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There are never enough ways or opportunities to beat a top-tier team like old friend Nolan Arenado the St. Louis Cardinals, so it was a true delight to watch the Colorado Rockies go up on the Cards 6-2 when ace Kyle Freeland left the game, headed into the 7th inning on Tuesday night. The Rox had shocked the redbirds the day before, 7-4, and a win would ensure the team a series win on St. Louis’ three-game swing into town. A win on Tuesday would pull them back to .500, 12 games into the year. And then…
And then Jake Bird, Dinelson Lamet, and Pierce Johnson promptly gave up seven runs to the Cardinals, and Colorado couldn’t mount any offense in return. A stunning sterling effort by Freeland fell wasted, as the Rox went on to lose that game 9-6, before losing the the rubber match 7-4, with the bullpen ending up on the hook for four of the seven Cardinal runs there.
That was the national narrative, missing the fact that three of the seven runs in that middle game had been unearned, or that the Rockies only led 1-0 in the final match, with the rest a back-and-forth affair throughout. The bullpen certainly wasn’t blameless, but it also wasn’t the gaping wound the 10,000 foot coverage made it out to be.
The bullpen trend isn’t new, either, in this season or in Rockies history. Coming into the weekend, the Rockies bullpen carries the worst ERA in the majors (5.48) into the second half of April, all while they head out to play three of their next four series on the road. Home cooking hasn’t done the Rockies a ton of favors, either, with the meltdowns from the back half of the pitching bench scattered across home and away games alike.
This particular malady dots a lot of Rockies history, as well, with pitching a notoriously tough beast at altitude for all but those who learned here in the first place. Most recently, the Rockies came into the 2021 campaign carrying a whopping 5.84 ERA into the second half of May before finally turning things around for the better part of the season. Rockies fans worry… If the current team has bullpen struggles of a similar length this year, will the season be over before the Boys of Summer actually hit… Summer?
But that’s just it. Struggles on the team are not limited to the bullpen this season, with three of this season’s five starters carrying ERAs north of 6.5 (6.75, 7.45, and 9.90). There are also issues getting the offense to fully light, with five of nine regular starters carrying batting averages below .300, and three of those currently hitting in the .220’s. The issues facing this season’s Rockies are multiple, but many of them can be fixed with a lot of consistency and a little bit of good fortune, bullpen included.
The bullpen’s league-worst 5.48 ERA is also a little misleading, as the Rockies have five relievers with ERAs of 6.75, 6.75, 7.71, 8.10, and a whopping 9.95 pushing that average so high. On the opposite end of that spectrum, there are also guys coming in at 1.23, 2.16, and 2.45. Some real quality work. It’s just nerve-wracking for the team to not know which end of that spectrum they’re getting to ensure the W sticks.
Adding insult to literal injury, the team also finds itself trying to making all of this work in the early going without star Daniel Bard, who should also be a huge buoy for the team when he is able to return healthy and ready.
Baseball isn’t even 10% of the way into it’s season, and the Colorado Rockies are just now finding their balance at nearly every spot up and down the roster. While the bullpen is one of the main points of focus for the national pundits who are barely taking a glance at the team they all predicted to be at the bottom of the division, they may be missing what is possible for this team if only a few of those pieces solidify. Easy to see a rough number and light the banners, but here’s betting… hoping, really… that by the end of the year, they won’t think this bullpen, or much of any of the rest of the Rockies lineup, is bullsh–.