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Rockies begin crucial stretch of division games tonight

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Rockies play 24 straight against divisional foes starting Thursday

In November 2014, after a 96 loss season, new Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich made it clear “our general goal is to just get us back to playing meaningful games in September.” Over years of non-contention for the Rockies it turned into a refrain so common I named my experimental metal band Meaningful Games in September (we still need a bassist, a guitarist, a lead signer, a drummer, and an ukelele player; DM me if you’re interested).

But despite forecasts of doom and gloom in June, here the Rockies are, entering a four-day Labor Day weekend series against the Padres just a half game out of first in the NL West and one game back of a Wild Card spot. Let me tell you, things are tight in the NL playoff race.

National League Playoff Odds

Team Record GB Run Differential BP Playoff Odds FanGraphs Odds Five Thirty-Eight Odds ROS Opponent W%
Team Record GB Run Differential BP Playoff Odds FanGraphs Odds Five Thirty-Eight Odds ROS Opponent W%
Cubs* 78-54 -- +111 98.7% 99.5% 98% .500
Braves* 74-58 4.0 +99 87.3% 70.9% 78% .520
Cardinals+ 74-59 4.5 +67 71.4% 60.6% 76% .508
Brewers 74-60 5.0 +22 66.1% 59.0% 57% .500
Diamondbacks* 73-60 5.5 +84 51.2% 44.3% 52% .537
Rockies 72-60 6.0 -13 37.3% 39.4% 41% .520
Dodgers 72-61 6.5 +127 56.4% 80.3% 61% .494
Philliies 71-62 7.5 +3 22.4% 39.7% 29% .487
*=Division Leader, +=Wild Card Leader; Rest of Season Opponent Win Percentage courtesy FanGraphs August 30, 2018

While the Cubs seem to have a comfortable lead on the number one seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs, six other teams find themselves within 2.5 games of one another. The projection systems favor the Dodgers after winning five games in a row. As the calendar flips to September, most of these teams will be playing games almost exclusively within their division, which will serve to either tighten things up even more or for some teams to separate themselves from the pack.

The Rockies are no exception. Starting tonight they play 24 straight games against divisional foes, including six against the Dodgers and seven against the Diamondbacks, before finishing up their season at home against the Phillies and Nationals. Meaningful games in September, indeed.

It begins tonight at Petco Park where the Rockies will take on the Padres (52-83) for four games. The Rockies will send German Márquez to the mound on Thursday, Antonio Senzatela on Friday, Jon Gray on Saturday, and Kyle Freeland on Sunday; more or less the exact pitchers Rockies fans would want on the mound against the worst team in the National League.

Taking three-of-four is probably mandatory this weekend for the Rockies because, crucially, the D-backs and Dodgers will play a four-game set at Dodger Stadium this weekend. Arizona is 5-5 in their last 10 but the Dodgers have won five in a row, so signs point to a Dodgers series victory. The Dodgers are already trying to set up their beleaguered pitching rotation to start the most meaningful games possible.

That would probably be bad news for Rockies fans, despite trailing Arizona in the standings currently. Looking at the remaining schedules of all three teams reveals the Dodgers have a distinct advantage, as they have a total of nine games left against the Mets, Reds, and Padres, three of the four worst teams in the NL. They do have a four-game set in St Louis pending, plus six against the Rockies and seven against the Dbacks. Even with so many games against teams ahead of them in the standings, they still have the easiest remaining schedule among NL contenders.

Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks play six against the Padres (including the last weekend of the season), but their schedule is brutal beyond that. They have to host the Braves for four games, visit the Cubs and AL West leading Astros for three a piece, as well as host the Dodgers for three in the penultimate series of the season. It should come as no surprise that they own the hardest remaining schedule in the National League.

The Rockies aren’t far behind. They finish their season series with the Padres this weekend and finish the season with non-divisional games against the Phillies and Nationals. Otherwise it’s all Dodgers, Diamondbacks, and Giants (oh my!) between now and then.

However, each team still more or less owns its own destiny — 20 of the next 78 games the Rockies, Diamondbacks, and Dodgers play will be against one another.

Rockies, D-backs, Dodgers remaining games

Team Aug 30-Sep 2 Sep 3-6 Sep 7-9 Sep 10-13 Sep 14-16 Sep 17-20 Sep 21-23 Sep 24-27 Sep 28-30
Team Aug 30-Sep 2 Sep 3-6 Sep 7-9 Sep 10-13 Sep 14-16 Sep 17-20 Sep 21-23 Sep 24-27 Sep 28-30
Rockies 4 @ SD 3 v SF 3 v LAD 4 v ARI 3 @ SF 3 @ LAD 3 @ ARI 4 v PHI 3 v WAS
Dbacks 4 @ LAD 2 v SD 4 v ATL 4 @ COL 3 @ HOU 3 v CHC 3 v COL 3 v LAD 4 @ SD
Dodgers 4 v ARI 3 v NYM 3 @ COL 3 @ CIN 4 @ STL 3 v COL 3 v SD 3 @ ARI 3 @ SF

This is going to be fun. Meaningfully fun.