I consider myself a fan of baseball, as well as the Yankees, but I'll fully admit to not knowing as much about the Colorado Rockies as I do about some of the other non-Yankee teams in MLB. Thankfully, Bryan Kilpatrick of Purple Row was kind enough to answer some questions about the upcoming series to hopefully shed some light on what we should expect out of the next three games at Coors Field, besides the feeling of constant dread we feel from watching our pitchers have to pick up a bat. I also answered some questions for Bryan, which you can read here, in case you are interested in checking out what he was curious about.
1. The Rockies are only a game out of first place a month into the season. What do you think has been the biggest key to their success so far? Is that success sustainable?
Health is the No. 1 reason why the Rockies are sitting at five games over .500 at this point in the season. Having Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler and Wilin Rosario in the same lineup almost everyday can make even mediocre efforts from the pitching staff hold up. Of course, the pitching isn't mediocre all the time, mostly thanks to a bullpen that ranks as one of the National League's best. If the Rockies can stick to this formula -- health and a good bullpen -- they might be able to stay in contention for much longer than most people think.
2. The Rockies are currently first in baseball in batting average and slugging percentage, and second in baseball in runs scored and on base percentage. What have they been able to do at the plate so far to rank so highly?
Let's be honest: Coors Field will always help this number, but the key for the Rockies' offense this season is that they've been able to replicate the performance on the road. Colorado has one more home run on the road than in Denver, and there's nothing shabby about the Rockies' team batting line of .276/.350/.451 in away games. Again, health is huge here; having Tulowitzki back in the lineup forces opposing teams to pitch to not only Gonzalez, but also guys like Rosario and Michael Cuddyer, who is off to a wonderful start in his own right.
3. Jorge De La Rosa, Juan Nicasio, and Jeff Francis are lined up to oppose Hiroki Kuroda, David Phelps, and CC Sabathia in this series. If you were a hitting coach, what would you tell your players before their ABs against these Rockies pitchers?
Juan Nicasio has a plus fastball, but his secondary pitches leave a lot to be desired. He can get away with it if his fastball command is good, but if it starts to waiver, the Yankees can sit dead red and expose him badly. Jeff Francis is not much more than a classic junkballer at this point in his career. Staying back on the offspeed stuff and waiting for a pitch up in the zone -- which will happen, trust me -- is the best approach against the crafty lefty. Jorge De La Rosa is a bit of a mixed bag; he can be very good, but is much more hittable than in years past as he continues to search for the command that he had in his most successful years as a big-leaguer prior to undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2011.
4. Who is one player that Yankee fans should watch for this series and why?
Todd Helton, for no other reason than this is most likely his final season, and I think Yankees fans can appreciate one of the great players of his era who stuck around with the same team throughout his career.
5. What are your predictions for this series? Take a stab in the dark: Who do you think will be the Rockies' MVP for the next three games?
The Rockies have always beat up on Kuroda, so I'll predict the same for this time around, and will go out on a limb and say that Coors Field will get to Phelps in his first career appearance there. The series finale is not a good pitching matchup for the Rockies, so I think the Yankees will take that game and settle for one in Denver. De La Rosa is my MVP pick for Game 1, and I'll take Carlos Gonzalez for Game 2 and Troy Tulowitzki for Game 3.