We're a fifth of the way through the season, and the Colorado Rockies are 22-13.
We're a fifth of the way through the season, and the Rockies are allowing 4.49 runs per game.
We're a fifth of the way through the season, and the Rockies are 18-0 when leading after six innings, 19-0 when leading after eight innings and 9-0 in one-run games.
Sometimes the analysis is simple: It's the pitching, stupid. That runs-per-game total might not seem so impressive -- they're 15th in the majors with a 4.19 ERA -- but that would rank as the third-lowest figure in Rockies history, behind the 4.41 in 2009 and 4.43 in 2010. Those were good teams. The 2009 squad won 92 games and made the playoffs, the last time the Rockies were in the postseason.
The huge factor, however, is that record when leading in the late innings. Last year, the Rockies lost 14 games they were leading after six innings and lost six games they were leading after eight innings. They were 12-20 in one-run games, and the bullpen was a big reason why, with a 22-29 record and an MLB-worst 5.13 ERA.
Now the bullpen -- at least the back end of the bullpen with Greg Holland, Adam Ottavino, Jake McGee and Mike Dunn -- is good, maybe even great. Those four have combined for 50 innings and just two home runs allowed, and Holland is 14-for-14 in save chances. He picked up another one in Wednesday's 3-0 win at Coors Field over the suddenly mediocre Cubs, but the star of the game was rookie right-hander German Marquez.
In just his seventh major league start, Marquez throttled the Cubs with eight scoreless innings, taking a no-hitter into the seventh. He fanned eight and walked just one, and his 99th and final pitch was clocked at 97 mph. His Game Score of 83 means Marquez's start ranks as one of the best in Coors Field history, tied for 15th overall and tied for seventh for a Rockies pitcher. Carlos Gonzalez helped out with his second spectacular diving catch in as many days:
— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) May 11, 2017
The Rockies took two of three from the Cubs after splitting Tuesday's doubleheader, and look at the ages of their starting pitchers in the series, as Antonio Senzatela and Kyle Freeland started the doubleheader:
— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) May 11, 2017
It's fun to dream about these young starters, and eventually they'll get Jon Gray, the Opening Day starter, back from his broken foot. My concern, despite this early success, is that they haven't been striking out many batters. We've had 145 pitchers start at least four games so far, and here's where the Rockies' starters rank:
64. Tyler Anderson: 21.1 percent
70. German Marquez: 20.4 percent
101. Tyler Chatwood: 17.7 percent
125. Kyle Freeland: 15.1 percent
133. Antonio Senzatela: 13.6 percent
Anderson is the one guy with a decent rate -- although Marquez certainly has potential, which he flashed against the Cubs -- but he's also the guy with the 6.69 ERA and nine home runs in 36⅓ innings. On the other hand, maybe these guys can find a way to thrive. Freeland has the second-best ground ball rate among starters and has allowed just one home run in 40 innings. Chatwood is 13th out of those 145 pitches in ground ball rate. Senzatela is the guy likely to regress from his current level. He has just 24 Ks in 44 innings without a notable ability to induce grounders. He doesn't beat himself with walks and has certainly pitched with a lot of confidence, but it's hard to succeed in 2017 with that kind of strikeout rate.
Getting Gray, a legitimate strikeout pitcher, back in the rotation will be huge. Rockies fans will also point out that the offense hasn't even been that good yet; CarGo is still below .200, Trevor Story has struggled and DJ LeMahieu is way below his 2016 production. At some point, they'll lose some one-run games. Maybe the starting pitching regresses, but maybe the offense starts winning some slugfests. It all adds up to what should be a fun summer of baseball in Denver.
Buck's blunder. Jeurys Familia blew a 3-2 lead for the Mets in the ninth, but the most important ninth inning Wednesday was the Nationals scoring three runs off the Orioles' Brad Brach to win 7-6. Jayson Werth started the bottom half with a home run on the 11th pitch of the at-bat, and then it got weird. Bryce Harper doubled, and Ryan Zimmerman grounded out to Brach. Buck Showalter then intentionally walked Daniel Murphy, the potential winning run. Guess what? Murphy scored the winning run after Anthony Rendon singled to load the bases and Matt Wieters won it:
Bottom of the 9th?
Take it away Matt Wieters... pic.twitter.com/ZfVdTWZJ2K
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) May 11, 2017
You can see Showalter's thinking. Over the past two seasons, Brach has a large platoon split -- .274 versus lefties, .140 versus righties -- so you walk Murphy to get the righty-righty matchup with Rendon. If Brach gets a double play, Showalter looks like a genius. I wouldn't put the winning run on base there, however, unless it's Barry Bonds circa 2001. If Murphy beats you, he beats you, but free baserunners often lead to trouble. Bottom line: The Orioles bullpen has done well so far without Zach Britton; we'll see if this was just a blip or the first crack.
Mariners climb to .500. For the first time all season! Earlier in the day, they placed Hisashi Iwakuma on the DL, meaning four-fifths of their projected rotation is now on the DL. Robinson Cano, who was questionable after tweaking his quad Tuesday, went 4-for-5 in the 11-6 win over the Phillies, including his eighth home run. That has always been one of his underappreciated strengths: He's out there every day. Ben Gamel also continues to rake, going 2-for-4 with two walks. In his past eight games, he has hit .483/.571/.724. Obviously, with so many injuries, it's going to be a tough road for the Mariners, but they can score some runs.
Bad blood watch. Chris Archer was dominating the Royals with a 7-0 lead in the seventh inning, on his way to an 11-strikeout gem, when he hit Salvador Perez. That made Perez angry: "He's going to throw at me because I have two hits against him. I think he was mad. But I don't think that's the right way, you know? He never throws the first pitch inside. We all see the reports he has. He never throws inside. Just get [me] out, you know?" That was followed by an eight-letter word. Stay tuned.
Quick thoughts ... Have we mentioned Jedd Gyorko? He's raking, up to .351 with six home runs, and it's kind of funny that the Cardinals started the season with Jhonny Peralta ahead of him at third base, even with Gyorko coming off a 30-homer season. Which maybe says something about Mike Matheny's ability to judge talent. ... The Don Mattingly leadoff watch: Dee Gordon hit ninth again, with Derek Dietrich in the leadoff spot and J.T. Realmuto batting second. The Cardinals beat the Marlins, who have slid to 13-20. The Marlins, Phillies and Braves are all 2-8 over the past 10 games. Yuck. ... The Cubs are 17-17, the Red Sox are 17-16 and how do you feel about those preseason World Series favorites? ... Kyle Kendrick has allowed 12 runs in two starts for the Red Sox, and I have no idea why they thought that was a good idea. ... I'm starting to love this Dodgers lineup with Cody Bellinger and Chris Taylor. Joc Pederson hit leadoff on Wednesday with Andrew Toles out for the season after tearing his ACL. I love that idea as well. Stick with it, Dave Roberts. Heard this on MLB Network: Who do you like for the next 10 years, Bellinger or Aaron Judge? Ooh, that's a fun one. Bellinger is three years younger, so ...