Many times in baseball, the difference between good teams, average teams, and bad teams is simply how many facets of the game are clicking at once. Take the 2020 Colorado Rockies, for instance. When they were at their best earlier in the season, it was because the offense was coming up with hits often and in key situations. That was coupled with tremendous starting pitching and good bullpen work.
As the weeks wore on, some facets of the Rockies’ operation began to fall by the wayside. First, the bullpen—though, really, only a couple of guys—got a little leaky. Then, the offense pulled a handful of its usual disappearing acts, albeit mostly on the road, which is pretty typical of the Rox. And now, the starting pitching—one of the very best units in the game entering a quick two-game set against the Houston Astros at Coors Field—is beginning to falter.
A day after Ryan Castellani gave up five earned runs in the worst start of his young career, Germán Márquez—the unquestioned ace of the staff—yielded a 10-spot to the Astros, whose struggling offense scored 23 runs in two games in Denver.
There’s nothing quite like Coors to cure an ailing lineup, as Houston can certainly now attest. The Rockies, despite losing their fourth consecutive game (and ninth in a row to the Astros) and eighth in their last 10, got a boost from the friendly confines as well. Nolan Arenado, who basically looked dead to rights heading into Thursday afternoon, homered and doubled in the 10-8 loss. Ryan McMahon left the yard twice, Sam Hilliard had four hits, and Raimel Tapia reached base five times to contribute to a nice rally for the Rockies that saw them cut a seven-run deficit to two.
But, it wasn’t enough. Had Màrquez ended up with the results he’s familiar with, Colorado’s netting of taco’s would’ve been worth celebrating. But much like Castellani the night before, none of Márquez’s offerings seemed to fool the Astros, who put big, aggressive swings on pitches early and often, kind of like they knew what was coming or something (they didn’t; that isn’t happening in 2020, remember?). It was, unfortunately, the kind of outing the Rockies’ No. 1 has grown accustomed to having when he faces Houston; in 23 career innings against the Astros, Màrquez has allowed 20 earned runs—and that includes a 2018 start in which he outdueled the great Justin Verlander in a 5-1 Colorado win.
The Rockies’ bullpen, which was beaten up to the tune of eight runs on Wednesday, was flawless in relief of Márquez in the finale. But, it’s that “being able to put everything together at once” thing standing in the Rockies’ way. It even existed on a more meta level Thursday; the Rox outhit the Astros, 14-10, but they were unable to sequence those hits in a manner necessary to score more runs. Colorado finished just 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left 12 stranded on the base paths.
The good news is the Rockies have reached a point in their schedule where we kind of saw this coming, and they’re still a game over .500. The bad news is that they’re now headed west to face the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are 15-4 against the Rockies at home since the start of the 2018 season.
Hold on to your hats. This rollercoaster ride is about to get quite a bit bumpier.