September is the most critical time of year for teams in order to play in the even more important time of year: the playoffs. At this stage of the season, scoring more runs than the other team on that given night, no matter what happens during the rest of the game, is the highest priority. Winning, regardless of the situation, becomes a theme of successful teams.
The Colorado Rockies have stumbled with a 2-4 record in the last week against the San Diego Padres and the San Francisco Giants, leaving them with only a single game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers and a 1.5 game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Wild Card race.
The deterioration of the bullpen
Superficially, it would appear as though the Rockies pitching has performed well and statistically, the pitching has not performed poorly. Since September 15, they have ranked third in the NL in xFIP (3.71), fourth in FIP (3.49), sixth in WHIP (1.19), sixth in batting average against (.227), and second in ERA (2.63). Furthermore, when runners reach base during this stretch, they have become even tougher to hit. With runners on base, they have a 3.93 xFIP, 3.15 FIP, 1.03 WHIP, .187 batting average against, and 4.43 ERA.
But the Rockies pitching has not performed when the situation has called for them to perform, especially the bullpen.
On Sunday against the San Diego Padres, the Rockies were cruising 3-0 before a one hour and 23-minute rain delay interrupted before the sixth inning. After the delay, the Rockies lost their focus and with Chris Rusin up a run in the sixth, Pat Neshek and Jake McGee gave up a run each in the eighth, and Greg Holland gave up another one in the ninth to lose 4-3.
On Tuesday against the San Francisco Giants, the Rockies tied the game in the eighth inning after Gerardo Parra hit an RBI double down the line on the ninth pitch of his at-bat that seemed to turn the momentum in favor of the Rockies. Rusin, however, gave up a run in the ninth to lose in a walk-off 4-3.
The disappearance of the hitters
While the pitching has squandered winning opportunities, the hitting has put on an excellent vanishing display but an appalling hitting display.
For starters, the Rockies have not even scored a run since Parra’s aforementioned double. That is a scoreless streak of 19 innings. Last night in San Diego, the Rockies only managed to get two runners on second base and no runners on third base.
Statistically, the Rockies might appear to be performing. Since September 15, they have scored 27 runs and hit at a .291 average as a team. But that includes their 16-0 drubbing of the Padres last Saturday night. Excluding the blowout, the Rockies have only scored 11 runs in the other five games, and have hit for an average of .253 while going 6 for 32 with runners in scoring position and hitting into eight double plays.
A good September can push a team into the playoffs and give them much-needed momentum. A bad September can obliterate the chances of a team making a deep run in the playoffs or remove them from the playoffs altogether. While the Rockies had an exceptional start to the season where they had the best record in the NL on June 20, they have stumbled at the chance to stamp themselves into the playoffs and are now at risk of completing one of the biggest collapses in recent memory.
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