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The Rockies are preparing to face the Diamondbacks for the final time in 2018

Playoff hopes hinge on how the Rockies perform in this final road series of 2018

After a disappointing 1-5 start to the final regular season road trip of 2018, which included a devastating sweep at the hands of the Dodgers on Wednesday night, the Rockies now head to Phoenix before heading home on Monday to finish out the season. As it stands right now, the Rockies are 2.5 games out of first place in the NL West behind the Dodgers and 1.5 out of the second wild card spot behind the Cardinals. The Diamondbacks are six games back in the division and five back in the wild card, but aren’t quite mathematically eliminated yet.

This series isn’t quite as critical as the Dodgers series was, but it is still important if the Rockies want to keep their playoff hopes alive. Here are the keys to this series:

Both teams are trying to keep their seasons afloat

In the immortal words of Monty Python, both of these teams are “not dead yet!” The Rockies are 1.5 games out of a playoff spot and the Diamondbacks are six out. While not mathematically eliminated, both teams have a tough stretch of games ahead if they hope to make the playoffs.

The Diamondbacks in particular are more desperate to turn their season around. After an up and down season that saw them in sole possession of first place in the NL West on August 31, they have subsequently gone 5-13 in September and fallen to third place. The last time they won a series was their August 21-22 sweep of the LA Angels, and the last time they didn’t lose a series was a split with the San Diego Padres on September 3-4. They narrowly avoided a sweep at the hands of the Cubs last night, shaking up their lineup and winning 9-0, but they still have a lot of ground to make up.

On the flip side, the Rockies were 1.5 games back on August 31 and have subsequently gone 10-8 in September, but are now 2.5 back due to a surging Dodgers team. Their struggles have mostly come on this road trip, where they have started 1-5 against division teams. They’re going to have to finish strong if they want any hopes of making the postseason.

Need for offense

In their last six games, the Rockies have been outscored 23-9 and have been shutout twice. They haven’t scored more than three runs since the 10-3 bludgeoning of the Diamondbacks last Thursday. In the same stretch, the Diamondbacks have been outscored 31-23 but have not been shutout since August 28. Their highest scoring performance came on Wednesday, when their bench bulldozed the Cubs 9-0. The Rockies are hitting .256 with runners in scoring position in 2018, and the Diamondbacks are hitting .253. In comparison, the Red Sox are hitting .290 with RISP and have 103 wins and the AL East title.

Some of the Rockies’ major players are in the midst of major slumps. Nolan Arenado has been slashing .239/.284/.478 with 17 strikeouts so far in September. Carlos Gonzalez is hitting .139/.152/.222 with 13 strikeouts. Trevor Story is injured and may or may not be available for this weekend. Luckily, Chase Field is much more of a hitter’s park than AT&T Park or Dodger Stadium, so maybe that will help jolt this offense back in motion after one heck of a Coors Field hangover through the west coast.

Pitching matchups

Both of these teams have strength in their starting rotation. Each team has 2-3 excellent starters who are incredibly capable of mastery against opposing offenses. For the Rockies, those starters are Kyle Freeland, German Márquez, and usually Jon Gray; for the Diamondbacks, those starters are Zack Greinke, Patrick Corbin, and Clay Buchholz before his injury. Robbie Ray is also an excellent pitcher, despite having a down year in 2018.

The last time the Rockies and Diamondbacks saw each other was last week at Coors Field. The Rockies sent out Márquez, Senzatela, Gray, and Freeland to face Godley, Greinke, Corbin, and Koch. This weekend, they are planning to have almost the same matchups.

This will make the road a little bit tougher for the Rockies, but it also means that the Dodgers (who come in to Chase on Monday) will see Matt Andriese, Robbie Ray, and Zack Godley. They’re the back end of Arizona’s rotation and the Dodgers will have the front end of theirs (Kershaw, Buehler, and Hill) lined up coming off of their final home series against the San Diego Padres. Here are the matchups this weekend:

Friday (7:40 MDT) - Zack Greinke vs. German Márquez

Saturday (6:10 MDT) - Patrick Corbin vs. Antonio Senzatela

Sunday (2:10 MDT) - Zack Godley vs. Kyle Freeland

Keys to the series

The Rockies cannot afford to lose this series. They especially cannot afford to get swept. They need to sweep or go 2-1, no exceptions.

Luckily, if they do for some reason get swept, they won’t be leapfrogged by the Diamondbacks but their playoff dreams will pretty much just be that: dreams. Everyone can hope that the Padres beat the Dodgers and the Giants beat the Cardinals, but in all reality all cogs need to be firing all cylinders so that the Rockies can be like the man in Monty Python — feel better and go for a walk (into the postseason). Hopefully the Diamondbacks won’t be that guy that bludgeons the life out of them anyway.