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May 21, 2012

What You Need to Know

Monday, May 21

by Daniel Rathman

The Weekend Takeaway
With the National League West seemingly lacking an elite team, Jim Tracy’s imperfect squad was expected to contend for a chance to bring Rocktober back to Denver for the first time since 2009. Instead, the fans at Coors Field have been treated to a sequence of rock bottoms, the most recent of which came over the weekend in a three-game sweep at the hands of the Mariners.

After dropping three in a row to Seattle and four straight overall, Colorado is in the division cellar at 15-25 and has allowed more runs (218) than any other NL team. The Mariners—featuring Kyle Seager in the cleanup spot of their lineup and using starters not named Felix Hernandez—outscored the Rockies 20-13, exposing weaknesses in the home team’s roster each day.

Todd Helton went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts on Sunday, and the career .321 hitter’s average for the season is down to .216. The ragtag starting rotation has predictably struggled, and Jeremy Guthrie was knocked around for three home runs in six innings yesterday, bringing his gopher ball total for the season to seven and his strikeout total to just 13. Meanwhile, the man Guthrie was acquired for, Jason Hammel, has thrived in Baltimore to the tune of a 3.12 ERA and 46-to-16 K/BB ratio in 49 innings.

Perhaps worst of all, on Friday, the Rockies were on the wrong end of a two-hitter spun by Kevin Millwood. The last time Millwood had surrendered two or fewer hits in a start was September 29, 2010, as a member of the Orioles. The last time he had thrown a complete-game shutout? You’d have to go all the way back to August 1, 2003 for that.

And so, the Rockies have hit rock bottom—again. With their probability of reaching the playoffs now about two percent, general manager Dan O’Dowd may soon be preparing for a summertime selloff, as Jorge De La Rosa’s return to the rotation is unlikely to spur the surge necessary to overcome those long odds.

The Rockies have shown a penchant in past years for lurking around the NL West pack and then surging in September. But this year’s team is lurching instead of lurking, and the emergence of the 28-13 Dodgers has rendered the Rockies pretenders just a quarter of the way into the season.

What to Watch for on Monday

  • Stephen Strasburg finally settled down the red-hot Adam Jones, limiting him to a 1-for-4 afternoon with two strikeouts on Sunday, but even the Nationals ace could not stop their rivals’ center fielder from extending his hitting streak to 12 games. On top of that, Jones has gone deep four times in his last six games, pushing his OPS for the season up to 964. With a 4-for-12 career line against Boston’s Monday starter Clay Buchholz, Jones could give the Red Sox a rude welcome to Camden Yards (7:05 p.m. ET).
  • Jeremy Hellickson has thrived at Tropicana Field throughout his young career, and that has certainly been the case so far in 2012, as the righty is 3-0 with a 1.44 ERA in five home starts. Tonight (7:10 p.m. ET), he faces Kyle Drabek, who is 0-3 with a 5.23 ERA in four starts away from the friendly confines of the Rogers Centre. The outcome of this matchup may forever determine whether you can, in fact, predict baseball.
  • Divisional races are not won in May, but with a seven-game lead over the second-place Giants, you can forgive the Dodgers if they are already looking to deliver the deathblow to their NL West rivals. Step one in that process could be this week’s three-game series against the Diamondbacks, who are 9 ½ back but getting healthier at a pivotal time, with Chris Young off the disabled list and Daniel Hudson preparing to return, too. Chris Capuano—a former Arizona farmhand—gets the ball for the visitors against Patrick Corbin, who is battling to keep his spot after Hudson is activated, in the opener (9:40 p.m. ET).
  • You’ll have to stay up late (10:10 p.m. ET) if you want to see what’s likely to be the pitcher’s duel of the night, featuring Yu Darvish and Felix Hernandez at Safeco Field. Darvish made his major-league debut against the Mariners, but he has improved vastly since that 5 2/3-inning, five-run effort in Arlington. King Felix has been shelled in each of his last two starts, but he has logged a tidy 0.78 ERA at home this season, with a 27-to-6 K/BB ratio and zero home runs allowed in 23 innings. Now you have something to look forward to at the end of everyone’s least favorite day of the week.

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article The Call-Up: Matt Adam... (05/20)
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What You Need to Know:... (05/18)
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What You Need to Know:... (05/22)
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Premium Article Collateral Damage Dail... (05/21)

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