I don’t recognize these Colorado Rockies, but I sure do like them. I like the way they sustain rallies with two outs and add to their leads in the late innings. I like the defense they’ve played as of late. I really like the starting pitchers working deep into games. If I were living in Colorado, I would really be enjoying four straight days of cheap Taco Bell tacos (the only remotely edible item on the Taco Bell menu).
The Rox have outscored their opponents 38-10 during this four game winning streak, thanks in large part of a lineup that suddenly looks potent 1 through 8 (with Paul Phillips doing his best Mike Piazza imitation today, going 4-for-5 with two ribbies and a jack). Early returns are good on the benefits of lineup stability for the Rockies, at least in one regard, as Clint Barmes’ average has jumped fifty points to .285 since being permanently installed in the two-hole.
What else has been established in the Jim Tracy Era? Well, thanks to Ian Stewart going legend in the first three games of this St. Louis series (including three homers, one of which threatened to land in Illinois) and Barmes’ steady production, the odd man out in the Rockies infield is the late Garrett Atkins, whose two-homer game on Thursday night in Houston may wind up being his last big game in a Rockies uniform. Stewart has finally grabbed the bull by the horns and earned his way into the everyday lineup, and with Atkins’s bat still invalid (the aforementioned two-homer game notwithstanding), Stewart has to be at third base every day. He’s at close to a 30-homer pace after his big weekend and, as his Saturday night Web Gem would suggest, can make plays at the hot corner than Atkins can only dream of making. He was the best option for the third base job at the beginning of the season, and he’s the best option now.
Once Iannetta returns, the Rockies will have a lineup that looks a little something like this:
And this is where it gets tricky. Stewart should be here, but three lefty sticks in a row is something most managers try and avoid. The left fielder du jour – either Seth Smith, Ryan Spilborghs, or Carlos Gonzalez, isn’t a great fit in the five hole, and besides, Smith and Gonzalez are lefties themselves. I suspect Tracy wants to keep Tulo in the seven hole. That leaves Iannetta as a choice for the five spot, and frankly, despite the low average, his power makes him a good fit. Let’s try it:
Left fielder du jour LF
Alternately, on days when Spilborghs is in the lineup, he can bat fifth and flip-flop with Iannetta. Or, with Tulo just healing from a hand injury that’s been nagging him since mid-May, it might not be a bad plan to bat him eighth while he shakes off some rust.
The bottom line, however, is that if Barmes and Stewart can keep hitting (not like they have the last three days, but at a reasonable level) the Rockies all of a sudden have a very dangerous lineup provided Iannetta and Tulowitzki can get rolling. Now that both will be healthy, I think that’s very possible. And the result is a Rockies team that will be fun to watch, even with contention completely out of the question.