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Rockies look to bring road success back home

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SAN DIEGO -- Now is time for the Rockies to realize their goal of becoming the "Blake Street Bullies."

Monday begins a 10-game homestand during which they will meet the Mets, D-backs and Braves. Decent play on the road has a team with a strong homefield tradition coming home with a winning record. For a franchise that has had one winning road season in its previous 20, dominance at Coors Field is a necessity.

Colorado swept the Padres in its only previous homestand this year.

"We've had some success on the road early, but for us to win a division we have to dominate at home," Rockies first-year manager Walt Weiss said. "We have an opportunity now to make somewhat of a statement. It's always important, particularly for us to play well at home."

Center fielder Dexter Fowler said, "Anytime you have a long homestand, you want a bunch of wins -- at least 70 percent of the games. If we do that, we'll be all right."

Last year's Rockies learned how damaging it is not to capitalize on schedule gifts. They entered the second homestand of the year with a 9-9 mark. But for much of the nine-game homestand, the starting pitching was ineffective and didn't give many innings. The Rockies went 3-6 and were well on their way to a club record 98 losses.

"I don't even remember that far, and that's a good thing," veteran relief pitcher Matt Belisle said. "Anything in regard to last year, what we've done in the past, I've told people, we have a new team, a new attitude, a new skipper. It feels different. So I look at what we've done in the past weeks and what's ahead, instead of last year."

The Rockies went into Sunday leading the Majors in road home runs and the National League in road runs. The logical belief is the lineup should be able to produce even more at home. Not even expected cold, possibly nasty, weather should dampen the enthusiasm to hit.

"We always enjoy playing in our home, in front of our fans," left fielder Carlos Gonzalez said. "It'll be cold, but it's cold for both teams. We should be fine if we focus on what we need to do to win games."

An underrated factor in the Rockies' history of strength at home has been the bullpen. Any year that the Rockies contend, the bullpen is among the most effective in the game. The early stats this season leave something to be desired, outside of closer Rafael Betancourt (four saves, no earned runs in five appearances through Saturday) and lefty setup man Rex Brothers (1.26 ERA, eight strikeouts in his 6 1/3 innings pitched through Saturday).

Generally, the Rockies have leaned on their bullpen more at home than on the road. But with a rotation that has had just two starts of fewer than five innings and has generally been effective, maybe Weiss can use the bullpen a little less than past teams have.

"Hopefully, we don't have to use them a whole lot because that means our starters are going deeper into games, but it's important that those guys get consistent work so they stay sharp," Weiss said. "It's that balance of getting them that consistent work, but not overusing them."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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