Let’s just say that wasn’t the road trip Rockies fans were hoping for, getting swept in a two-game series by the lowly Giants and splitting a four-game series with the almost-as-lowly Padres. Fortunately, they still hold a two-game lead in the chase for the final wild card spot. Now the Miami Marlins (73-82) come into town and the Rockies need a series win to maintain their position.
Of course, the games will be played with an everpresent reminder that baseball is not the most important thing. One year ago today, Marlins star pitcher José Fernández died in a boating accident along with friends Eduardo Rivera and Emilio Macias. This was a tragic blow not only to the Marlins organization and the Miami community, but to all of baseball. Our Marlins partner site, Fish Stripes, is honoring José with a #JoséWeek tribute, so please follow that this week. The Marlins have been playing with a patch for Fernández all season. Current Rockies bench coach Mike Redmond was Fernández’s manager from his rookie season until May 2015.
The Marlins are also in the midst of a major organizational overhaul, as longtime owner Jeffrey Loria has sold the franchise to a group including Yankees legend Derek Jeter. After being mathematically eliminated from the playoffs last week, Marlins fans and execs are likely more focused on that transition, though there are still games at hand.
The Marlins swept the Rockies in three games in Miami last month, outscoring the Rockies 15-9, back in the middle of some offensive struggles by the Rockies. With the offense struggling a bit again (save for Sunday’s 8-4 win over the Padres), this is an important time to return home to the most offense-friendly environment in the majors.
Overall, the Marlins have an average offense, as indicated by their team 99 wRC+. They have the best OPS+ in the league, due in part to having a strong offense at such an extreme pitcher’s park. Their walk rate (7.8%) is below league average but they strike out (20.6%) at a better than average rate.
When you have perhaps the best offensive player in the league on your team, you’re going to score some runs. Giancarlo Stanton has been setting the franchise record book aflame this season, hitting .280/.378/.635 while smashing 57 home runs, the most in baseball since José Bautista hit 54 in 2010. With six games left, it seems he’ll be the first hitter to crack 60 since Barry Bonds set the single season record in 2001. And considering he’s hit ten home runs in 92 plate appearances at Coors (his most home runs in any non-divisional ballpark), we could see that history by Wednesday.
It’s not all the Giancarlo Stanton show, though. Marcell Ozuna (141 wRC+), Justin Bour (141), Christian Yelich (117), and J.T. Realmuto (105) have all been above-average contributors for the Marlins this season. It’s a deep lineup that will surely give Rockies pitchers fits , especially considering they’re coming off scoring 24 runs in three games in Arizona.
Starting Pitching Notes
The nexus of Miami’s struggles this season have been their starting pitching. The team is 25th in baseball in ERA, 23rd in FIP, and 28th in pitcher fWAR. They also have the third worst strikeout rates and walk rates in baseball.
Most of that faults goes to their starting pitching. In fact, Dan Straily, who the Rockies will miss in this series, accounts for over half of the starting pitching fWAR on the team. Monday’s starter, Omar Despaigne, is making his seventh start of the season and earned his only save on the season against the Rockies on August 13. José Ureña has been very productive for the Marlins this season, but gave up three runs in 51⁄3 innings to the Rockies on August 11; he also owns a 5.06 FIP. Finally, Adam Conley gave up seven runs in 12⁄3 innings on Saturday against Arizona. His reward? Having his next start come at Coors Field.
The bullpen hasn’t been quite as bad for the Marlins. Relievers have a 4.21 FIP, which is right about league average. However, they do lead the National League in allowing inherited runners to score (36%), and they are tied with the Phillies with the worst save percentage. Their closer, AJ Ramos, was traded to the Mets just before the trade deadline for two minor leaguers and Brad Ziegler seems to have settled in as manager Don Mattingly’s preferred closer. The main weapon to watch for is right-hander Drew Steckenrider. He made his big league debut in May and since finding a permanent spot on the 25-man roster on July 4, has a 1.88 ERA in 282⁄3 innings over 31 appearances. In that time he has struck out 46 but also walked 15.
The Marlins have the best fielding percentage in baseball at .988, with a league-low 71 errors. It’s not just traditionals stats, either. Among regulars, only first baseman Justin Bour (-1 DRS), centerfielder Christian Yelich (-5), and third baseman Derek Dietrich (-5) have been below average defensively.
The offense returns home after managing just 15 runs on the six game road trip; take out Sunday’s three run ninth inning and the team averaged two runs per game while getting shut out three times in four games for the first time in franchise history.
Part of the problem is the top of the lineup has gone cold. Nolan Arenado (who was removed after taking a “funky swing” on Sunday, hopes to play today) and fellow MVP-candidate Charlie Blackmon combined to go just 8-for-42 with two home runs and four RBI. On the flip side, Ian Desmond may have figured something out on the trip. He went 4-for-24 with a home run and four runs scored and is now hitting .316/.357/.447 over his last 11 games.
It’s put up or shut up time for the Rockies. They have six games left in the season, all at home, against teams that have nothing left to play for except pride. Realistically, they probably need just three wins between now and the end of the season to clinch a playoff spot. Coming to Coors to play a Marlins team that can’t pitch very well should help jump start a stagnant offense and help propel the team to a series win. The Marlins offense will provide a challenge for Rockies pitching, but they will run into the four veterans of the rotation, which should line the Rockies up for success.
Probable Pitchers and Schedule (all times Mountain)
Monday, September 25 @ 6:40 p.m. (ATT SportsNet, 850KOA/94.1)
Omar Despaigne (0-3, 4.37 ERA) vs. Tyler Chatwood (8-13, 4.56 ERA)
Tyler Chatwood has had similar success since returning to the rotation three weeks ago. He has a 1.82 ERA with 15 strikeouts in 192⁄3 innings, though he does have eight walks allowed.
Tuesday, September 26 @ 6:40 p.m. (ATT SportsNet, 850KOA/94.1)
José Ureña (14-6, 3.55 ERA) vs. Tyler Anderson (5-6, 5.24 ERA)
This season didn’t go quite according to play for Tyler Anderson, between extreme ineffectiveness and two stints on the disabled list. Since returning he has allowed just three runs in 152⁄3 innings (two starts) with 13 strikeouts and just three walks.
Wednesday, September 27 @ 1:10 p.m. (ATT SportsNet, 850KOA/94.1)
Adam Conley (7-7, 5.74 ERA) vs. Jon Gray (9-4, 3.62 ERA)
With a win on Wednesday, Jon Gray will become the fourth Rockies starter to surpass 10 victories on the season, which would be the first time since 2009 Colorado has managed such a feat. He has a 2.17 ERA in five September starts with 34 strikeouts in 29 innings.
What do you think will be the series result?
This poll is closed
Rockies sweep, 3-0
Rockies win, 2-1
Marlins win, 2-1
Marlins sweep, 3-0