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Coming off the All-Star break, the Rockies looked like a bonafide playoff team: Through August 3, Colorado was an MLB-best 14–5 since the break and climbed above .500 in the second half of the season for the first time since 2010. There was certainly reason to be optimistic at 20th and Blake, as the team rose to as few as three games back of the second Wild Card spot.
But since the 12–2 drubbing by Los Angeles on August 3, that optimism has turned into a sinking reality that the Rockies must get red-hot again should they want to make the playoffs. Colorado is 2–9 in its past nine games, was just swept in its three-game road series with Philadelphia, and will now host the Nationals and the Cubs—the teams with the best records in the National League.
The Rockies have, no doubt, suffered their fair share of bad luck over the past few weeks. It began with a season-ending injury to Trevor Story on July 30, as torn ligaments in the shortstop’s left thumb required surgery and suddenly left the Rockies scrambling to fill the rookie’s offensive and defensive void. Carlos Gonzalez has also missed a few games due to an ankle injury, and first baseman Mark Reynolds is now on the 15-day disabled list with a hand injury—leaving the Rockies without another powerful bat in the lineup.
There are some bright spots for Colorado right now. Nolan Arenado leads the National League with 30 homers and 95 RBI and, after a mini-slump, is back to playing like the star the Rockies need him to be. Charlie Blackmon is on a tear at the plate, as he set a club record with five dingers in the three-game series against the Phillies and is hitting .448 over the last seven games.
And pitching-wise, despite the recent skid, the Rockies, unlike in years past, have a rotation that is more than capable of stepping up in late August and throughout September. Specifically, Jorge De La Rosa, Chad Bettis, and Jon Gray—who had a 0.69 ERA in his first five starts after the break but has had a rough last couple outings—have to bring their best the rest of the way.
When it matters most, can the Rockies prove this season has been one defined by contention, and not pretention? A playoff showing, even if it’s a loss in the one-game Wild Card round, would do a lot for this team and its fanbase, which has only tasted the postseason three times in 24 seasons. It would add some legitimacy to General Manager Jeff Bridich and the front office’s decision to stand pat at the trade deadline. And it would prove that, with some tinkering to the rotation and bullpen and a renewed health entering next spring, the Rockies are on an upward trajectory entering 2017.
Don’t count Colorado out for this fall just yet, though. This is the same franchise that won 21 of 22 games en route to its World Series run in 2007—and it could be in the cards to rekindle that once-in-a-decade Rocktober magic once again.