Carney column: Welcome to Rocktober
It wasn’t pretty in the second half of the season, but it doesn’t matter: We’ve officially entered Rocktober!
For the first time since 2009, the Colorado Rockies are part of MLB postseason play, even if it might just be for one night. Thanks to the second Wild Card spot, the Rockies have to go on the road tonight to take on the Arizona Diamondbacks, with the winner advancing to the National League Division Series to take on the Los Angeles Dodgers.
On paper, Wednesday’s matchup with the Diamondbacks appears favorable for the Rockies.
Rockies starting pitcher Jon Gray finished the season strong, holding opponents to three runs or less in 13 consecutive starts, while Arizona’s Zach Greinke stumbled down the stretch, getting rocked by the Miami Marlins for eight runs and three homers before lasting just four innings in his final start of the season.
Against Grienke, Carlos Gonzalez has gone 14-for-42 in his career with five homers off of the All-Star pitcher, but guys like Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon have struggled against Grienke.
For Gray, he has owned Arizona’s star hitter, Paul Goldschmidt, during his career, holding the perennial all-star first baseman hitless with five strikeouts in 11 career at-bats. Add in the fact that Goldschmidt is dealing with an elbow injury and hit just .175 in September, things start leaning towards Colorado.
The pitching matchup should be a good one as Gray has had success against the Diamondbacks, while Grienke went 2-1 with a 3.41 ERA against the Rockies in five starts this season. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see this game turn out to be a pitchers’ duel at Chase Field.
If it does, someone will have to step up. Guys like Gonzalez and Arizona’s JD Martinez come to mind in that spot, considering Martinez was baseball’s best hitter in the second half, launching 29 homers in just 62 games with Arizona, while Gonzalez has the aforementioned success against Grienke and has looked good at the plate since the All-Star break.
While the players on the field will play a significant role in the outcome of the NL Wild Card matchup, it’s important to pay attention to managers Bud Black and Torey Lovullo. Both are experienced big-league coaches, but both are making their postseason debuts. This game could come down to one or two decisions made by each manager. Does Black avoid Martinez in big spots? How long does Lovullo and Black let Grienke and Gray go into this game with such deep bullpens available? Will Lovullo turn to closer Fernando Rodney to close this game out if given the chance, despite Rodney’s lack of command and two of his six blown saves having come against the Rockies? Who plays shortstop for the Diamondbacks, considering Nick Ahmed is hurt, Ketel Marte tweaked his hamstring in the last game of the season and Chris Owings is on a rehab assignment?
This will be an intense postseason matchup between two NL West foes who’ve undoubtedly had enough of each other during the regular season. Wednesday’s game at Chase Field will break a stalemate in the season series in Arizona, as the Rockies and Diamondbacks split the 10 games played there. Neither team finished the season on a high note as the Rockies went 5-5 in the final 10 games, while the Diamondbacks went 6-4, but with that said, I think Wednesday’s game comes down to who’s healthiest. Right now, that’s the Rockies, since Goldschmidt is banged up and AJ Pollock is working back from a season-long injury for Arizona.
Plus, Colorado has a history of beating the Diamondbacks in the playoffs, highlighted by a sweep in the NL Championship Series back in 2007.
Give me one more dose of that Wednesday for the Rockies.
Rockies 6, Diamondbacks 3. Let’s enjoy Rocktober!
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