With Neshek added, an­other splash may be needed for an Oc­to­ber shot

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

ST. LOUIS» The Rock­ies’ road to the play­offs once looked like easy street. Not any­more.

Get­ting swept in three games at St. Louis was the lat­est de­tour for a team that has lost 16 of its last 19 road games and has gone 11-19 since its high-wa­ter mark on June 20 (47-26). The Rock­ies hold a 4K-game lead over slump­ing Mil­wau­kee for the Na­tional League’s sec­ond wild-card play­off berth.

The Rock­ies, how­ever, made a ma­jor state­ment Wed­nes­day night by trad­ing for Philadel­phia right-handed reliever Pat Neshek. The two-time all-star will be used as a pri­mary setup man to closer Greg Hol­land. Other moves might be in the works be­fore Mon­day’s non­waiver trade dead­line.

Adding an­other bullpen arm is a real pos­si­bil­ity. Neshek, whose con­tract ex­pires at the end of this sea­son, is es­sen­tially a rental reliever. But the Rock­ies could also trade for a reliever who would be un­der the club’s con­trol beyond this sea­son, and per­haps take over for Hol­land. Hol­land has a mu­tual op­tion and is likely to be­come a free agent af­ter this sea­son. Among the pos­si­ble longer-term bullpen op­tions for Col­orado are Mi­ami closer AJ Ramos, Detroit’s Justin Wil­son and Bal­ti­more’s Brad Brach.

Also, with catcher Tony Wolters strug­gling, the Rock­ies have been ex­plor­ing trade pos­si­bil­i­ties for a vet­eran catcher. As re­ported ear­lier this week, Col­orado has shown in­ter­est in Texas vet­eran Jonathan Lu­croy, as well as At­lanta’s Kurt Suzuki and Detroit’s Alex Avila.

All three catch­ers would be rentals, be­cause they be­come free agents at the end of the sea­son. Lu­croy is the big­gest name, but he has strug­gled at the plate, bat­ting .245 with just four home runs. He also car­ries the big­gest salary of the three — $5.75 mil­lion.

The sooner help ar­rives, the bet­ter for the Rock­ies. They open a three-game se­ries at Wash­ing­ton on Fri­day night against a mus­cled Na­tion­als team that took three of four at Coors Field from April 24-27. The Na­tion­als outscored Col­orado 46-29 in that se­ries. Thurs­day af­ter­noon, the Na­tion­als tied a fran­chise record with eight home runs in a 15-2 rout of Mil­wau­kee, in­clud­ing two apiece by Bryce Harper and Ryan Zim­mer­man.

Trans­la­tion: The Rock­ies face a huge chal­lenge to get back on course. That starts with their young start­ing pitch­ing.

“We didn’t pitch well two of the three games,” man­ager Bud Black said Wed­nes­day night af­ter the Rock­ies were blasted 10-5 by the Car­di­nals. “When your starter in Game 1 (An­to­nio Sen­za­tela) and Game 3 (Jeff Hoff­man) only go four in­nings and give up a num­ber of runs, it makes it aw­ful tough.”

De­spite get­ting swept by the Car­di­nals, the news that the Rock­ies’ front of­fice made a ma­jor move by trad­ing for Neshek pro­vided a shot of en­ergy to the club­house.

“This was a re­ally dis­ap­point­ing se­ries for us here, but I think get­ting a guy like that, and hav­ing an off day (Thurs­day) is re­ally go­ing to help us,” all-star sec­ond base­man DJ LeMahieu said. “And play­ing the Na­tion­als, I mean, if you can’t get up for that se­ries than we are in trou­ble.”

Right fielder Car­los Gon­za­lez, who con­tin­ues to fight a sea­son­long slump hit­ting just .227 with six home runs and 26 RBIs, be­lieves the Rock­ies will get back on track.

“We just had a bad se­ries here,” Gon­za­lez said. “You can’t doubt your­self. This is a good team and we have been play­ing well for the en­tire year. We just have to put that se­ries in the past.

“We will show up and ex­pect to win the se­ries in Wash­ing­ton. I think that’s the at­ti­tude we have to have when we go to Wash­ing­ton. If it hap­pens, great. If it doesn’t, we still have to keep mov­ing for­ward.”

Mike Ehrmann, Getty Im­ages

The Rock­ies ac­quired Phillies reliever Pat Neshek on Wed­nes­day to bol­ster their bullpen. Neshek, who made his sec­ond all-star team this year, has a 1.12 ERA over 43 out­ings.

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