These are not the worst of times for the Rockies.
But they are close.
The Rockies went into Tuesday night’s game against the Braves at Coors Field with a 3-8 record, the second worst start in franchise history. They were only 2-9 to open the 2005 season en route to a 67-95 finish.
What’s different about this year, though, is the Rockies carry expectations with them. They have claimed wild-card spots the past two seasons, and a year ago, they knocked off the Cubs at Wrigley Field in the wild-card game before being swept in the NL Division Series by the Brewers.
They did it with a young nucleus, including a rotation that led the NL in innings pitched and featured seven pitchers who started a game, none of whom were even 30 by Opening Day this year.
And there are 151 games remaining to be played this year, which is plenty of time to rebound like a year ago when the Dodgers were 16-26 in mid-May. They rallied to knock off the Rockies in a Game 163 for the NL West title. They dispatched the Braves in four games in the NL Division Series. And they eliminated the Brewers in seven games in the NL Championship Series before falling victim to the Red Sox in five games in the World Series.
For the fans, however, the early season stumble opens the debates on who to blame.
Want the simple answer?
It takes a team effort to win. And it takes a team effort to lose.
The offense has carried the brunt of the public outrage, which isn’t a total surprise in light of the fact the Rockies are coming off the worst offensive season in franchise history – even though they did claim a wild-card spot in the post-season and knocked off the Cubs to advance to the division series.
They went into Tuesday’s game averaging only 3.4 runs per game, the 11th lowest average in the national league, and 4.5 runs fewer than the Dodgers. They also went into the game with a 5.38 ERA, which would be higher than 22 of the previous 26 seasons in franchise history. And they have had a quality start only four times in 11 games.
“As a starting group we are not putting together quality starts,” Kyle Freeland said. “We are not setting a good tone. That’ doesn’t help the offense at all. It doesn’t allow them to get in a game.”
Consider that they were swept in a three-game series during the weekend, and then lost to the Braves in the four games prior to Tuesday, and in three of those losses they scored six runs.
Freeland, who set a franchise records with a 2.85 ERA overall and with a 2.40 ERA at Coors Field last year, has misfired. In Monday’s 8-6 loss to the Braves, Freeland had the worst start of his career, giving up seven runs in five innings.
“My mentality, even with us on the losing streak and not playing food baseball, is to focus on the game that day,” he said. “I can’t change the past. We aren’t setting the tone as pitchers – something we can be better about.”
And they went into Tuesday’s game with seven of the 25 players projected to be on the active roster instead on the injured list, including David Dahl, who is leading the team with a .343 average, in limbo because of a lower abdomen injury suffered Saturday.
And there are key injuries.
n Dahl (abdominal strain), the starting left fielder.
n Daniel Murphy (fractured left index finger), the starting first baseman and top of the lineup bat.
n Ryan McMahon (sprained left elbow)the starting second baseman who moved to first in Murphy’s absence.
n Antonio Senzatela (infection right heal), a right-hander who is both a starter and reliever.
n Tyler Anderson (left knee inflammation), the lefthander, who started the home opener.
n Jake McGee (sprained left knee) a left-handed reliever.
n And Chris Rusin (mid-back strain) the left-handed long man.
"When we get to playing like we want to on both sides, things are going to turn around," said Freeland. "It doesn't take much and we'll be where we want to be. We know what we are capable of doing."
It's a matter of the Rockies doing what they know.