The Colorado Rockies are still alive in the National League postseason race, albeit barely.
After splitting a four-game series on the road against the San Francisco Giants, who currently occupy the eighth and final NL playoff spot, the Rockies sit three games back with four to play. They’ll need a lot of help, but it’s certainly not impossible for Colorado to sneak in on the final day of the regular season.
The Rockies gave themselves that chance by pulling out a 5-4 victory in extra innings in the series finale. Raimel Tapia’s 11th-inning sacrifice fly proved to be the difference after the Rockies’ bullpen squandered a late lead in the form of a Brandon Belt eighth-inning homer off of Mychal Givens. That came shortly after Colorado fought back from a 3-0 deficit to take a 4-3 lead on an RBI single by Josh Fuentes, who broke an 0-for-11 slump with a pair of important hits.
Other than Givens surrendering the home run to Belt, the Rockies’ bullpen had a rare strong outing on Wednesday, led by Daniel Bard and his 2 2/3 scoreless innings. Colorado relievers combined to allow just one runs on two hits in 5 2/3 frames a night after Yency Almonte and Tommy Doyle were roughed up in a 7-2 loss. In that game, Almonte gave up a three-run homer to Mauricio Dubon to break a 2-2 tie. The hit plated two inherited runners, which have been a problem of historic proportions for the Rockies’ bullpen in 2020. Colorado relievers have allowed the highest percentage of inherited runners to score of any bullpen in the last 67 years.
The Rockies got pretty good starts from German Marquez and Kyle Freeland in the first two games of the series, continuing what—along with fellow starter Antonio Senzatela—has been the unquestioned strength of the team. Another positive for the Rockies recently has been Kevin Pillar, who tallied seven hits in the series and is hitting .316 with an OPS over .800 since joining the team. And then, there’s Fuentes. Sure, he had the aforementioned 0-for-11 stretch during the middle of the series, but the rookie leads all major league first basemen in Defensive Runs Saved while .321 with a .452 slugging percentage. It’s highly probable that Fuentes won’t be able to sustain his offensive performance with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 25 to 1, but as of now he’s proven to be the answer to the first base woes that have plagued the Rockies for years.
And with that, there is just one series remaining in 2020, and the Rockies have to find a way to all four games in Arizona against the Diamondbacks if they want a shot at Rocktober. Colorado starts the series with Antonios Senzatela and Santos taking the hill in a doubleheader before the good fortune of Marquez and Freeland getting the weekend starts. Colorado has zero room for error, so the rotation has to continue to be good—or, at least, serviceable—while the bullpen hopefully finds a way to strand some inherited runners, assuming the opportunity presents itself (it will). And, the offense is going to have to do better than it did during the final three games in San Francisco, which saw the Rockies go 5-for-39 with runners in scoring position and generally struggle to hit the ball hard.
It’s go time for the Rockies, and they’ll have to do it without their star player. Do they have what it takes?
They’re still alive when they probably shouldn’t be. That’s a start.