Don’t look now: the Rockies are rockin’

Jul 11, 2005 4:08 AM

The Colorado Rockies have been the best team in the National League West since June. That’s excellent news for bettors.

Why? Well, the Rockies are almost always an underdog. In betting circles, when underdogs win they attract plenty of customers.

While the team’s 31-55 overall record (before Sunday’s match-up with San Diego) is hardly reason to rejoice, there are signs Manager Clint Hurdle can be optimistic.

”¡ Left-hander Jeff Francis has compiled an 8-5 record and has an earned run average below 3½ runs lifetime at Coors. Colorado has won the last three times Francis has pitched and is nearly a .500 club when he is on the mound.

”¡ The Rockies are 1-1-3 in their last five series — far better than the 5-15-4 mark prior to June 24. Colorado is a disappointing —1725 on the year (for every $100 wager), but most of the deficit comes from an NL worst 7-33 road record.

”¡ Shortstop Clint Barmes (.329, 8 HR, 34 RBI) was on his way to Rookie of the Year honors until being sidelined by injury. Others youngsters have picked up the slack, such as OF Brad Hawpe (.295, 8 HR, 39 RBI, 8 assists) and 3B Garrett Atkins (.300, 7 HR, 36 RBI). Atkins was named the NL Player of the Month for June.

”¡ Lefty Brian Fuentes has apparently filled a long-standing void as the closer. Fuentes has saved 12 of his 14 opportunities and carries a solid 2.41 ERA.

The Rockies most coveted player, 1B Todd Helton, is on track for another 25 HR, 100 RBI campaign. OF Preston Wilson, the team leader both homers (15) and runs batted in (47) is the subject of much trade talk. Wilson is rumored to be headed to Washington on or shortly after the All-Star break, although the Cubs have also expressed an interest.

With everyone in the division struggling, the 15-game deficit Colorado faces doesn’t appear so menacing. The first step after the break is to improve the mark within the division — just 11-24.