Slump­ing Rock­ies face tough is­sues

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - Patrick Saun­ders, The Den­ver Post

Full dis­clo­sure: I’m writ­ing this col­umn the morning af­ter the Rock­ies’ ugly 14-2 loss to the Mets on Fri­day night. There­fore, my view­point is tainted by the han­gover of that de­feat.

Now, with­out fur­ther ado, I present the current state of the Rock­ies — the good, the bad and the un­known.

The good: Char­lie Black­mon proved again Fri­day that he is the Rock­ies’ tough­est, most pre­pared and most con­sis­tent player this sea­son. On a night when the Rock­ies man­aged only six hits and struck out 11 times, Black­mon scrapped to­gether two hits.

The bad: Car­los Gon­za­lez bat­ted 0-for-3 and his av­er­age dipped to .218. He has six home runs — to­tal — and is show­ing no sign of bust­ing his slump like he did in 2015. Af­ter a slow start that sea­son, Cargo de­liv­ered big time in July, bat­ting .386 with 11 homers and 24 RBIS.

The un­known: Will Gon­za­lez re­group enough to help the Rock­ies this sea­son? Or will he con­tinue to be an of­fen­sive li­a­bil­ity? Will man­ager Bud Black be forced to bench the three­time all-star when David Dahl re­turns? Will Black de­cide, right now, that he must go with a start­ing out­field of Ger­ardo Parra, Raimel Tapia and Black­mon?

The good: Jon Gray throws a 96 mph fast­ball and a 90 mph slider. When he’s on, he pitches like an ace.

The bad: When Gray can’t lo­cate his pitches, he’s been bad. Af­ter 44 big-league starts, he’s 12-13 with a 4.95 ERA.

The un­known: Af­ter Fri­day’s fi­asco, Black said: “Jon is a guy who has to con­tinue to clear some hur­dles on the pitch­ing side. And he will in time.” But the ques­tion is, when will Gray’s time come? The Rock­ies need his best right now.

The good: Short­stop Trevor Story con­tin­ues to work his tail off and keep his head up.

The bad: Story is bat­ting only .222 and striking out nearly 40 per­cent of the time. His OPS (on-base per­cent­age, plus slug­ging) has dropped from .909 last sea­son to .694.

The un­known: Pat Valaika, who isn’t as good an in­fielder as Story, is see­ing more and more play­ing time. Does that mean the next step is send­ing Story to Al­bu­querque for a Triple-a tuneup? The time may have come.

The good: Closer Greg Hol­land and left-handed setup re­liev­ers Jake Mcgee and Chris Rusin have been ter­rific, com­bin­ing for a 2.23 ERA. Hol­land has a save in 28-of-29 op­por­tu­ni­ties.

The bad: The ERA for the Rock­ies’ bullpen is 4.48, good enough for fifth in the Na­tional League, but the bullpen’s 1.34 WHIP ranks seventh. It’s be­come in­creas­ingly clear that Adam Ot­tavino (5.74 ERA), Mike Dunn (5.22), Scott Oberg (5.70) and Jor­dan Lyles (6.69) are un­re­li­able in tight games.

The un­known: Will gen­eral man­ager Jeff Bridich swing a deal, or two, to bol­ster the Rock­ies’ bullpen be­fore the July 31 trade dead­line? Will he be will­ing to give up prospects to ac­quire an im­pact right-handed re­liever such as the Mets’ Ad­di­son Reed, the Padres’ Bran­don Mau­rer, the Phillies’ Pat Neshek or the Marlins’ AJ Ramos?

The good: The Rock­ies’ 52-39 record at the all-star break was the best in fran­chise his­tory and they held a 7K-game lead over Chicago and St. Louis for the fi­nal Na­tional League wild-card play­off berth.

The bad: The Rock­ies have lost 14 of their last 19 games, are head­ing in the wrong di­rec­tion and their wild-card lead is down to6 K games.

The un­known: Can the Rock­ies turn things around? Can their stale of­fense get in gear? Will they make a mean­ing­ful trade or two? Will they waste the best start in fran­chise his­tory or make it to the play­offs for the first time since 2009?

Patrick Saun­ders is the pres­i­dent of the Base­ball Writ­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica: psaun­ders @den­ver­post.com or @psaun­der­sdp

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