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A troubling weekend at Coors Field should have Rockies fans worried

(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

During the first month of the MLB season, the Rockies struggles have flown under the radar in Colorado. While the team has scuffled to a disappointing 16-19 start, putting them in fourth place in the NL West and 5.5 games behind the division-leading Dodgers, fans and the media in the Mile High have hardly noticed.

Attention has been steered in a different direction, with the Avalanche and Nuggets both advancing to the second round of the playoffs. Throw in the NFL Draft in late April, providing topical Broncos news, and it’s easy to see why the Rockies have been an afterthought.

That’s been good news for Bud Black and Company. They were able to avoid the outrage that should’ve come with a dismal 3-12 start. And they’ve escaped the criticism that should accompany their current place in the standings.

Instead, the occasional “check-in” has focused on the few positives that have surrounded the team. Yesterday was a prime example.

Colorado managed to avoid a weekend sweep at the hands of the Diamondbacks by scoring five runs in the eighth inning en route to an improbable 8-7 victory, providing a happy headline on a Sunday afternoon. The win diverted attention away from what should’ve been a troubling weekend at Coors Field.

It all started on Friday night, when the Rockies returned home from an extended road trip with hopes of building upon the momentum that came with back-to-back wins in Milwaukee. But then Tyler Anderson did what he always seems to do of late, getting shelled early and putting the Rockies in a deep hole.

Anderson surrendered six runs on seven hits, in just 4.0 innings of work. When Colorado was unable to finish a ninth-inning rally, the former first-rounder’s record on the season fell to 0-3, while his ERA ballooned to a whopping 11.76.

As a result, it came as no surprise when the Rockies optioned the left-hander to triple-A after the game. The move was justified, as Anderson’s starts have turned into automatic losses for the Rockies, and it raises the concern that the once-promising starter will never regain the form he displayed early in his career. It also leaves a hole in Colorado’s starting rotation, that they’ll probably try to fill with the under-performing Jeff Hoffman.

On Saturday, the bad news continued on the pitching front. With Kyle Freeland on the hill, it felt like a good time to regain control of the series. But has become the norm of late, the lefty was ineffective, giving up eight runs in 6.0 innings of work.

Last year, Freeland looked like an ace in the making, finishing the season with a 17-7 record and a 2.85 ERA; it was such a good campaign that he placed fourth in the Cy Young voting. But in 2019, it’s been the polar opposite for the young lefty. Freeland now sits at 2-5, with a worrisome 5.90 ERA. He’s clearly not the same pitcher he was a year ago, which was painfully evident during the Rockies 9-2 loss to the D-Backs.

And then yesterday, prior to the offensive explosion in the eighth, there was more cause for concern. German Marquez got the ball, looking to do what a team’s best pitcher is supposed to do – halt a slide. But the right-hander was largely ineffective, giving up five runs across 6.0 innings. Yes, he avoided the loss, but that was little more than a lucky break; he didn’t pitch well, by any means.

Losing a home series, especially to a team higher in the standings, is always disappointing. Seeing the .500 mark move further away is also concerning. But those weren’t the biggest red flags at Coors Field this weekend.

The most-troubling development was the way the starting pitchers, a group Colorado has relied on dating back to last season, faltered in every start. If that trend continues, and there’s no reason to believe it won’t, all hope for salvaging the 2019 season will be lost.