DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 8: Kyle Freeland #21 of the Colorado Rockies pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Coors Field on September 8, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

As the postseason draws near the Colorado Rockies are in the thick of a heated race. They are currently sitting a game and half ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers and three and a half clear of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Rockies are hoping to claim their first-ever division title in franchise history. With a little over two weeks left in the regular season, Colorado will play 10 of its final 19 games at home. Quality pitching will be an important factor in potentially making the playoffs.

Since its first season in 1995, Coors Field has been known as a hitters paradise and a pitchers nightmare. At 5,280 feet above sea level, balls hit are likely to find more gaps and often times find their way over the fence. The high altitude makes life very difficult on pitchers. They see their ERA’s balloon with each home start.

However, the Rockies have three starter this year that have somewhat conquered the beast that is Coors Field. German Marquez, Jon Gray, and Kyle Freeland have seemingly found a way to excel at home. This trio has given manager Bud Black a three-headed monster at the top of the rotation. This is one of the main reasons the Rockies are leading the NL West.

The Rockies Three-Headed Monster

German Marquez

Marquez, the youngest of the trio began the 2018 campaign in poor form. He posted a 4.81 ERA and allowed opponents a .264 batting average before the All-Star break. Since the break, Marquez has been sensational. He boasts an impressive 2.63 ERA, and is allowing a .209 average. With a devastating four-pitch mix Marquez is striking out 11.7 hitters per nine innings (K/9). In comparison, CY Young favorite Jacob DeGrom has posted 11.3 K/9.
Marquez has also been a bullpen savior, in his last six starts. Marquez has pitched past the sixth inning each time. He’s kept Bud Black from draining his bullpen, and lets him save his top relief guys for the late innings.
The one area of the game Marquez has struggled has been the first inning, where he has posted a 9.00 ERA. If Marquez can figure out how to escape the first inning, Colorado has a reliable arm for Black to rely on down the stretch.

Jon Gray

Jonny Gray is another Rockies pitcher that struggled early this season. Gray struggled so much, that he was sent down to Triple-A Albuquerque in June. Although, it seems that was exactly what Gray needed to regain his confidence. Since he was recalled in July, Gray does not have a loss to his record, going 4-0 with six no-decisions. Most notable about Gray since his return has been his strikeout rate. In May and June, Gray had a 12.85 K/9, since he has hovered around seven.
Gray has focused more on location and getting ground ball outs instead of fixating on striking out each hitter. He has kept his pitch counts lower, and worked deeper into games. He gives the Rockies a chance to win each time he takes the mound.
The biggest knock on Gray has been his struggles in high-stress games. In big games, Gray has been poor and often been pulled by the third or fourth inning. This could be a major factor in Black’s decision on who could start a potential play in game at the end of the season.

Kyle Freeland

Few words can describe how impressively Freeland has pitched this season. The Denver native has been the ace of the rotation. At just 25-years old, he has worked his way into the 2018 NL Cy Young conversation. With a season ERA of 2.91 and a record of 14-7, Freeland has carried the Rockies this season. What is most impressive about Freeland has been his mastery of Coors Field. In 13 home starts, Freeland carries a 2.21 ERA and an 8.4 K/9. In his last nine starts, he has not allowed more than three earned runs and has only lost one game.

Where Gray and Marquez have struggled Freeland has found success. His first inning ERA is an acceptable 3.10. While his nerves have not been tested as often as Gray, Freeland seems to thrive off of the high energy environment. His last start in a pivotal game against the Dodgers Freeland pitched six innings, struck out eight and allowed only one run.

If there is a potential play-in game, Freeland should be handed the start. In a competitive NL CY-Young race, Freeland is likely to not be mentioned with DeGrom, Aaron Nola, or Max Scherzer but he should be. His season-long excellence paired with his Coors Field dominance deserves some recognition.

Stretch Run

As the end of the regular season approaches the Rockies will lean on their three headed-monster to carry them to the playoffs. In a history in which Colorado pitchers have struggled at home, these three have found a way to consistently pitch well and give the Rockies opportunities to win games. Bud Black will likely continue to shuffle the rotation and start them as often as possible. If the Rockies three-headed monster can continue to excel, Colorado may find themselves in October making a run at the World Series.

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