The disparity between 5,280 feet above sea level at Coors Field and the relative zero feet of elevation of most coastal cities has often plagued any traveling baseball team tasked to make adjustments on the hitting and pitching side of the game.
So, when the Rockies were gifted with a three-game series against the Marlins to begin their 2019 season – followed by three more against the Tampa Bay Rays – its seemed like an incredibly positive omen for the one of the best rosters assembled in team history.
Sadly, after a handful of games, everything turned sideways.
Starting with a 2-0 record, Colorado looked to keep the unbeaten streak alive to move to 3-0 for only the fifth time in franchise history and first time since 2015. The two victories were also the first consecutive wins at Marlins Park in the same season; Colorado hadn’t won two straight in Southern Florida since May 23, 2012 and August 23, 2013.
On paper, the Rockies were flawless as far as the loss column was concerned. However, there were cracks in the foundation and would quickly lose some key contributors at a tremendous rate.
Antonio Senzatela (blister infection, right heel) and Chris Rusin (mid-back strain) were placed on the 10-day Injured List to begin the season. Both pitchers would suffer challenging campaigns: Senzatela was optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque for seven starts midseason and finished with a 6.71 ERA while Rusin was designated for assignment after two games and completed the year at Triple-A as a starting pitcher before electing free agency in the offseason.
To make matters worse, offseason acquisition Daniel Murphy suffered a fractured left index finger in the previous game on a ground ball whilst stationed at his new home at first base, forcing a stint on the IL.
Murph was also positioned as the team’s no.2 hitter behind Charlie Blackmon and ahead of Nolan Arenado due to his ability to take pitches, extend at bats, and put the ball in play; going into 2019, Murphy had never struck out more than 95 times in a season nor struck out at a rate of 14% or higher in any full season since becoming a full-timer in 2009.
The lineup required an alteration and Ryan McMahon, who spent the entirety of Spring Training focusing on his new position of second base, was forced to move over to first base.
The Rockies had 22 players make 25 injured list stints in 2019, including six 60-day placements, their most stints on the IL since 2016.
In a few days time, four more hit the IL for Colorado: LHP Jake McGee on April 2 (left knee sprain); McMahon on April 6 (left elbow sprain); LHP Tyler Anderson on April 7 (left knee inflammation); and OF David Dahl on April 8 (core injury). Later in the month, three more would join the fractured fray: C Chris Iannetta on April 15 (right lat strain); OF Noel Cuevas on April 16 (left quad strain); and LHP Kyle Freeland on April 22 (left middle finger blister).
By the time September rolled around, the season was all but lost, and all five starting pitchers in the Rockies’ Opening Day rotation were on the injured list during the final month.
Game three starter Anderson gave up two runs to the Fish in the bottom of the second and was immediately supported when the offense responded with two runs. Anderson retired the heart of Miami’s lineup in order and the game began anew to start the fourth.
A two-run double by SS Miguel Rojas opened the gates in the bottom half of the frame, and Colorado would only respond with a solo home run by Ian Desmond off RHP Tyler Kinley, who’d be selected off waivers by the Rockies in the offseason.
The 7-3 loss started a 1-12 spiral that included an eight-game losing streak and it would not be until May 29 before Colorado could climb to .500 on the season.
On the day, Anderson allowed five earned runs to begin a troubling trend of five starts with at least five runs, tying the former University of Oregon hurler for the second-longest streak in franchise history.
Andy missed only 13 games in his first IL stint before hitting the 60-day injured list on May 22 with a left knee chondral defect, effectively ending his season. In the offseason, he was placed on waivers and claimed by the San Francisco Giants.
Colorado is 0-2 on the March 30 and has never played a game earlier than March 28. The start of the 2020 season for all 30 MLB teams was scheduled for March 26, the earliest in MLB history.
Traditionally, the first game of every MLB season was held in Cincinnati as an honor to the first and oldest professional baseball team, the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings.