Heading into Wednesday night, the Arizona Diamondbacks carry a half-game lead over the Colorado Rockies for the first National League wild-card spot. With the Los Angeles Dodgers far ahead in first place in the NL West, 15 games ahead of the D-backs, the two teams have their sights set on the two wild-card spots.
The two spots are far from secure with nearly two months remaining, but with the Milwaukee Brewers being the closest team at six games out, there’s a strong chance we’ll see a Rockies vs. Diamondbacks matchup on October 4.
These two teams will both obviously want the first wild-card spot, as that team secures home-field advantage for the one-game playoff.
For the Rockies, securing that top spot should be their No. 1 priority. Not because of the offensive boost, but because of the pitching advantage.
The stereotypical view of Coors Field is that it’s always a 9-8 game and there’s nothing but extra-base hits and home runs. In 2017, that is no longer the case.
No other park faces scrutiny from home/road splits quite like Coors Field does, so it seems fitting to take a look at the Rockies’ pitchers in particular. Two of their five starting pitchers, Jon Gray and Kyle Freeland, have better home ERAs than road ERAs at 3.00 and 3.19, respectively.
The former would likely be the guy to start a potential one-game playoff with the latter being used out of the bullpen.
The Diamondbacks’ Zack Greinke would likely counter Gray on the mound, and he’s not necessarily someone the Rockies look forward to facing either, regardless of the ballpark. But at Coors Field, where pitches don’t move like they do out in the other four NL West ballparks, this is the best possible place for Rockies hitters to face him. Greinke has a solid 3.52 ERA in his career at Chase Field, but sees a decent jump up to 4.14 when pitching in Colorado. A .243 batting-average against at Chase Field suddenly balloons to .308 at Coors Field.
It’s hard to put too much stock into that somewhat small difference looking at a one-game playoff, but the significance is that the Rockies have pitchers who can carry their team to a victory as long as the offense does its job. It’s no longer a toss-up between which team can bring more offense to the table. The Rockies have legitimate pitchers who have found consistent success in Denver.
You can’t ignore the obvious, though. The Rockies’ offense always does much better at home. Their core hitters this year — Nolan Arenado, Mark Reynolds and Charlie Blackmon — all have an OPS over 1.000, with Blackmon at an outrageous 1.284. But that type of production is thought of as less impressive given the ballpark, therefore the Rockies’ pitching success becomes that much more impressive.
If the Rockies want to face the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS, it is crucial that they do whatever they can to lock down the top wild-card spot.
By Nick Stephens