In­con­sis­tent of­fense is a ma­jor con­cern

But pur­ple-tinged op­ti­mism colors start of sec­ond half

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Pa­trick Saun­ders Pa­trick Saun­ders is the pres­i­dent of the Base­ball Writ­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica: psaun­ders@den­ver­post.com or @psaun­der­sdp

NEW YORK» The Rock­ies are feel­ing pretty good about them­selves as they open the sec­ond half of the sea­son Fri­day night against the Mets at Citi Field.

For­get that they lost 13-of-18 games be­fore the all-star break. They’re fo­cus­ing on the up­beat note that they took two of three from the Chicago White Sox last week­end. It was their first series vic­tory since their June 15-18 sweep vs. San Fran­cisco, and it was capped off Sun­day by rookie Kyle Free­land’s near no-hit­ter and the team’s 12-hit at­tack in a 10-0 vic­tory.

“It was a big deal, it was a big series, be­cause we hadn’t won one in a while,” third base­man Nolan Are­nado said a cou­ple of hours be­fore he played Tues­day in his third All-Star Game. “Games like that make you want to play the next day. So it was al­most like I didn’t want to take a break with the way we were hit­ting and the way Kyle pitched.”

Adding to the pur­ple-tinged op­ti­mism are two re­al­i­ties. One, Colorado’s 52-39 record is a fran­chise best at the all-star break. Two, although the Rock­ies’ quest for a Na­tional League West ti­tle seems like lit­tle more than a fan­tasy now, what with the Los An­ge­les Dodgers lead­ing them by 9K games, the Rock­ies hold a 7K-game lead for the sec­ond wild-card play­off berth. Also, they trail Ari­zona by only two games for the top wild-card spot.

Still, an un­der­cur­rent threat­ens the Rock­ies’ play­off as­pi­ra­tions. Their of­fense is not pro­duc­ing nearly as well as ex­pected. That has been the case for much of the sea­son.

“I think our of­fense has prob­a­bly been the most roller-coaster as­pect of this team,” gen­eral man­ager Jeff Bridich said. “Some­times it looks great and some­times it seems to com­pletely dis­ap­pear.”

A cur­sory glance makes ev­ery­thing seem all right. The Rock­ies’ .270 bat­ting av­er­age ranks sec­ond in the Na­tional League, be­hind pow­er­house Wash­ing­ton (.277), and their av­er­age of 5.07 runs per game ranks third be­hind Wash­ing­ton (5.52) and the Dodgers (5.14).

But other sta­tis­tics are trou­bling. The Rock­ies are av­er­ag­ing 1.14 home runs per game, 11th in the Na­tional League. Car­los Gon­za­lez’s power out­age has been a big part of the prob­lem. He has only six home runs and 22 RBIs in 263 at-bats, prompt­ing man­ager Bud Black to bat him sev­enth last Sun­day, the low­est Gon­za­lez had bat­ted in the lineup since bat­ting eighth Aug. 13, 2009, against Pitts­burgh.

Ac­cord­ing to Fan­Graphs, the Rock­ies have hit the ball hard only 29.5 per­cent of the time, rank­ing 13th in the Na­tional League. De­spite play­ing their home games at Coors Field, the Rock­ies’ .759 OPS (on­base per­cent­age plus slug­ging) ranks just sixth in the Na­tional League.

It’s not only Gon­za­lez who has strug­gled. Trevor Story, who slammed 27 homers in 97 games as a rookie last sea­son, has bat­ted only .224 with 11 homers and has struck out an alarm­ing 39 per­cent of the time this year.

Ian Des­mond, who missed sig­nif­i­cant time with a bro­ken hand to be­gin the sea­son, and is now on the 10-day dis­abled list be­cause of a strained calf, is slash­ing at only .283/.321/.388. The Rock­ies were no doubt ex­pect­ing more from a player they signed for five years and $70 mil­lion.

Lead­off hit­ter Char­lie Black­mon, the Rock­ies’ first-half MVP who is bat­ting .321 and leads the team with 20 homers, is con­fi­dent the of­fense can turn things around.

“I think our of­fense can pick it up a lit­tle bit,” he said. “I feel like we haven’t done a great job play­ing team of­fense — one through nine. With sit­u­a­tional hit­ting, I feel like we have prob­a­bly left a few runs on the ta­ble. I’m kind of ex­pect­ing the whole team to el­e­vate its game.”

On the plus side, out­fielder Ger­ardo Parra gave the of­fense a boost when he re­turned from a quadri­ceps in­jury, hit­ting .538 (5-for-13) with three dou­bles in the three-game series against the White Sox last week­end. Also, out­fielder David Dahl, out of ac­tion since the sec­ond Cac­tus League game in spring train­ing, has be­gun his mi­nor-league re­hab as­sign­ment. He could pro­vide a boost when he’s ready to join the big-league team.

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