Rockies start 2021 winless on the road

Apr 14, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Colorado Rockies manager Bud Black argues with the home plate umpire on strike calls during the third inning of the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Rockies struggling on the road—particularly, on swings that involve San Francisco and Los Angeles—is a tale as old as time. The Rockies have always had a hard time winning series in the Bay Area and at Chavez Ravine regardless of the quality of their opponents; it becomes especially difficult when one of said foes is the best team in baseball.

So, then, the Rockies getting swept at the hands of the defending-champion Dodgers shouldn’t be a surprise at all. Even less so, in fact, on the heels of a winless effort againt the Giants that didn’t really raise any eyebrows. Colorado’s starting pitchers held their own in San Francisco but were largely exposed by a Dodgers team that absolutely thrives on pitch-to-contact types such as those who comprise the Rockies’ rotation. The Rox didn’t do themselves any favors by running out a getaway night lineup that screams “35 games out of first place in mid-August,” but somehow managed to score five runs in a losing effort anyway.

Colorado is now 2-10 and already trails the Dodgers by 8 1/2 games in the National League West. Before you get too discouraged, though, remember: this is how it was always supposed to be.

What went wrong

As was the case in the series against the Giants, Rockies relievers picked the absolute worst times to falter in L.A. Daniel Bard allowed a homer to the newest in a line of Max Muncys and Chris Taylors, Zach McKinstry, in the eighth inning in Game 2 to give the Dodgers an important insurance run. A night later, Yency Almonte suddenly lost the ability to find the strike zone before surrendering a go-ahead, three-run shot to Muncy.

Additionally, the combination of the lineup drawing basically no walks and the pitching staff issuing entirely too many hurt the Rockies. Antonio Senzatela and Jon Gray were made to look like well below-average contact pitchers against a Dodgers lineup that just eats low-strikeout, high-walk guys alive. A mix of that approach and the unfortunate luck of having to play the unrelenting Dodgers seven times already has resulted in the Rockies posting the worst walk rate in the league both offensively and on the mound. Not great!

What went right

Austin Gomber entered his third start of the season an absolute mess, having walked well over a batter per inning pitched. But the key piece in the return for Nolan Arenado showed some major positive signs against the Dodgers on Thursday. Gomber threw 66 strikes and just 29 balls en route to six innings of three-run ball, and the 27-year-old lefty actually exited the game in position to earn a coveted Pitcher Win.

Ryan McMahon hit another homer, his sixth of the season, and returns to Coors Field with a .306/.320/.755 line. McMahon seems to have traded his ability to draw walks for increased aggression and power, and it’s working. The real key will come when pitchers eventually make adjustments and McMahon has to resort to using his hard-to-rival patience and pitch selection skills.

What’s next

The Rockies’ series opener against the Mets on Friday was postponed due to winter weather conditions at Coors Field, so the two teams will play a seven-inning doubleheader on Saturday. Chi Chi Gonzalez, who was supposed to start Friday, will be on the hill for Game 1 and Germán Márquez will look to find his stride in the nightcap.