Opposite dugout: Contrast between pitching and offense has Rockies looking to the future

Rockies-circle.pngManager: Walt Weiss (3rd season)

Record: 45-61

Last 10 games: 3-7

Who to watch: 3B Nolan Arenado (.273/.314/.553 with 26 HR, 80 RBIs), 2B DJ LeMahieu (.322/.383/.413 with 42 RBIs), RF Carlos Gonzalez (.279/.338/.525 with 22 HR, 56 RBIs), CF Charlie Blackmon (.293/.360/.469 with 13 HR, 46 RBIs), LHP Jorge De La Rosa (7-4, 4.87 ERA)

Season series vs. Nationals: First meeting (1-5 in 2014)

Pitching probables:

Aug. 7: LHP Jorge De La Rosa vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann, 7:05 p.m., MASN
Aug. 8: LHP Yohan Flande vs. RHP Doug Fister, 7:05 p.m., MASN
Aug. 9: RHP Eddie Butler vs. RHP Max Scherzer, 1:35 p.m., MASN

Inside the Rockies:

If you couldn't tell by the moves made at this year's July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, the Rockies are moving on to the future. Colorado traded the face of their franchise shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who was drafted by the club in 2005, to the Blue Jays for a couple of minor leaguers, right-handed pitcher Miguel Castro and shortstop Jose Reyes. Tulowitzki was slashing .300/.348/.471 with 12 home runs and 53 RBIs in 87 games with the Rockies this season.

But the Rockies offense hasn't suffered in the absences of the five-time All-Star. In the games with Tulowitzki, the Rockies slashed .273/.325/.442, and in the nine games since the trade, they have a slash line of .275/.331/.448. Now there's obviously a large difference in the sample size, but the general idea is there: Offense is not the Rockies' problem. In fact, the Rox lead the National League in runs, RBIs, batting average (.273) and slugging percentage (.442), while also ranking in the top three in hits, homers (122) and on-base percentage (.325).

So that must mean pitching is what has Colorado last in the NL West. The Rockies rank last in the league in pretty much every major pitching statistic. As a team, they have a 4.98 ERA, only two shutouts and 36 quality starts. They've given up 553 runs, with 514 earned. They walk the most batters (362) while striking out the fewest (713). To cap it all off, opponents have the highest batting average against Rockies pitching of .282.

The Rockies have plenty of capable bats in their lineup without Tulowitzki, who wasn't exactly having his best year power-wise. Third baseman Nolan Arenado has slugged 26 home runs, good for fourth in the NL, with a league-leading 80 RBIs while hitting for a line of .273/.314/.553. Right fielder Carlos Gonzalez has also added the fifth-most homers in the league of 22 and 56 RBIs. Meanwhile, second baseman DJ LeMathieu and center fielder Charlie Blackmon have done well getting on base for the Rox. LeMathieu has a .322 average and .383 on-base percentage, while Blackmon is batting .292 with a .360 OBP. So about that pitching ...

Veteran left-hander Jorge De La Rosa will start the series for the Rockies against Jordan Zimmermann. De La Rosa leads the Rockies with a 7-4 record, and his 4.87 ERA isn't something to be too proud of, but it's one of the better averages among the rotation regulars. Before earning the win in St. Louis last week, De La Rosa had not picked up a victory since July 5. He did have a nice stretch between May and June, going 5-0 in six starts with a 2.56 ERA, which helped him bring his ERA down from 9.56. Getting away from the thin Rocky Mountain air has help De La Rosa, as he is 5-2 with a 3.02 ERA on the road. De La Rosa has had some success against the Nationals in his career: He is 5-2 with a 4.07 ERA against the Nats, and undefeated in three starts with a 4.76 ERA in D.C.

Another lefty, Yohan Flande, faces the Nationals on Saturday. In his second big league season with the Rockies, Flande has gone back and forth between the bullpen to starting rotation. He is 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA in his two starts this season, while going 1-1 with a 4.00 ERA in eight appearances as a reliever for a 3.24 ERA on the season. All of his starts will have come on the road, where he has a 3.95 ERA this season, when he takes the mound at Nats Park. In his career, right-handers are .286 hitters against Flande, while lefties are only .184. This will already be the third time Flande has faced the Nationals in his short career. He is 0-1 with a 5.91 ERA in two starts against the Nats, with the loss coming last year at Nats Park. He threw 5 1/3 innings, giving up six hits and three runs while walking a batter and striking out three in the 7-3 loss.

Eddie Butler will be the only right-hander the Rockies will start this weekend, and he'll take on Max Scherzer. The rookie is 3-8 in 14 starts with a 5.45 ERA this season. But after starting the season 2-1 through April, Butler has gone 1-7 with a 6.46 ERA in his 10 starts since. The Chesapeake, Va., native has never faced the Nationals in his young career, so Sunday's start will be a sort of homecoming for him. Butler is mostly a 93 mph fastball pitcher, but he also subtly mixes in an 87 mph changeup, 88 mph slider and an 82 mph curveball.

After parting ways with Tulowitzki, the Rockies still have plenty of batting power, so as they begin turning over and looking toward the future, their focus needs to be pitching. The stark contrast between their batting numbers and pitching numbers has been what's kept the Rockies from competing in a standing. And maybe it's the thin air in which they play half of their games at Coors Field, but the inability to keep opponents off the board can nullify the amount of runs you score. Whichever Rockies extreme stands out this weekend will determine who comes away with this series in D.C.

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