Talk about lousy timing. After waiting nearly a decade to get up and dance in September, the Rockies now have two left feet. And weak hitting, not to mention a crisis of confidence on the mound in the ninth inning. With its best chance to make the playoffs since 2009, Colorado is tripping over itself.
Hey, guys: Stop it. Nobody anywhere else in the United States takes baseball in Colorado seriously. So why choke on the chance to prove them wrong?
With the best month of the regular season upon us, the Rockies are playing their worst baseball of the year.
“I think the only difference between September baseball and May baseball is the name of the month. I think if you treat it any different, you’ve got it all wrong. You should treat every game like it’s a playoff game, like it could be the last game you’ll ever play,” said Jonathan Lucroy, a veteran catcher brought to Colorado last month to help the young Rockies deal with playoff pressure.
“If you’re coming down to the end of the season, and you’re a couple games out of the playoffs or you’re right on the cusp of clinching, it gets to be a situation where it’s pretty stressful for everybody. It’s only natural; we’re all human. But, as a player, you’ve got stay within yourself and stay locked in. You’ve got to focus on the little stuff and not let the bigger picture get to you. Focus on one pitch at a time.”
The Rockies got thumped 6-2 by Detroit on a Wednesday when the only fun to be had at Coors Field was figuring out which one among the 29,821 spectators in attendance was supermodel Kate Upton. Colorado ended August at 12-15, its first losing month of the season.
“I am looking forward to September,” manager Bud Black said.
Maybe somebody should notify Black’s team this is supposed to be fun, not a root canal.
As the digital clock on the wall flipped to 4:49 p.m., a full 45 minutes after the Rockies were shut down by Tigers ace Justin Verlander and three Detroit relief pitchers, there was barely a peep and nary a smile in the Colorado clubhouse. The sound of real trouble is silence.
Since the morning of June 21, when the Rockies awoke with a 47-26 record, they have been the worst team in the National League West. Closer Greg Holland has lost a grip on his slider and the team’s unshakable confidence in one-run games has slipped away. The Colorado batting order is so dangerously top heavy it’s about to topple, and I’m not certain how Black can fix all the dead spots, unless he can write a lineup card with Charlie Blackmon hitting first, fifth and eighth without the home-plate umpire noticing.
Fifteen times in August, the Rockies scored three runs or less. And what was their record in those games when the only noise made by the offense has been the sound of a flat tire? 4-11. After an early-season run of good luck, it’s tempting to say Colorado has hit the karma wall, except you can’t even hit the wall when swinging and missing at strike three as much as Trevor Story and Carlos Gonzalez habitually do.
September is the month for scoreboard watching. But perhaps the Rockies and their fans are looking at it the wrong way. Yes, Milwaukee and Miami are hot on Colorado’s tail. But being the hunted is a good way to end up as a trophy on somebody else’s mantle.
The lone goal of the Rockies should be to catch Arizona for the No. 1 wild-card berth. “You don’t want to be the No. 2 wild card,” said Gonzalez, who wants that win-or-go-home showdown during the first week of October to be played in LoDo.
Be the hunter, not the hunted.
“The last time I played meaningful games (during the final month) was in 2009,” said Gonzalez. During most of the season, he will regularly sneak from the dugout into the tunnel to review a video of his previous at-bats in the game. When the playoffs are on the line during September, however, CarGo is glued to the dugout rail.
“When you’re playing great games,” Gonzalez said, “you don’t want to miss one pitch.”
The Rockies need to exhale. Give the pressure a bro hug. Shorten those swings and savor every moment.
What’s got to stop: All this panicky running toward the finish line with two left feet, while looking backwards over the shoulder.
That’s a sad fall waiting to happen.