On May 29, after they were swept in a doubleheader by the Pirates (and failed to score a single run in either game), the Colorado Rockies were 15 games out of first place. Their record was 19-34, and it felt like the team was as low as they could go. A third consecutive losing season seemed assured.
But the Rockies haven’t stuck to the script, and now with only two weeks left in the season, they are one of the hottest teams in baseball. They may even play meaningful games down the stretch.
Since their nadir in late May, the Rockies are 51-46, and they find themselves only a few games behind the Padres in the NL West. The Padres were the darlings of the offseason last winter, picked by many to challenge the mighty Dodgers. The Rockies are 10-8 in September, and with five more games against the Giants and Dodgers, they could sway the outcome of the division title.
Games Down the Stretch With Playoff Implications
One thing MLB gets right is the playoff format. Unlike the NBA and NHL, where there is very little advantage to finishing in first place, in baseball there’s a penalty for not winning your division. A wild card team is forced to play a must-win game that puts the season in the balance. Baseball’s wild card is a “win or go home” affair.
That’s why the final few weeks of the 2021 season are fascinating: the Giants and Dodgers have clinched playoff spots and have the two best records in the National League, but one of them will be forced into a tenuous position as a wild card team. The fight for the division title is very important. The Rockies, with two more games against the Dodgers this week and three this weekend in Denver against the Giants, can impact that jostling for the division crown.
To be a spoiler, the Rockies will have to improve their performance against the two best teams in their league. As of Tuesday, the Rockies are 4-12 against the first place Giants, and 5-12 against the Dodgers. Even with their inspired play since June, Colorado is clearly not at the level of those two teams.
How Did the Rockies Rebound From A Terrible Start in 2021?
Ever since the Rockies came into the NL in 1993, they’ve struggled to deal with the think air of Denver, where trying to be a good pitcher is like trying to eat soup with a fork. But this season under manager Bud Black, the Rox have done a good job of getting quality performances from their starters.
As of this writing, the Rockies rank third in the NL in quality starts, behind only the Dodgers and Brewers. A few relatively unknown starters have led the way: Antonio Senzatela and German Marquez, both of whom are keeping the ball on the field and out of the think air. This is an unusual Rockies team: not the strongest offensive unit, but being carried by a pitching staff that keeps the team in games.