Rockies Are Even, Looking to Continue Climb in NL West and Wild-Card Standings

Rockies celebrate Monday walk-off vs. D-backs© Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

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Rockies manager Bud Black is careful in how he addresses the fact the Rockies finally returned to the .500 mark with a 5-4 victory against the NL West-rival Diamondbacks on Wednesday night.

But he likes what he is watching.

“When you see that [the .500 record] as a group from where we’ve been, it feels good,” Black said. “The trick is to continue and stay on base, but we’ve played, overall the last month, good baseball.”

And there has been some good fortune.

Consider that in the victory that returned the Rockies to .500, the starting pitcher and winning pitcher was Jeff Hoffman, and the save went to Scott Oberg.

Hoffman was in the rotation because Tyler Anderson is headed to a surgery on his left knee that could be career-threatening, and Chad Bettis has welcomed a move to the bullpen, where Black has indicated he not only thinks Bettis can help the team now but that Bettis best fits a relief role long-term.

Hoffman, the most publicized part of the package the Rockies received from the Blue Jays in the Troy Tulowtizki trade, has been far from a lock down member of the rotation. A first-round selection of the Blue Jays out of East Carolina University in 2014 -- the ninth player taken overall -- Hoffman is 20-25 with a 4.69 ERA in 68 appearances -- 67 starts -- at the minor-league level with the Rockies. That includes going 3-3 with a 7.57 ERA at AAA Albuquerque in seven games, six starts, this year.

And he is not only just 7-10 with a 6.01 ERA in 40 games -- 26 starts -- with the Rockies in his career, but he has made only nine big-league appearances -- four starts -- in the past two seasons.

Now, it's not like he overpowered the D-backs, but he was competitive and kept the Rockies in the game, allowing three runs in five innings.

“This is like our fresh start, and we’re ready to go get it going again starting (Thursday),” Hoffman said.

There is a ways for the Rockies rotation to go, however, for the Rockies to feel comfortable. A rotation that used only seven pitchers last year and led NL rotations in innings pitched has struggled this year. There was the decision to move Bettis to the bullpen. There is the pending surgery for Anderson. And there has been a struggle by Kyle Freeland, who set a franchise record with both a 2.40 ERA at Coors Field and 2.85 for the season en route to finishing fourth in NL Cy Young voting.

Freeland gets the start in Thursday's series finale against the D-backs, looking to claim a vicotry for the first time since April 18 when he pitched six shutout innings, allowing two hits and striking out seven, against the Phillies at Coors Field. He is 0-3 in six starts since, having allowed 29 earned runs in 28 2/3 innings in those starts.

There have been signs of a rotation starting to step up -- albeit small steps but at least upward -- in the four-game winning streak. German Marquez (6 1/3 innings, four earned runs), Jon Gray (5 1/3 innings, two earned runs), Antonio Senzatela (six innings, two earned runs) and Hoffman (five innings, three earned runs) have set the foundation in the four-game winning streak.

And the bullpen has shut things down after the starters were done, including four innings in which four relievers combined to allow just one run on Carson Kelly's home run off Seunghwan Oh. The bullpen does have a 3.92 ERA, which ranks second in the National League.

What's more, is they are 5-1 in the first six games of what is a season-longest 10-game home stand, and they have accomplished that without closer Wade Davis, who has been on the injured list since May 19 with a strained left oblique. Davis has, however, thrown the last four days and is feeling better.

“I’m a really competitive person, and I obviously don’t like sitting on the side,” Davis said. “I’d rather go out and hurt myself than not be a part of the team, so it’s not fun. I’m stirring it up with Charlie, trying to survive it. You’ve just got to stay positive and be a good teammate.”

And the offense has done more than it's part, showing growth in every aspect on a per-game basis since the 3-12 start.

Individually, every current position player on the roster has improved his production since Apirl 14, except David Dahl, but then Dahl was the one offensive factor for the Rockies in the first 15 games. And it's not like he has disappeared from the face of the earth. He went into Thursday hitting 294 since April 14.