late-innings combo, but the rest were uncertain.
What we've seen: Given last year’s struggles and injuries, there have been pleasant surprises from Bryan Shaw (1.17 ERA after Tuesday’s scoreless 1 1/3 innings), Mike Dunn (five scoreless outings in six appearances) and Jake McGee (two effective and scoreless outings, before going to the injured list with a left knee injury).
What we think: If the other parts of this team find their groove, there’s a shot at this group being effective at holding leads.