Without looking, I can say this for certain the Colorado Rockies have never won a series against the defending World Series Champions based on the performance of three rookie pitchers. That is, until this week. In the second week of May 2017, the Colorado Rockies won two out of three against the Chicago Cubs with rookies controlling the mound.
In 20 innings, the starters pitched against the Cubs, the Rockies three rookies gave up just five earned runs. Antonio Senzatela, Kyle Freeland and German Marquez were sensational.
In game one, Antonio Senzatela gave up two earned runs in six innings. After the game, Senzatela was one of only two National League pitchers with five wins. The other was three time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw. Senzatela’s 2.86 ERA is the lowest among rookie starters. Second place on that list is Freeland.
In game two, Kyle Freeland gave up three earned runs (and five total) in one error-ridden inning around five shutout innings. It was the Rockies one loss in the series. Freeland’s game was just the second time this season he’s given up more than one run in a start.
German Marquez pitched eight shutout innings in the series clinching game for the Rockies. Marquez even batted in two runs in the game with his first major league hit. In his fourth start for the Rockies, he had a no-hitter through six innings.
The series was at Coors Field (in case you couldn’t tell with all of the Cubs gear at the games). This is a place that destroys pitchers, but the three rookies were poised throughout the series. While wet cool conditions kept the ball down, it still requires the right mental state to pitch at Coors. All three weathered that storm.
Of the three rookie pitchers none were supposed to be starting for this club in May. Jeff Hoffman was the assumed fifth starter at points last winter. If not for Chad Bettis’ cancer battle and Jon Gray’s injury, the Rockies might have had three completely different pitchers in this series.
We know that one of the issues with pitchers at altitude is recovery time. Perhaps these flashes we’re seeing of great pitching will wash away with fatigue. For now, we should appreciate this moment where things look hopeful on the mound.
The Rockies have pitchers who can step up to start. They have a bullpen that actually gets holds. Their closer, Greg Holland, leads the majors in saves with 14. The next guy on the National League leader list only has nine.
It’s with strong starters and a solid bullpen that the Rockies are winning instead of with their bats. They only crushed the ball once in the Cubs series—they won Game one 10-4 against Jake Arietta. The Rockies only scored four runs the rest of the series. We’ve never seen a Rockies team like this before. With three great performances from rookie pitchers, there’s rarely been a series in baseball like this one.
We still haven’t even seen this team at it’s best. Of their everyday players, only Reynolds is hitting at peak levels right now. Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado are hitting consistently well, but not at their best. The Rockies are still waiting on D.J. LeMahieu, Trevor Story, Carlos Gonzalez and Ian Desmond to find their groove.
Something is different this year. At 23-13, the Rockies have their best record ever through 35 games. At 6-3 in the month of May, they’re looking to have their first back-to-back winning months to start the season in franchise history. If the Rockies continue winning series, maybe the Cubs will return to Coors Field in Rocktober.