In case you decided to wait until the weekend before checking on the start of the 2023 baseball season, you’ve missed quite a bit in the first two days.
The Colorado Rockies are 2-0 thanks to a pair of wins on the road — of all places — against the San Diego Padres, a club many think will be at the top of the National League West this year.
It may not make sense that the standings look upside down right now, but here are a few we learned about the Rockies after the first two games.
1. A good baseball game can make life seem a lot happier.
The conversation going into Opening Day was about whether or not this team would lose 100 games. The left fielder was still in Arizona and the team would have go into battle with one less player than the opposition. The closer went on the injured list because of anxiety issues. And a series of key players were already ruled out for much of the season with a litany of injuries.
Then they played the games.
There were actually 15 games in total played on Opening Day, a first since expansion in 1998. It hasn’t been since 1968 that every team had a game on Opening Day, yet that was back when there were only 20 teams. It may not be on the books officially as a national holiday, but it is for all of us.
2A. Rockies veterans will lead the way this season.
In a strange statline from Thursday night that saw Colorado put together 17 base hits and strike out 17 times at the plate for the first time in modern history, the well-seasoned Kris Bryant, Charlie Blackmon and C.J. Cron combined for 10 of those hits, contributing only one of those strikeouts. The trio followed that up with four of the team’s nine hits during Friday’s 4-1 win.
The Rockies dynamic starting pitching duo of Germán Márquez and Kyle Freeland kept San Diego’s bats mired in the marine layer during each of their six-inning outings. They went into Petco Park and shut down a much vaunted Padres team. José Ureña and Austin Gomber are up next to perform their best version of “Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better).
2B. Production will be needed through all nine spots in the lineup.
The 6th-9th spot in the batting order struck out a combined eight times on Opening Day, leaving 14 of the team’s 27 stranded on base. Friday it was the 7th-9th hitters going 1-for-12.
Colorado’s best hitters will carry them through so many games this season, but if they’d really like to continue winning games by the handful, it’ll require performances all throughout the order on a night-to-night basis to keep them afloat.
3. C.J. Cron will still be a part of the trade deadline conversation.
After signing as a non-roster invite ahead of the 2021 season, Cron made the roster, got comfortable in Colorado and was able to have the best season of his career. Surely he wouldn’t do that again, right? He did.
Cron was even better in 2022 before a hit-by-pitch in early July derailed his second-half. He still managed to drive home 102 RBI, becoming the first to reach the century mark for the franchise since 2019. But the calls from other general managers to Bill Schmidt still focused on the negatives, especially the doubt as to whether or not Cron could sustain his production follow the hand injury.
Back issues limited Cron during Spring Training. Still, he showed the enormous upside of his abilities with two home runs right out the gate. Opening Day was a reminder of the talent Colorado’s 2022 All-Star still possesses. It’s only his value on the trade market that remains to be agreed upon.
4. Baseball is better with the new rules.
The pitch clock is working. The dull moments of nothingness in between the exciting action have been removed. The 15 games on Opening Day this year were a full 26 minutes quicker than the seven in 2022.
Colorado had one of the longer games at 2:56. Considering the game was pushed back from 2:10pm to a 7:40pm, it was great for fans to be able to turn off their screens before 10:45pm on a school night. We can all get used to that.
Stolen bases are on the rise, too, thanks to the new rules. Take Yonathan Daza. Despite being the team’s leadoff hitter and center fielder, he hasn’t stolen a base since May 2021. His swipe of second base with two outs in the seventh on Friday gave Bryant an opportunity to push across another run with a single, but that would not be the case. In the future, stolen bases like that will make the difference in tight ball games all season long.
5. Bullpen will miss bats on the road.
Sneaky good is the word that best describes the potential in the Rockies’ bullpen. Littered with veterans who have had multiple seasons of success throughout their career, the relief corps will be a strength for manger Bud Black this year.
If you weren’t already buzzing about Justin Lawrence before the season, you probably are now. His slider has been a thing of astounding beauty and it was on full display during the eighth inning on Thursday night. With three of the Padres best hitters coming to the plate, Lawrence struck out all three of their All-Stars: Manny Machado, Xander Bogaerts and Jake Cronenworth.
Over their six combined innings of work, the bullpen have given up four hits, walked two and struck out nine. Only a run by Brad Hand on Friday against his former team is the only demerit.
Considering closer Daniel Bard is unavailable, things have lined up quite well for the 2-0 Rockies so far.