RECORDS: Cubs 16-15 Rockies 20-12
GAMETIMES: 7:40pm Monday and Tuesday, 2:10 Wednesday
TV: CSN Monday and Wednesday, WGN Tuesday
PURPLE HAZE: Purple Row
The zombie Cubs, assuming the weather will allow, we’ll kind of drift over to The Rock Pile tonight to start a series with the surprising Rockies. Even when the Rockies were bad, games here tend to get goofy. You’ll all recall Aroldis Chapman blowing his first save as a Cub there in August, and there’s always one. Which is exactly what the Cubs don’t need right now. They need straight and narrow. They almost certainly won’t get it.
First, let’s start with the weather. It’s supposed to rain tonight, and I’m sure the Cubs would love for the thing to be called right now. But this is where things could get a little strange. We know before the game that the call lies with the Rockies themselves, not the umps. So let’s see, they have a team that played 18 innings yesterday, has a bullpen that looks like the city of Detroit in the mid-9os right now, and arrived in Denver somewhere around 5am this morning. Just how anxious are they going to be to bag this one? Or would they push the Cubs into another late night? Hmmm… shenanigans afoot. Yes I am a conspiracy theorist, why do you ask?
Anyway, the Rockies are the NL’s biggest surprise so far, leading the NL West by a game ahead of the Dodgers. And the Rockies find themselves in something of a power gap in the National League. The Giants are in last and look well and truly fucked without Bumgarner. The NL East is the Nationals and everyone else, with the Mets going total Mets. The NL Central blows as a whole right now, with no team more than two games over .500. It’s still awfully early, but it sure looks like the wild card spots are more than open for the likes of Colorado and Arizona, and that’s assuming the Dodgers overtake them both. If they don’t…
When you hear the Rockies are on top of the division, you’d assume they’re mashing balls all over Coors Field, winning 8-6, and doing just enough of that at sea level on the road to maintain their record Not so. Rocky Top is only 9-7 at home and 11-5 on the road so far this year. And while they have some big offensive weapons in Arenado, Blackmon, and Reynolds so far, the offense has actually been more toward middling than scary.
The rotation hasn’t exactly blown anyone way either. Jon Gray is hurt, and only Kyle Freeland has a FIP under 4.00 (which is probably par for the course as a Rockie). Only Tyler Anderson has something of an impressive strikeout rate, and only Senzatela is keeping his walks to an acceptable rate. It’s kind of the Colorado rotation you’ve always pictured so far.
No, it’s the bullpen that’s been doing the heavy lifting. Mike Dunn, Jake McGee, and closer Greg Holland have turned the last nine outs for their opponents into a squash match, with all of them having a K/9 over 10.00 and FIPs below 2.00. Chris Rusin has been something of the bridge, throwing 17 innings in just nine appearances, and he’s also giving up nothing. Adam Ottavino has been all over the place but has been able to hold on long enough to not give up much. The Rockies have the second best team FIP out of the pen, and the third best xFIP. When they’ve been able to turn things into a six-inning game, their only-ok offense and pitching has been enough. Will it last? Probably not. Could they remain in the hunt for a coin-flip? Yeah, especially if Gray returns to be what he has flashed and Chatwood puts it together.
If you’re a Cubs fan and feeling a little apprehensive, we feel you. You have an overworked and depleted pen heading into Coors Field. There isn’t a lot of roster moves to make unless someone else gets DL’d. But baseball will always baseball on you, and maybe this is where the rotation finally comes around simply because it wouldn’t make any sense. We can only hope.