What's going on with the Rockies?
It should come as no surprise that the Rockies are at the top of the National League in both runs scored and runs allowed. After all, the team plays its home games around 5,000 feet in the air at Coors Field in Denver. Even with the humidifier in place, baseballs still carry out of that yard as if they were tied to helium balloons.
What's made this Rockies team successful so far is its ability to win on the road. Colorado has long been victim to vicious home/road splits; the team naturally has trouble hitting the ball when it visits other ballparks, but the pitching has often failed to balance things out with better figures away from Coors. However, in April 2014, the Rockies are 8-9 on the road. That's not as good as the 2013 Mets by any means, but it's a far better pace than the dreadful 29-52 mark that Colorado posted last year.
That season saw the Rockies hit for an OPS of .808 at home and just .672 on the road. In 2014, the team's home OPS is a whopping .984 while it falls to .705 elsewhere. That road OPS might not seem like a huge improvement, but the .705 mark in 2014 is a bit above NL average mark of .696 (last year the average OPS was .703). If the Rockies can continue to hit like an average team or better when away from home, they might just win enough games this season to make a solid home record stand up.
We've got a long way to go, though. For now, the Rockies have to be happy about winning three straight series over division rivals, as well as a 16-13 overall record despite owning a starting rotation that lacks star power.
Who are these guys?
Troy Tulowitzki isn't the only Rockies player who just got done with a hot, hot April. Outfielder Charlie Blackmon has also been on fire lately, and his incredible performance comes as a bit of a surprise. The 27-year-old has never been a big strikeout guy, but so far he's only been punched out eight times in 112 plate appearances. That's just three more strikeouts than home runs for Blackmon, who has previously reached double-digit taters in just two minor league seasons. After a miraculous six-hit game back on April 4, it seems Blackmon decided that he liked being awesome and therefore never really cooled down. It will be interesting to see how long he can keep this up, because there's no real reason he should be doing what he's doing, even in Colorado.
Another interesting, youngish Colorado outfielder who is turning 28 this season is Brandon Barnes. He came over in a winter trade along with Jordan Lyles in exchange for Dexter Fowler. The deal looks like a "win" for Colorado so far because of how effective the former Astro Lyles has pitched, but Barnes hasn't been half bad himself. Now thrust into some playing time thanks to Michael Cuddyer's disabled list stint, Barnes has seen his walk rate jump from 4.7 percent last year to 10.6 percent this year. Similarly, his previously sky-high strikeout rate has dropped from 28.5 percent to 19.7 percent. Barnes isn't going to continue batting .345 (his BABIP is .452), but if he continues to be a good defender in center field and hold onto some of the plate discipline improvement he's shown, he can be at least be a solid reserve for years to come.
Who's on the mound?
Thursday: Bartolo Colon vs. Juan Nicasio
If you had to choose one game to be the typical "Coors Field" game in which a bunch of runs are scored and you have to go to bed before it's all over, it would probably be this one. Colon has been rock solid since giving up all those home runs in Anaheim two-and-a-half weeks ago, but he's been allowing a ton of fly balls this season, and that's never good for a pitcher heading into Coors Field. Plus, Colon has been striking out way more guys than a one-pitch artist such as himself should be able to. On the Rockies' side of things, Nicasio is coming off his first full season of MLB starts, but in 2013 he only made it through 157.2 innings in 31 starts. 2014 hasn't been much friendlier, as the 27-year-old has thrown five frames or fewer in three of his five starts. That includes his two most recent home starts, in which he's allowed nine runs in 10 innings.
Friday: Zack Wheeler vs. Jorge De La Rosa
In his last start, Wheeler finally did what we all wanted him to do: He struck out 10 rival Marlins while allowing just one run in six innings. Now that he's shown he still has dominant strikeout stuff, it'd be cool to see Wheeler maybe finish the seventh inning or walk less than three batters in a game. He's failed to do both of those things in his last three outings. Another guy with good stuff but problems elsewhere in his game is De La Rosa. He's always missed enough bats to succeed at Coors, but walks, injuries, and an inconsistent ground ball rate have kept him from truly flourishing over the years. This season, De La Rosa got whacked during his first three starts, but has since recovered to allow just five runs in his last three. His performances have been hurt by a 63-percent strand rate but boosted by a 58-percent ground ball rate.
Saturday: Jenrry Mejia vs. Franklin Morales
After a stellar start to the season, Mejia finally blew up last week against the Marlins. He only walked one batter, which was a season-low for him, but he also allowed eight hits and six runs in just five-and-two-thirds innings. The setback doesn't have to last long, though, as Mejia appears to have the kind of stuff that he needs to stick in a big league rotation. On the other hand, Coors Field is a tough place for a pitcher looking to get back on track. Mejia's opponent will be Morales, who was originally signed by the Rockies back in 2002 before being purchased by the Red Sox in 2011 and pitching mostly out of the team's bullpen for the next three years. A winter trade for utility infielder Jonathan Herrera has Morales back with his original club, where his not-completely-terrible numbers against righties have landed him a starting job. He was supposed to be ousted from the rotation once Jhoulys Chacin recovered from a shoulder injury, but now with Tyler Chatwood hitting the disabled list, Morales should keep starting games for at least a while longer.
Sunday: Dillon Gee vs. Jhoulys Chacin
With zero runs allowed in two of his last three starts, Gee is looking like he's rounding into form. He was a bit out of control against the Marlins last Sunday, but some timely strikeouts and double plays helped Gee navigate around any problems. If he keeps rolling along this weekend, Chacin will he hard-pressed to match him. The 26-year-old Venezuelan is reportedly set to make his first start of the season after spending a month on the disabled list with a shoulder strain. He's the budding star of the Colorado rotation, but it's a bit of a mystery how Chacin only allowed 11 home runs in 197.1 innings in 2013. His ground ball rate isn't especially high, and he doesn't miss a ton of bats. In fact, for a budding star, Chacin doesn't do anything particularly well, so it will be interesting to see if last season's 3.47 ERA and 1.26 WHIP can hold up.
Prediction: The Mets' offense is able to score enough to work a split against the Rockies.
What about some GIFs?
With the Rockies in Queens last August, Matt Harvey pitched his first career complete game shutout.
Mets fans might not be happy about Nolan Arenado beating out David Wright for the Gold Glove award last season, but you have to admit: The kid is pretty darn good.
Perhaps the Rockies got the idea to make LaTroy Hawkins their closer by watching him record a save against them last summer. Ike Davis helped out with a diving catch to end the game.
In the same game on August 6, Eric Young Jr. endeared himself to Mets fans by scoring from second on an infield hit.