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The Colorado Rockies put up football scores at Coors Field and forget to show up on the road.
That’s what tradition has bestowed upon the Rockies. Their fans have almost accepted that if the team is going to make a run at the playoffs, that they simply have to cross their fingers and hope for a few wins away from Coors Field. Even in the good years, like 2009, the Rockies were just one game over .500 on the road.
In 2015, a year in which nearly everyone looks upon as a rebuilding season, the Rockies are quietly bucking the trend. An 11-game losing streak to start the month of May made it easy to stop paying attention to anything Rockies related. However, on the final day of May, the Rockies wrapped up a 5-1 road trip, sweeping the Phillies in decisive fashion.
After the 4-1 win on Sunday, the Rockies have 22 wins. Amazingly, 14 of those have come on the road. A year ago, the Rockies won just 21 games away from Coors Field all season long.
The turnaround is especially surprising considering the fact that the Rockies weak link heading into the season was their starting pitching. Their youth was a huge question. Also, until the past couple of weeks, that fear was realized when the team struggled to get starters through five innings, let alone six or seven.
Suddenly the Rockies are playing well and their starting pitching is the main reason.
On Sunday the surprise outing came from Chris Rusin. It was his second great performance of the week for the club. This time, however, it didn’t come in a starting roll, it came as a reliever. Barely into the 2nd inning, starter Jordan Lyles was forced out of the game after his big toe that was injured a week ago flared up. That forced Rusin into the game.
On Tuesday he had surprised everyone by making a spot start in place of the injured Jorge De La Rosa. He delivered an unbelievably efficient six innings in the Rockies win. On Sunday he was summonsed to the mound and threw 4-2/3 innings of shutout baseball. He gave up only four hits and one walk. He tired in the 7th inning, allowing the Phillies to load the bases with no one out. Rockies manager Walt Weiss opted to go to the pen, putting Brooks Brown into a precarious situation.
Brown, a member of the bullpen that itself has been very surprising, didn’t just limit the damage, he completely fended it off. Brown needed a strike out in the worst way. It would give him the ability to get a ground ball double play if he made the right pitches. Brown got that strike out, but instead of shooting for a double play ball, Brown made it look easy, striking out the side without giving up a run.
Sunday was the type of game in which good teams find a way to hold on a win. In year’s past, the Rockies would have lost a game like Sunday’s. Perhaps it is simply the way the cards have fallen over the last few weeks, or perhaps it is what Rockies fans have been waiting years for. Maybe it is the Rockies starting to turn the corner and go from a struggling team into a team that believes in themselves and feels like they can win on any given day.
The Rockies objective in 2015 should be to start building a new identity. They need to define who they are and become a team that knows on any given day that they have a chance to play good baseball and scratch out a win. That attitude was missing over the past few seasons.
While altitude certainly takes it’s toll on the Rockies and can’t be disputed as a factor that the Rockies will always have to overcome, this run by the Rockies might be showing how far a winning attitude can take a team. This team doesn’t seem fazed by the road. They have been playing to their strengths and finding ways to win. They have been throwing strikes and getting big hits when they need them.
That type of baseball will get wins at any altitude.