SPORTS WATCH | June a Make or Break Month for the Slumping Rockies

06/05/14 | By More

What is it about the Colorado Rockies and their ability to go from first to worst in such a short amount of time?

It was just over a month ago that I wrote how impressive the Rockies are this season. With a record of 19-14, the Rox were in second place in the National League West Division. In terms of offense, they led every category, including runs scored, doubles, RBIs and a best-in-baseball .298 batting average. Things for second-year Manager Walt Weiss, it seemed, were on the up and up, as long as the team didn’t fall into a disastrous mid-season slump that would take them out of any sort of post-season contention.

That fear is now a reality. There’s a problem on Blake Street.

The Rockies have gone 6-15 over the past 21 games, including Tuesday night’s home loss to the Diamondbacks. Over that disastrous month of baseball, the Rockies dropped from a record of 22-14 – and from a short lead of the National League West– to third place, falling 8.5 games behind the National League West-leading Giants.

According to a depressing report on SI.com, the Rox haven’t won any consecutive games since May 18 and May 20, and have been unable to win a series since winning two of three against San Diego more than two weeks ago.

Besides an injury and a tepid offense, the Rockies pitching staff seems to be at the heart of the problem. Franklin Morales now has a 7.33 ERA over his last five starts and on Tuesday it was announced that he’s been taken out of the starting rotation. Jhoulys Chacin continues to struggle. After giving up three first-inning runs in a loss to the Indians on Sunday, his ERA is now 5.51. Pitcher Jordan Lyles is right there with a 5.31 ERA. Once again, it’s all about the pitching, and the pitching is once again killing the Rockies. To replace Franklin Morales, the Rox will call up Double-A pitcher Eddie Butler into the starting rotation on Friday. I’ll be watching closely, hoping Butler can bring a spark to this beleaguered pitching staff.

But while pitching is mainly to blame, the Rockies’ offense hasn’t been up to its normal, run-happy self. Leadoff hitter Charlie Blackmon isn’t nearly as hot at the plate as he once was, Justin Morneau hasn’t hit the ball as well, and Troy Tulowitzki is still doing well at the plate, but not as well as he was up until the month of May.

Besides a broken finger that has taken Nolan Arenado out of the lineup, a nagging leg injury and now a finger injury have taken their toll on Carlos Gonzales, who’s having a rough year. During Tuesday’s loss, Gonzalez was forced to leave the game after his left index finger swelled to the  point where he couldn’t grab the bat. CarGo is also hobbled by tendonitis in his left knee.

According to The Denver Post, those injuries are clearly making a difference in CarGo’s performance. Right now, he’s hitting .258 with an on-base percentage of .310. They are below his career .297 batting average and career .354 on-base percentage. After Sunday’s loss and the conclusion of a rough road trip for the Rockies, CarGo went 2-for-16 with one homerun and two RBIs. The CarGo we have come to know hasn’t been himself lately. Who knows when he’ll be injury-free?

“I really don’t know what to do now at this point,” Gonzalez told The Post after Tuesday’s loss. “It’s frustrating. I try to stay in there, but it gets to the point where I can’t grip a bat.”

If there is good news in any of this, it is the fact the Rockies are at the beginning of a nine-game home stand, and home is where the Rockies like to be. That nine-game road trip they just came off of nearly killed them as they went 2-7. In fact, a home stand is just what the Rockies need right now. Overall this season, the Rox are 16-8 at home. Away, they are a depressing 12-21. So, home stand here we come: hopefully, the friendly confines of Coors Field will help this slumping team turn things around. June will be a big month for the Rockies, and this home stand, which includes a series against the Dodgers and the Braves, could be the positive set up they need before traveling to Los Angeles to play the Dodgers once again, and the division-leading Giants.

I’d say if the Rockies aren’t able to turn things around in June, the season could quickly become one to forget. The Giants seem to be only getting better. As for the Dodgers, who knows what that team has up its sleeve?

I’ve been critical of the Rockies’ decision to hire Weiss as manager. If things continue to go in a negative direction this season, it will be the second year in a row in which this team has started off very, very promisingly, only to hit a slump and never pull out of it. If Weiss can’t somehow pull the team out of its current tailspin, I would like to hope the Rockies’ ownership will actually spend some money this time on a manager with a better managing resume.

Although I hope Weiss can get the job done, deep down, I don’t think he has what it takes to lead this team to victory. More importantly, I don’t think Weiss has what it takes to pull his team out of a slump, and that’s something good managers must have in order to succeed in professional baseball. All teams hit slumps, but good teams pull out of those slumps quickly.

Walt Weiss has until June to pull his team back into contention in the National League West. If he can’t, it will be another disappointing season for the Rockies, and it should be Weiss’s final season as the team’s manager. The Rockies have a lineup that should put them into contention. There’s no reason they shouldn’t be competing at the top of the N.L. West.

gjarvis@watchnewspapers.com

Twitter: @Gus_Jarvis

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