Manager: Walt Weiss, second year
Last 10 games: 2-8
Who to watch: SS Troy Tulowitzki (.353/.445/.618, 16 doubles, 18 HR, 46 RBIs); LF Corey Dickerson (.343/.403/.623, 13 doubles, 10 HR, 33 RBIs); 1B Justin Morneau (.307/.342/.516, 19 doubles, 13 HR, 58 RBIs); LHP Tyler Matzek (1-2, 4.24 ERA)
Season series vs. Nats (2013): 3-4, 29 runs scored, 27 runs allowed
June 30: Yohan Flande vs. Jordan Zimmermann, 7 p.m., MASN2 HD
July 1: Christian Friedrich vs. Stephen Strasburg, 7 p.m., MASN2 HD
July 2: Tyler Matzek vs. Doug Fister, 6 p.m., MASN HD
The Rockies have the best possible answer for the top pitching staff in baseball - far and away the most prolific offense in the National League.
Colorado leads the NL in every category that matters, and by a long shot. The Rockies are No. 1 with 415 runs (32 more than anyone else), 98 homers (10 more than the next team), a .285 average (24 points higher than anyone) and a .794 OPS (55 points higher than anyone).
Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is at the center of it, leading the majors with a .353 average, a .445 on-base percentage and 1.062 OPS. He leads the NL with a .618 slugging percentage while adding a team-best 18 homers and tying for second with 46 RBIs.
Colorado couldn’t rank so highly if Tulowitzki were doing it alone and he isn’t. The Rockies have six qualifiers with an OPS of at least .812, one of which (third baseman Nolan Arenado) is out.
Left fielder Corey Dickerson has played his way into a starting role and he’s second on the team with a 1.026 OPS. He’s batting .343 with 10 homers and 33 RBIs.
First baseman Justin Morneau is also having a huge first season with the Rockies, leading the team with 19 doubles and 58 RBIs. He’s hit 13 homers and has an .858 OPS.
Should be an exciting few days pitting that group against Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg and Doug Fister.
So why are the Rockies 10 games under .500 and 10 games out of first in the NL West?
They have the worst pitching staff in baseball with a 4.92 ERA, the majors’ worst rotation with a 5.22 ERA and the NL’s worst bullpen with a 4.49 ERA.
Just look at the mismatch in pitching probables for the series. Strasburg has 10 more starts this season than Colorado’s three left-handers in the series combined (seven). Tyler Matzek, a former first-rounder, and Yohan Flande have both made their major league debuts this season while Christian Friedrich is in the bigs for the first time since 2012. Flande will be making his second career start in the series.
Injuries and ineffectiveness have necessitated such a turnover to the Rockies rotation. They have no healthy starters with an ERA better than Matzek’s 4.24, and that’s in just four starts. Right-hander Jordan Lyles, who led the group by going 5-1 with a 3.52 ERA over his first 12 starts, is one of two Colorado starters on the disabled list.
On top of the inexperienced rotation, the Rockies have struggled because their offense understandably drops off a bit away from Coors Field. They have the NL’s sixth-most runs on the road (164), fourth-most homers (41), seventh-best average (.245) and OPS (.688). That has contributed to a 16-27 mark on the road.
The Rockies were one of baseball’s positive stories in the early going this season, as they started 22-14. But they’re 14-32 since.
A five-game winning streak got them back to 34-35 on June 15. But they lost the next seven in a row and 11 of 12, allowing at least five runs 10 times in those 12 games. They come to Washington having allowed four or more runs in 15 of their last 16 games.
Even with those woes, Colorado carries the NL’s most feared lineup and that should make for a fantastic three days going up against the league’s best set of arms at Nationals Park.