The first day of April is dubbed “April Fool’s Day,” across the United States.
For the Colorado Rockies, their bats decided to play hooky, failing to abandon the joke prior to another loss for the club in their first of three games against the Tampa Bay Rays, 7-1.
The game followed a similar plot to the two that preceded it. The hitters failed to find a groove, while the pitchers struggled to hold on in their stead.
A familiar formula, the results have remained stagnant as well. Ahead are the takeaways from the Rockies’ third consecutive loss.
Rockies running low on luck so far
Several times this year, the Rockies have fallen at the hands of a lack of favorable happenings. The trend continued once again on Monday as the club was just short of several game-changing events.
In both the third and fourth inning, both Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado hit balls out of the park that cascaded barely foul. In that same two-inning span, Garrett Hampson also strayed from the foul line on a perfect bunt attempt to first.
Adding to their woes, the defense also felt the effects. The Rays were able to capitalize on several hits that snuck through the infield including Ji-Man Choi’s single prior to a Brandon Lowe home run and a pair of singles before a subsequent three-run longball from Kevin Kiermaier.
In just the short span of instances, the Rockies deficit ballooned from two to five.
Not everything for the club has to do with luck. A subpar offense and questionable pitching thus far have played a large role. It hasn’t helped though.
Outside of a pair of aces, the rotation is questionable
Both Kyle Freeland and German Marquez offer the Rockies a high level of confidence.
As a pair, they were one of the most dominant duos to end the 2018 season and carried even more potential for 2019.
Tyler Anderson, Jon Gray and Chad Bettis thus far have shown far less certainty.
As a trio, the back end of the rotation has allowed 14 earned runs in 17.1 innings, along with 21 hits. Each showed flashes including eight hitless innings between them. Explosive innings have been the catalyst for their struggles though as those innings have been offset by five innings with multiple runs allowed.
Last year, the three combined to allow 254 earned runs in 468.2 innings including Anderson’s National League-leading 30 home runs.
Bettis’ outing was just another example of the rotations’ inconsistency as he was welcomed with Daniel Powter’s “Bad Day,” while departing the field in the sixth. So far, there have been a lot of bad days for the Rockies.
Bats start slow once again
Five games in and the Rockies have yet to score in a game’s first two innings. In the first three innings, they have a total of two runs.
The struggles early are nothing new for Bud Black’s squad. In the first three innings of the 2018 season, the club averaged under two runs per game.
Against the Rays and their “opener” strategy, the Rockies garnered only two hits in the opening third of the game, striking out four times including three in their latest opening frame.
Much of the Rockies’ early struggles stem from a lack of production from their cleanup hitter. Through five games, Trevor Story sits at 2-for-19, with a lone home run in the season opener salvaging some of his production.
With either Freeland or Marquez on the mound, the early struggles for the Rockies offense were muted. But, with the latter portion of their rotation struggling, a quality outing from Gray notwithstanding, the momentum has been on the opposition’s side.
Getting hits early will help the lineup all around. Starting slowly makes the game an uphill battle, a struggle that the Rockies can ill afford with Daniel Murphy out and the rest of their lineup sputtering.
Rays roster of misfit toys don’t play around
To open the year, the Rays were tasked with facing a pair of 2018 playoff participants in the Houston Astros and Colorado Rockies. So far, they’re 4-1.
Buoyed by the lowest payroll in the league, Manager Kevin Cash and company are winning games behind unorthodox practices and opportunistic offense.
Last year, the Rays brought the “opener” strategy into the limelight, beginning their games with shutdown relievers to shorten games from the front end, as opposed to the majority that does so from the tail end. While they have last year’s American League Cy Young winner Blake Snell and veteran Charlie Morton atop this year’s rotation, they’re once again utilizing their gameplan.
So far, their plans have held teams to a combined 10 runs in five games, with each of their relievers combining for only one.
Leading the lineup in the Rays’ latest win was a pair of hitters acquired through trade, both in the midst of disappointing campaigns in Tommy Pham and Austin Meadows.
Cash finished third in AL Manager of the Year voting last year after leading a similar club to 90 wins. So far in 2019, he’s set to capture the hardware that previously alluded him.