Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
Rockies 6, Phillies 3
2006-04-28 07:31
by Mark T.R. Donohue

And the Rockies are alone in first place. Take that, sayers of nay. OK, it's April 28th. Let's not get overly excited, or start figuring out playoff matchups (oh, hell, I can't help it: Colorado would play Houston and the Mets would get the winner of a tiebreaker game between Cincinnati and St. Louis) quite yet. Instead, let's look at what the Rockies' record was the last morning of April 28th. It was 6-13. Colorado was taking a break from its second extended losing streak of the young season thanks only to heavy snows in Denver. They wouldn't tie their first road series (as the 2006 team just did with Philadelphia) until June 30-July 3 in St. Louis, and they wouldn't win a road series (this team has won two) until July 18-20 at Washington. So, they're better.

And here's why they're better: 1.428, 1.272, 1.065, and .976. Those are the road OPS figures so far this season for Brad Hawpe, Cory Sullivan, Garrett Atkins, and Clint Barmes. All four of those guys were rookies last year, and none of them hit like that away from Coors. Sullivan didn't hit like that at Coors. Now all of a sudden he's a triples-hitting machine. Combine the work of this group of super sophomores with a fine bullpen, not-entirely-horrible starting pitching, and a overperforming bench led by Eli Marrero, Jason Smith, and Miguel Ojeda, and you've got a recipe for .500-ness. Even with Todd Helton hurt, Matt Holliday and Luis Gonzalez badly slumping, and Danny Ardoin a complete offensive nonentity. Will Hawpe, Sullivan, Atkins, and Barmes continue at this pace? No. But the longer the Rockies keep their heads above water, the more heads are going to be turned towards Dan O'Dowd's latest rebuilding plan, and the more people are going to be thinking that maybe, this time, they're starting to get it right.

As the offense returns to earth, the pitching (and also, hopefully, Helton) ought to be able to keep the Rockies winning at least slightly more games than they lose. Aaron Cook and Jason Jennings have each had bad outings, but have been on more often than not. Jeff Francis looked like a new man in his last start. There's no guessing how long Josh Fogg's weird run of semi-effectiveness will continue for, but Miguel Asencio appears like a perfectly acceptable contingency plan. We have no idea what we'll get from Byung-Hyun Kim. If he pitches like he did last year, then the rotation flies right past acceptable and moves dangerously close to "good" territory. Freaky.

The Rockies have an excellent opportunity to prove they've graduated from the sub-basement class of the National League this weekend as they travel to Greater Miami for three games against the team still provisionally known as the Florida Marlins. Colorado luckily misses Dontrelle Willis and draws the unimposing trio of Sergio Mitre, Jason Vargas, and Brian Moehler. Neither Cook nor Jennings will pitch this weekend and yet with the Zach Day era naught but an ugly memory the Rockies get the best of all three pitching matchups sending Francis, Fogg, and Asencio in that order. Actually, Mitre and Vargas are not at all bad, but the Rockies' lineup is much better than the Marlins' and the same goes for the bullpens. I'm not the sort of raging optimist who goes around predicting road sweeps but I certainly think the Rockies ought to win two of three here. Assuming they can contain Wes Helms.

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