Colorado findsroad less rocky

Jun 11, 2007 4:56 AM

If the Rockies survive two weeks as honorary members of the American League East, they could find themselves smack in the middle of NL West race.

Colorado comes off a 6-1 win at Baltimore to draw within one game of the .500 mark for the season and out of the cellar. The 31-32 record may not look that good, but considering the Rocks virtually lived below .500 all year, things have suddenly turned for the better.

Over the next two weeks, the Rockies face Boston, Tampa Bay, the NY Yankees and Toronto. Colorado took 2-olf-3 at Baltimore and now heads to Boston for three games beginning Tuesday and returns home to host the Devil Rays on Friday. The Yanks come to Coors from June 19-21.

On May 25, Colorado was 18-27 and the grim reaper was out for manager Clint Hurdle. Since that low point, the Rocks are 13-5 including series wins over Cincinnati, Houston and Baltimore. And, more significant, the Rocks are 7-1 in their last eight road games.

Las Vegas hasn’t picked up on Colorado’s rise ahead of San Francisco in the NL West, mostly because the record is still below .500 and leaders Los Angeles, San Diego and Arizona are all within a game or two of each other for first.

The Las Vegas Hilton still has lofty odds on Colorado doing anything but finishing in its usual sub-.500 level. But the betting wiseguys always know a good thing when they see one and right now Colorado is a very good thing.

The reason? Well, we’ll start with pitching. Jeff Francis has had a wonderful month of June and has become one of the better starting pitchers in the NL. The lanky lefty leads the staff with five wins, a 3.81 ERA and 53 strikeouts. Closer Brian Fuentes has 15 saves.

The hitting is coming around. Outfielder Matt Holliday is having an All-Star season, leading the team in batting (.348), homers (10) and RBI (46). Willy Taveras, acquired from Houston, has become the leadoff hitter Colorado has long desired. Taveras is batting .321 with 15 stolen bases. There’s always Todd Helton, Mr. Consistency, at first base, with his usual .300 average.

Perhaps the biggest change is the team’s road attitude. Long considered a patsy away from Coors Field, the Rockies are now finding was to win away from home and protect leads. Colorado still has that reputation for hitting much better at Coors, but lately the bats have come around.

The Hilton still has Colorado 20/1 to win the division, 40/1 to win the pennant and 100/1 to win the World Series. They at least look good this week.