Rockies have an opportunity to find footing in 2018 against Padres

Sep 22, 2017; San Diego, CA, USA; Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado (28) singles during the eighth inning in front of San Diego Padres catcher Austin Hedges (right) at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Rockies are off to somewhat of a slow start to the 2018 season. After their opening series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado’s record sits at 1-2 on the young season. Over the course of the next week-plus, however, the Rockies have an opportunity to find footing early in the season while also having the chance to gain some ground in the National League West.

The Rockies play the division rival San Diego Padres seven times over their next 10 games, beginning Monday. The Padres are 0-3 and fresh off of being swept in their opening series against the new-look Milwaukee Brewers, whom the Rockies edged out by one game for the second National League Wild Card spot last season.

For a few reasons, these games against the Padres represent an optimal chance for the Rockies to get going in 2018.

First, the Rockies notched 12 wins over the Padres for a series record of 12-7 last year, which tied their highest win total against any opponent last year.  If the Rockies care of business against the Padres like they did last season, it could kick the team into gear in the 2018 season, which is a campaign loaded with optimism and hope for the franchise to not just return to the postseason, but thrive in it.

Speaking of kicking things into gear… In the four-game series against San Diego, starting pitchers Jon Gray and Tyler Anderson are scheduled to round out the set of four games. Those games Wednesday and Thursday will give both pitchers a moment to move past their disappointing starts in the opening series.

Gray struggled in his second-consecutive Opening Day start. In his return to the desert, home of last year’s Wild Card meltdown against Arizona, Gray logged four-plus innings while allowing three earned runs, walking three batters and surrendering six hits. It could have been worse save for some heroics from Chris Rusin out of the bullpen.

Anderson was even worse in his first start of the season. The Rockies No. 2 pitcher in the starting rotation didn’t survive the third inning, as he allowed seven earned runs and five hits while walking four batters in just 2.1 innings pitched. Colorado battled back to tie the game — one they eventually lost — but Anderson’s rough night wasted Colorado’s best offensive effort on the young season.

Those two starts were underwhelming for the Rockies to start the season, but the Padres’ .224 team batting average thus far will be a great opportunity for Gray and Anderson to bounce back. It should also allow Chad Bettis and Kyle Freeland to settle into the season in their first outings of the year, Monday and Tuesday respectively.

The Rockies will also have a chance to get their bats going. The Brewers hit .284 against the Padres in their opening series, which is one of the highest opponent’s batting averages in the league thus far. The Padres’ early struggles on the mound can help the Rockies bats ramp up the production. A majority of the Rockies’ runs have come via the longball so far (11 of 12). Although hitting home runs early is nice, the Rockies would like to balance out the lineup a little bit more to drive in more runs and record more base hits.

As it stands, Charlie Blackmon and Ian Desmond have accounted for more than half of the Rockies’ total runs so far this season. Trevor Story, Gerardo Parra, and Carlos Gonzalez are looking to settle into a rhythm at the plate and games against the Padres, who have had one the weaker pitching staffs in years past, mixed with the consistency of playing against them seven times in the next 10 days could help jumpstart that group, plus the rest of the Rockies’ offense.

It’s still extremely early in the season, and there is no reason to panic after the Rockies’ 1-2 start. There’s just as much to be excited about as there is to worry. The bullpen has been solid in the early going, with new additions Wade Davis and Bryan Shaw looking sharp out of the gate and Adam Ottavino having some zing in his outings so far. Blackmon and Desmond both look locked in during the early going, and Nolan Areando has already blasted a home run and has four hits.

There’s been a mix of good and bad so far in the season, with much of the bad probably linked to early season rust as opposed to severe issues that need to be worked out. The Rockies are fine right now but need to pick up their play quickly as the postseason race in the National League will likely be more difficult this year than last. The upcoming seven games against the Padres, a team that has not made the postseason since 2006, present a perfect opportunity for the Rockies to settle into the season on both sides of the ball.

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