The psychology of start times will begin to play a greater role among contending teams as the season winds down. Tuesday and Wednesday, it was the Giants who were able to apply pressure from the scoreboard on the Rockies by shutting down the Phillies offense. You have to wonder if pressing may have played a factor last night in particular as the Rockies struggled to get runs across early with a beatable foe on the mound. With an early getaway day start scheduled for this afternoon, the Rockies will get a chance to return the favor to San Fran, and put Atlanta and Florida in "must-win" mode if they are able to pull off the sweep of New York.
The playoff "race" itself is sort of funny because a team doesn't exactly know where the finish line is until they are just about ready to cross it. For the NL wild card, the finish line is somewhere between 87 and 95 wins. The bottom end of that range, 87 is unlikely and would almost certainly involve a playoff between one or more clubs. One of those numbers will be just enough to get in, one below will be sorry, but no cigar. The top end of the range would require the Rockies going 21-8 down the stretch and be even more difficult for the other three contenders to pull off, but that might be what it would take for them if Colorado gets hot. The bottom end will almost certainly require a tie-breaking playoff.
At any rate, I guess the point I'm getting at is that teams have to just keep on racing to certain yardsticks until the finish line is in view. If the Rockies win today, they'll be the first wild-card contender to 75 wins, a fairly significant milestone for the chase. The next marker would be a guaranteed .500 or better record at 81 wins, and at that point the actual win value of the finish line should be start getting into focus. It would be great to have that 81 win total met heading into San Francisco on the 14th, as the Giants would have to win eight of their next ten against tough competition just to keep pace.
If the Giants do that, it would be assumed that they won at least two of their three against Los Angeles, which makes the Dodgers more vulnerable to losing the division. They will be faced with the prospect of having to do well against the Dodgers again right after playing the Rockies to keep up as well. If they fail to maintain that pace, they will drop out of playoff contention fairly quickly and be in a sweep or die mode again for the Rockies series.
The pressure the Rockies can exert by beating sub-.500 teams during this stretch of the schedule will pay big dividends in the very short term. Getting to the baseball playoffs is as much or more about not choking against inferiors than it is about beating your equals. The Rockies need to keep the throttle on this afternoon and break out the brooms against New York.
09/03/09 1:10 PM MDT
|New York Mets||Colorado Rockies|
|Angel Pagan - CF||Carlos Gonzalez - CF|
|Anderson Hernandez - 2B||Clint Barmes - 2B|
|David Wright - 3B||Todd Helton - 1B|
|Daniel Murphy - 1B||Troy Tulowitzki - SS|
|Jeff Francoeur - RF||Ryan Spilborghs - RF|
|Cory Sullivan - LF||Seth Smith - LF|
|Josh Thole - C||Chris Iannetta - C|
|Wilson Valdez - SS||Ian Stewart - 3B|
|Pat Misch - P||Jason Marquis - P|