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Don’t be fooled by the Rockies’ recent struggles — IT’S A TRAP

If there’s any team in baseball that would play rope-a-dope for a quarter of the season in order to jump the Giants, it’s the Colorado Rockies.

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MLB: Colorado Rockies at San Diego Padres Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday is Star Wars Day #1 at AT&T Park and the Rockies have scored fewer runs than the Giants, Dodgers, and Reds, which means the headline for this series preview hella works. A key feature of 2018 is that the a struggling team rolling into town does not automatically mean the Giants are doomed.

If you’re a Star Wars nut and need to get all the swag from the day or you just want to watch the Giants live before they head out on a road trip that lasts until June, then our good friends at StubHub have discounted tickets for all four games.

But these are the Rockies, the fifth horsesaur of the apocalypse, and in any given season, any given moment, they are built to make the Giants’ lives miserable. It’s bad enough they will be here for a 4-game series, but they’re making matters worse by acting like they’ve got something to prove.

Jordan Lyles nearly threw the Padres’ first no-hitter against them this week, and while Jordan Lyles is only 27 and keeps getting opportunities to start games — suggesting that front office types, scouts, and coaches alike see his potential — he’s not a barometer for offenses. It’s doubtful he figured anything out before his 7+ inning, 1-hit effort against his former team (the Rockies DFA’d him last July), but instead was pitching with a chip on his shoulder and against an offense with a collective wRC+ of 75 and a lineup that combines for 0.7 WAR.

I know, I know. I’m shocked, too. The Rockies offense isn’t working right now, and it’s a credit to their young pitching (no starter 30 or older) and solid bullpen that they’re 23-20. They’ve been outscored 171-193 and right now I know you’re assuming that margin comes from their away games, as the Rockies have, historically, been a bad road team.

Not so! They’ve held the line on the road, outscoring opponents 93-88. And their road record is 16-9! They’ve definitely been a bit lucky there, just because of the runs scored-runs allowed, but I’d also throw in that six of those 25 road games have come in San Diego.

It’s the home stuff that’s really gotten them so far: outscored 78-105, averaging 4.33 runs per game at Coors. For perspective, they averaged 6.02 runs per game at home all of last season. It’s still early, of course, and they’ve played only 18 games at home, but it’s surprising to see the offense of the Colorado Rockies be this... bad.

A part of that has to do with a lineup featuring Chris Ianetta, Carlos Gonzalez, Gerardo Parra, and Ian Desmond. Half the lineup is old and clunky on defense.

Their pitching remains solid to great and features a bunch of returning kids who did very nicely against the Giants last season.

Traditionally, all the Rockies have had to do to score runs is put on a Rockies uniform. Now that their age, injuries, and playing a bunch of road games in the first quarter of the season has hit them all at once, they’ve got to play baseball like a “normal” team. They’re not out, they’re fine, and so even if the people in and around the team wish things were clicking better today, come Sunday evening, they’ll forget there was ever a problem.

It’s important to remember that the Rockies have lost their last 5 games at AT&T Park, but before that they were 18-15 going back to 2014. The 5-game AT&T Park losing streak, the Jordan Lyles incident, and the fact that the Rockies — despite hitting significantly worse than the Giants as a team — have better pitching and defense are all portents of doom. The best chance the Giants will have is to score early and often, because the Rockies are coming.

Hitter(s) to watch: D.J. LeMahieu is on the DL, so the Rockies won’t start every game with three hits already. That means it’s Nolan Arenado who deserves your heaviest scrutiny, but it’s a bit of a cheat here because as thrilling as it will be when he hits a 3-run home run in the ninth inning that hits the Coke bottle Friday night, it’ll be the plays he makes on defense all weekend long to take away hits and scoring opportunities that will hurt the most.

Pitcher(s) to watch: I’m intrigued by Kyle Freeland’s skillset. He’s a lefty who’s struck out nearly a batter per inning so far this season, and because he’s a lefty, Bruce Bochy will radically alter the lineup and his coaching style, and because he’s a pitcher facing the Giants, he will have lots of strikeouts.

But don’t forget about Bryan Shaw’s wicked slider. In 5.1 innings this May, Brooks Baseball has recorded an average horizontal break of 9.52. He averaged closer to 10 earlier in his career, and just to put that break in perspective, Sergio Romo’s slider in 2012 had a 10.08” break and an average velocity of 78.7 mph. Shaw’s averages 84 mph. The Rockies dumped a bunch of money on him this winter and it looks like he got hurt because of it, because his performance at the start of the season had him trending “Coors Field victim” (first 12 games: 10.1 innings, 7:4 K:BB, 6 XBH (3 doubles, 3 home runs) 7.84 ERA), but now that he’s had time to settle in and face the Padres, Marlins, and Mets, he’s been much better (since April 22: 11 games, 9.2 innings, 14:7 K:BB, 1 XBH (a double) 1.86 ERA).

It occurs to me that I might really like Bryan Shaw because of how he spells his name.

Prediction: The Rockies have been responsible for some of the most memorable Giants losses of my entire life. I will always remember the back-to-back-to-back late-game massacres they laid on out favorite team back in 2014 because of this

That Sunday game was a 4-run 8th, Saturday was a 2-run ninth, and Friday was a 5-run ninth. Rockies will take at least 3 of 4, if not 5 of 4.

I... I really hate the Rockies.