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Rockies Face Stiff Road Test To Start Second Half Of Season

The Rockies start the second half of the season on the road, but everything appears to be coming together for them. The road to an NL West title is in view.

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The Colorado Rockies enter the second half of the season tied for second in the NL West with the LA Dodgers, both two games behind the first-place San Diego Padres. Who saw that coming from the Padres this season? From off-season and Spring Training discussion of the Padres trading Adrian Gonzalez, the Padres now stand alone atop of the NL West and will desperately attempt to hold onto that position.

The Rockies, meanwhile, face a stiff test starting Friday. The team's next 11 games will be on the road without any days off. With the return of Jorge De La Rosa from injury, the Rockies look toward stability in the rotation during the second half. Jason Hammel starts Friday against the Cincinnati Reds, followed by De La Rosa and Aaron Cook. Dusty Baker has not yet announced his rotation for the series, but he'll have plenty of pitchers to choose from as Edinson Volquez is ready to return from the disabled list and rookies Mike Leake and Travis Wood are good complements to Bronson Arroyo and Johnny Cueto. The Reds' offense features All-Star first baseman Joey Votto who has an OPS of 1.011. His 22 home runs and 55 walks go a long way. Six of the Reds' eight starting position players have double-digit home run totals.

After that stop in Cincinnati, the Rockies head to South Beach to join LeBron James and the Miami Heat. I kid, I kid. The Marlins host the Rockies for four games. The Marlins are fourth in the NL East, but this isn't a series the Rockies the should overlook since the team has played to the level of its competition. Hopefully the momentum the Rockies built up over the last several weeks didn't take a hit during the All-Star Break. The Marlins present the always dangerous (but lazy) Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson, both All-Stars. Johnson is likely to start the final game of the series, though he won't face Ubaldo Jimenez.

To conclude the road trip, the Rockies head to that city of brotherly love, Philadelphia. The Phillies are third in the NL East at 47-40, 4.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves. Roy Halladay and Chase Utley, among others, will present the final test in this early second half gauntlet.

In the first half of the season, the Rockies went 31-16 at home but only 18-23 on the road. It should be an imperative for the Rockies too take at least two of three from the Reds and split each of the next two series before returning home for two series before their first day off since the All-Star Break. The fourth-place Cubs (39-50) and the sixth-place Pirates (30-58) visit the Rockies.

That roughly brings the Rockies to the trading deadline. Rumors abound that the Rockies are interested in Dan Uggla and want to move him over to first base once Troy Tulowitzki returns from the DL. Will Dan O'Dowd make a move like this? As I wrote for the SBNation.com Trade Deadline series, I expect O'Dowd to pull off a deal similar to the one he made last year in acquiring Rafael Betancourt.

With everything seemingly coming together for the Rockies in the second half (Tulo's return, stable rotation, Huston Street as closer), the burden of expectations the team had entering the season can be fulfilled. The next two and a half months are going to be fun times for Rockies, Dodgers, and Padres fans (maybe even Giants fans). But in the end, I believe the Rockies will emerge with their first NL West title.