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The Rockies are in the thick of the N.L. West race at the end of September

Rockies news and links for Saturday, September 18, 2021

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The Rockies have spent one day with a winning record during the 2021 season. It was on April 1st, after a victory against the Los Angeles Dodgers at home on a beautiful opening day at Coors Field. After the victory, Fangraphs bumped Colorado’s odds to make the playoffs to 0.1%. It was the high-water mark for the season, as the Rockies would drop the next three games against L.A. and fall back to 0% in the playoff odds model, where they have lingered since.

At the time, there was a strong chance this opening day victory would be the high-point of the Rockies season. The Rockies would fall to season-worst 16 games under .500 on June 27th, and seemed destined to compete with the likes of the Pirates, Orioles and Diamondbacks for the worst record in baseball. Fast-forward to today and, with 14 games remaining, the Rockies have a non-zero chance at finishing the season with a winning record.

That chance is remote, as they can only drop three off their remaining games to avoid finishing with a losing record, but the fact remains that Rockies have clawed their way back to respectability as the season has wound down. The playoffs have never been more than a pipe-dream, but the Rockies have been playing better baseball and it shows in the results.

Back in August, we took a look at the Rockies upcoming schedule and their chance to play the spoiler role. This article was spurred from a three-game sweep at home against the San Diego Padres in the middle of the month, which appears to be the turning point for the Rockies season.

Entering the series, the Rockies sat 14 games below .500 and had just lost three-of-four games in San Francisco. San Diego, meanwhile, sat 13 games above .500 and held a 1.5 game lead in the second wild-card spot. They promptly outscored the Padres 20-13 in the series and locked up the season series 11-8 against the Friars.

This sweep was in the middle of a two-week spiral for San Diego that saw their playoff odds drop from 80.2% on August 10, to 27.0% on August 24. It was a precipitous fall that featured a gut-punch by the Rockies right in the middle of the action and has left San Diego scrambling to hold on ever since.

Since the start of that series, the Rockies have gone 17-12. In that stretch, they have won series on the road against the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers. There have been clunkers against the San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers along the way but, when the games have held relevance to the playoff picture, the Rockies have mostly been able to hold their own.

All of this leads into the upcoming week, where the Rockies will host the Dodgers and Giants after they conclude their east coast road trip this weekend in Washington D.C. Both California clubs have secured a playoff berth, but they are still fighting for the National League West title and the all-important bypass of the wild card game. But to do so, each will have to come through Colorado for three games and take on a Rockies team that is 45-27 at home this season.

The Rockies have played better of late, and there are pieces of that stretch that pertain to the future of the organization. But in the present, the Rockies have one last chance to wreak havoc on the playoff picture and be a deciding factor on who wins the division. They already made their mark once with San Diego, and if they can do it one more time against Los Angeles or San Francisco in the last full week of September, a victory on opening day may no longer be the highlight of the 2021 Colorado Rockies season.

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Bud Black’s evolving mind, Elias Díaz’s pop time and an oddity of a rain-out in Rock Stock | The Athletic ($)

After a rain-drenched series in Atlanta, the Rockies are winding down their most successful road trip of the season. But there is an oddity in the road trip with the final game being postponed and a make-up date for the game left pending. If the game has playoff implications, it will likely be made up after the Rockies finish their regular season schedule in Arizona.

Nick Groke also touches on Elias Díaz providing stability at the catching position, both offensively and defensively, the effort to get Daniel Bard back on track in lower-leverage situations, and the Rockies A-Ball affiliates in Spokane and Fresno reaching the playoffs.

Rockies Mailbag: Why doesn’t Colorado starter Jon Gray pitch deeper into games? | The Denver Post ($)

Patrick Saunders answers some questions from Rockies fans. Among them, Saunders agrees touches on Jon Gray not being the innings-eater he could be and Yonathan Daza being injured and struggling since his hot start. Saunders also covers why the Rockies lineup has not the stolen base threat he thought they would to start the season and the unlikely return of Ian Desmond next season.

On the farm

Triple-A: Sugar Land Skeeters 2, Albuquerque Isotopes 1

The Isotopes were on the losing end of a pitcher’s duel in Sugar Land on Friday. Dereck Rodríguez threw well for Albuquerque, allowing two runs over six innings with five strikeouts and only one walk issued. Unfortunately, the two-run double Rodríguez allowed was all the Skeeters would need as Albuqerque tacked on one run in the eighth to cut the deficit in half, but ultimately fell short. Alan Trejo delivered two of Isotopes’ four hits.

Double-A: Portland Sea Dogs 7, Hartford Yard Goats 2

Hartford dug themselves into a hole early at home, surrendering five runs in the first two innings. Michael Baird was the victim of the Sea Dogs’ offensive assault, giving up fie runs on seven hits in 1 13 innings. Nick Kennedy and Zach Matson combined to allow one unearned run over 5 23 innings in relief, but the Hartford offense amassed only four hits and couldn’t generate anything offensively. Matt Hearn account for two of those four Yard Goats knocks.

High-A: Spokane Indians 12, Everett AquaSox 11

The Indians logged the system’s lone win of the day, outlasting Everett in a wild nine-inning affair. Trailing 3-2 after three innings, Spokane put up runs in the fourth and fifth innings to regain the lead. Everett would tie up the game in the sixth but the Indians responded with solo homers by Ezequiel Tovar an Aaron Schunk in the seventh to get back on top.

The Indians entered the eighth inning with a 6-5 lead, and then things got nutty. Isaac Collins’ ninth bomb of the season gave Spokane two runs before Grant Lavigne doubled to drive in two more. Up 10-5, Spokane’s bullpen fell apart as Stephen Jones, who ended up getting the win, coughed up six earned runs and the lead. Javier Guevara would pick his team up, however, as he delivered a clutch two-run long ball in the top of the ninth to put the Indians up by the eventual final of 12-11. Dugan Darnell locked down his 15th save in the victory.

Low-A: San Jose Giants 6, Fresno Grizzlies 5

The Grizzlies lost a tight game at home against San Jose. Fresno never led in the ballgame, but also never trailed by more than two runs and neither team was able to plate a run after each put up three in the fifth inning. Six different Grizzlies’ starters collected at least one hit and recently promoted Robby Martin Jr. led the way with two of their eight hits. Mateo Gil drove in his 56th run of the season and Eddy Diaz swiped his 47th base in the loss.

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