Dan's Dugout: Are Red-Hot Rockies for Real? • Latino Sports

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Dan’s Dugout: Are Red-Hot Rockies for Real?

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FLUSHING, NY – Every year, it seems, baseball has a Cinderella team.

The New York Mets, beset by a wave of injuries, had their moments in the sun. So did their Wednesday opponent, the Atlanta Braves, the first National League team to go from worst one year to first the next.

If early results serve as an accurate barometer, the Colorado Rockies could stake a claim on the 2017 title.

The youthful Colorado Rockies have been the surprise of the season

The youthful Colorado Rockies have been the surprise of the season

Armed with the youngest rotation in the major leagues, the Rockies rocketed to a strong start, winning 14 of their first 21 and taking the lead in a division usually dominated by the Dodgers and Giants. It ties the best start in club history, by the 1997 team.

Under new manager Bud Black, the Rockies have treated the Giants and Dodgers with disdain, winning nine of a dozen games against the two-headed monster from California.

The Denver denizens have also tried a different approach, winning games not only in cozy Coors Field but also away from the thin air. They posted a 7-3 road record early on, suggesting they could join the 2009 club as the only Rockies teams to post a winning mark away from home.

That was the year a 41-40 road record enabled the Rockies to rack up a wild-card slot in the postseason. In fact, it was the only time in their first 24 seasons they did that. Even the 2007 team that made it to the World Series was under .500 on the road.

These Rockies, unlike virtually all of the Colorado teams that preceded them,

The Coors Field Factor hasn't hurt the Rox on the road this year

The Coors Field Factor hasn’t hurt the Rox on the road this year

are winning with pitching and defense. Heading into play this week, they had just five errors. As a team.

In addition, the youthful pitching staff had held opposing hitters to a .303 on-base percentage – an improvement of more than 40 points from the previous year. The rotation’s average of 24 years and 300 days is the lowest in the game today.

Relief pitching has also been reliable for the Rockies, who reached 10 saves faster than any of the other 30 clubs. It helped that Greg Holland, given up for dead by the rest of baseball, converted his first nine save opportunities. Only Lee Smith, who opened with 12 straight in 1994, ever did better.

If not for a devastating injury wave, the Rockies would be even better. The team has gotten a big fat zero from first baseman Ian Desmond, leftfielder David Dahl, catcher Tom Murphy, and top starting pitcher Chad Bettis, all of whom are still on the disabled list, where they started the season.

Nolan Arenado is an NL MVP candidate Credit: Getty Images

Nolan Arenado is an NL MVP candidate
Credit: Getty Images

Also missing in action is the bat of slugger Carlos Gonzalez, one of two Rockies remaining from the 2013 Opening Day roster. Once he starts hitting, the Rockies should rally from the present middle-of-the-pack position in runs scored (they ranked 16th through their first 19 games).

Nolan Arenado, the Colorado third baseman, may just be the National League’s best player not named Brian Harper.

Elsewhere in baseball:

Mets shortstop Asdrubel Cabrera leads the majors in batting with men in scoring position (.875 entering play Wednesday) . . .

Bartolo Colon is still an innings eater

Bartolo Colon is still an innings eater

During all three of his seasons with the Mets, Atlanta’s Bartolo Colon led the team in innings pitched . . .

The Los Angeles Dodgers, off to a sluggish start after winning four straight NL West titles, still hope to land Brian Dozier, Ryan Braun, or both . . .

Shelby Miller, looking much better in his second year with the Diamondbacks, departed his last start early with forearm tightness, often harbinger of looming Tommy John surgery . . .

Thanks to the play of Mitch Haniger, Seattle is the apparent winner of the five-man winter deal with Arizona . . .

No wonder the Angels reached into the Atlanta farm system for David Hernandez: their list of injured relievers includes Cam Bedrosian, Huston Street, and Andrew Bailey . . .

Now that he’s been designated for assignment, utilityman Chase d’Arnaud hopes to be reunited with brother Travis, the starting catcher for the Mets . . .

Washington’s bullpen is so erratic that trade talks for ex-Yankee David Robertson, now with the White Sox, have intensified . . .

After missing the entire series against the Nationals at CitiField, Mets slugger Yoenis Cespedes hit an easy infield pop-up on the first pitch he saw Wednesday night and committed an error in the third, allowing Adonis Garcia to reach second on a ball that would have been a single . . .

The San Francisco Giants breathed a sigh of relief that star southpaw Madison Bumgarner won’t need surgery to repair the shoulder he hurt in a dirt bike mishap.

Yoenis Cespedes returned to the lineup Wednesday night Photo Credit: George Napolitano/Latino Sports

Yoenis Cespedes returned to the lineup Wednesday
Credit: George Napolitano/Latino Sports

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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