Ever since Eric Young Sr. led off the home half of the first-ever Major League Baseball game in Colorado with a solo dinger in April 1993, we’ve known the Rockies would hit. The still unanswered question, 22 years later, is whether they’ll ever be able to pitch consistently enough at this mile-high elevation to put together a long-term contender.
In recent years the Rockies’ hurlers have been nothing short of brutal—starting with 2011, their staff ERA has never ended up higher than 26th in the league, and they’ve been dead-last twice. Although they’re holding down the number-30 spot again this season, over the past eight games (seven of them wins), the team’s arms have unexpectedly resembled the 1990s Atlanta Braves. In that week-plus the Rockies have given up a mere 19 runs (16 earned), and their collective ERA has been a microscopic 2.00, about 40 percent of what it usually is. They’ve been getting mostly quality starts from a staff that was having a tough time breaking the five-inning barrier for most of the season. And on Friday in Philadelphia, Chad Bettis, until now little more than a spot-starter, followed up his previous 8.1-inning, two-run outing by retiring the first 18 men he faced and taking a no-hitter into the 8th inning.
Does this mean the Rockies and their coaches have finally hit upon some magical pitching formula? Well…When you consider that six of their seven wins during this streak came against the bottom-dwelling Phillies and Reds, maybe it’s not quite time to start planning a ticker-tape parade down the 16th Street Mall. (Then again, even experiencing a flicker of mound-related hope is more fun than most Rockies’ fans have had this entire decade.)
The team’s June schedule actually shapes up quite well, with at least half of its games this month versus opponents with sub-.500 records. The Rockies also will face the Dodgers, Cardinals, Giants, and Astros in June, so the slate is anything but a cakewalk. History tells us the Rockies’ pitchers will regress again, but if they can find a way to capture what they’ve been doing recently there might be cause for optimism for the first time in years.
* In the time between the writing and posting of this column, Rockies pitchers gave up 10 earned runs in their series-opening loss to the Dodgers Monday night. The quest for consistency continues.
Follow 5280 editor-at-large Luc Hatlestad on Twitter at @LucHatlestad.