The Colorado Rockies enter the month of September in the lead for the second NL Wild Card spot. If I had told you that before the season started you’d likely be thrilled. Try to hang on to that feeling because, for the most part, the Rockies look about as far from a playoff team right now as possible. August was a hard month for the Rockies as a team and September promises to be even more of an uphill battle with six games against the Dodgers and seven against their next opponent, the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Rockies couldn’t have picked a worse time to draw the Diamondbacks. Fresh off a sweep of the Dodgers, baseball’s best team, the D-backs are riding a 9-1 record in their last 10 and sitting three and a half games up on the Rockies for the top Wild Card spot. It was an up-and-down month for the D-backs. After going 7-12 to start August, they’ve been on a tear since being swept at the hands of the Twins. The Rockies were keeping pace only because of the D-backs futility but now, they look a lot more like the team they were going into the All-Star break. The Rockies have faced the D-backs twelve times already this year and the series is tied 6-6.
Diamondbacks Offense Notes
Predictably, the recent resurgence of the Diamondbacks can be largely credited to Paul Goldschmidt. He is slashing .351/.429/.784 in their last ten games with four home runs in that span. Coors Field has also been kind to Goldy as he owns a .320/.409/.560 line with ten homeruns in 50 career games there. Elsewhere in the lineup, A.J. Pollock has played well lately after struggling a bit on his initial return from injury. Also hot right now are former Rockies Chris Iannetta and Daniel Descalso. The Rockies will face J.D. Martinez for the first time this year after he arrived in Arizona at the trade deadline. So far with the team he has hit .229/.318/.580 in 27 games.
Diamondbacks Starting Pitching Notes
The Diamondbacks can point to starting pitching as another big reason for their recent turnaround. In August, their starters had the second best xFIP in the league at 3.77. The Rockies will see Taijuan Walker, Patrick Corbin, and Zach Godley this weekend. The Rockies have faced Walker three times this year and he has pitched well against them with a 2.41 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP. His last start against them came on July 2 in Arizona when he threw seven innings allowing just one earned run on six hits with one walk and eight strikeouts. Corbin has faced the Rockies twice this year with his last outing coming in Denver on May 6 when he was shelled for eight runs on nine hits in just four innings. It should be noted however, that Corbin had a stellar 2.88 xFIP in August, the third best mark in baseball. The Rockies wrap up with Godley who bested them in their only meeting. He threw seven innings and gave up three runs on just four hits and a walk while striking out eight.
The D-backs bullpen is headlined by Archie Bradley, who has been one of the best setup men in the league this year. He owns a 1.34 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP and has been the only truly reliable piece in the Arizona bullpen. Fernando Rodney, the Diamondbacks closer, has had a roller coaster of a year. He has been wildly inconsistent with long stretches of terrible pitching followed by long stretches of brilliance. Right now, he is in the midst of a decent stretch, giving up just two earned runs in his last eight appearances. The rest of the bullpen has also been up and down without a true standout performer, making it the biggest short-coming of this team.
Diamondbacks Defensive Notes
Defensively, the Diamondbacks have committed 85 errors on the year, good for eighth most in the league. Their -8 Defensive Runs Saved is also a bottom 15 mark in the league so defensive struggles abound with this team. Their best defender has been 2-time Gold Glover Paul Goldschmidt, who leads all first basemen in the league with a 12 DRS. Elsewhere in the infield however, Jake Lamb has been among the league’s worst defensive third basemen, sporting a -12 DRS (2nd worst in baseball) and committing 13 errors (3rd worst). The outfield defense has improved with the return of Pollock and the rest of the infield is comprised of average, if unspectacular, defenders.
The Rockies will run out Kyle Freeland, Jon Gray, and Antonio Senzatela this weekend. Freeland pitched well in his lone outing against the D-backs giving up just one run in six innings. Gray has also seen them once and struck out ten men in his six innings of two-run ball. Senzatela was hit hard in his lone start against Arizona, giving up nine earned runs in five innings. The Rockies are just two and a half games ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers for the final Wild Card spot with a month left. As the season winds down, 26 of their last 29 games will come against division opponents.
The Rockies offense has flatlined. There is no life in them and yet they find themselves in a playoff race. It’s going to be a very tough road for the Rockies but they can start the month off with a big series win against a red-hot division rival. The only way they will be able to do that, however, is if they can find a way to get the offense going (it feels like we say that before every series). The D-backs are a really tough opponent and the best way to beat them is to get to the starters early so the Arizona bullpen can come in and make a bigger mess of things. At this point, it’s hard to imagine the offense suddenly figuring things out, but if the Rockies end up making the playoffs, they may be able to point to this series as a springboard.
Probable Pitchers and Schedule
Friday, September 1 @ 6:40 pm MT (ATT SportsNet, 850KOA/94.1)
Taijuan Walker (7-7, 3.55 ERA) vs. Kyle Freeland (11-8, 3.81 ERA)
Saturday, September 2 @ 6:10 pm MT (ATT SportsNet, 850KOA/94.1)
Patrick Corbin (12-11, 3.91 ERA) vs. Jon Gray (6-3, 4.18 ERA)
Sunday, September 3 @ 1:10 pm MT (ATT SportsNet, 850KOA/94.1)
Zach Godley (6-7, 3.29 ERA) vs. Antonio Senzatela (10-5, 4.68 ERA)