The unofficial first half of the MLB season has concluded, and the Colorado Rockies find themselves comfortably under .500 despite having played much better baseball for the last month.
Winning a pair of home series going into the All-Star break, the Rox put themselves at 43-50 which is far enough behind that it is incredibly unlikely they are able to streak into the postseason but not so far behind that such a thing should be considered an impossibility.
They were unable to complete a sweep of Pittsburgh Sunday afternoon, falling 8-3 on a hot afternoon where they were once again failed by their pitching and defense.
Austin Gomber may have just lost his spot in the rotation with another clunker and Antonio Senzatela appearing ready to return once Rockies baseball does. This, combined with the emergence of Jose Urena, might be the biggest reason to hope that Colorado actually could maintain their current momentum and push for second-half contention.
Contention for the Wild Card, that is.
Nobody reasonable thought that the Rockies were contending for the NL West coming into the season and nobody reasonable should be looking at how many games back they are in the division as a measure for their current state of mind.
As it stands, the club is 6.5 games back of a Wild Card spot with 69 games to play.
The biggest key to making a run, as it always is, will be the starting pitching.
As a unit, they have easily been the most disappointing part of the Rockies so far in 2022 but there have been some signs of late that German Marquez and Kyle Freeland might be turning things around. They’ll need to kick into high gear, though, to make a surprise run a reality.
Senza’s return would need to come with excellent production as well while Urena would need to continue to be a revelation and Chad Kuhl would need to continue his steady work. The bullpen will almost certainly remain a mess and the lineup will stay on their pace, if not improve a bit the more Kris Bryant makes his mark.
But if the rotation can’t go from disappointing to decimating, this team will flounder, even if they do ultimately pull to .500 by season’s end.
This will make watching what they do at the trade deadline so interesting.
The stretch of games between now and then may determine a wide range of potential outcomes.
Should they fall back to 10 or more games under .500, they would need to sell off a few veterans (not necessarily C.J. Cron and Daniel Bard but others) and begin to re-stock for next year.
If they can surprise Milwaukee and LA in the final weeks of July, however, and find themselves just a few games under at the deadline, they may be one of the first teams to take advantage of the new set-up and actually add a piece or two.
To some degree, this is what many around MLB had hoped would be the result of expanding the postseason. Having more teams this time of year trying to add rather than subtract increases fan engagement across the sport.
Either way, Rockies fans now have a legitimate reason to watch the rest of the season as a team that has probably been through the worst of their luck and play still finds themselves not too far from relevance.
It’s going to take a lot of work and a tremendously arduous fight. But isn’t that what we watch sports for?
The Rockies are fond of praising their own potential and remaining loyal to each other. They tend to believe in themselves more than anyone else does.
Now it’s time to see just how much fight they have in them.