Posted on October 3, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
For months, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies appeared to be on a collision course to meet in the National League Wild Card Playoff. The Dodgers left both in the dust long ago, but both have proven over the course of the season that they are worthy postseason participants. The Diamondbacks fell flat in 2016 despite high expectations. But with largely the same group of players in 2017, they got a second chance a ran with it. Meanwhile, the Rockies surprised everyone with a young pitching staff that was unfazed by having to pitch at Coors Field and proved capable of leading Colorado to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
The familiarity between these two teams is unusual for teams meeting in a winner-take-all playoff game. Not only do they play each other 19 times during the course of the season, but the Diamondbacks and Rockies also share a spring training complex in Scottsdale, Arizona.
For what it’s worth, the Diamondbacks won 11 of the 19 meetings during the regular season. Colorado got the better of Arizona early in the year. But the Diamondbacks won five of the seven head-to-head meetings between the two teams during the month of September.
For Arizona, there was little doubt that Zack Greinke would take the ball for a one-game playoff. After a lackluster season in his first year in Arizona, Greinke has bounced back in 2017, going 17-7 with a 3.20 ERA. He’s seen the Rockies five times this season, going 2-1 with a 3.41 ERA. In each of his last two home starts against Colorado, Greinke allowed just two runs over seven innings, so he should be confident that he can keep the Rockies under wraps. Greinke also has nine previous starts during the postseason, posting a 3.55 ERA, so experience is on his side.
The Rockies will counter with Jon Gray. Colorado had a few options for this game, but Gray has been at his best down the stretch, so they’re going with the hot hand. In six September starts, Gray is 4-1 with a 2.57 ERA. Gray missed more than two months of action with a foot injury, so he’s only faced the Diamondbacks three times this season. But he’s faired well against them. On September 12 in Arizona, Gray struck out 10, allowed just two runs over seven innings, and got the win. Of course, the 25-year old will also be making his first career postseason start, adding an element of uncertainty.
If the Rockies are going to win on the road, one X-factor to consider is Carlos Gonzalez. The soon-to-be free agent has had a disappointing season and is just 1 for 8 with five strikeouts against Greinke in his career. That being said, CarGo is one of the hottest hitters in baseball heading into the postseason. He hit .377 with an OPS of 1.250 in September. He also went 10 for 17 in his only previous postseason experience in 2009. Gonzalez has an opportunity to put a poor season behind him by playing the role of hero in Colorado’s most important game of the season.
As expected, the Diamondbacks are being considered the favorites at home, and it’s tough to go against them. Of course, in the brief history of the wild-card game, the road team has won seven of 10 games. But I think that’ll even out this year. It’ll take a brilliant outing from Gray to beat Greinke and the Diamondbacks, and I’m not sure I see that happening. Arizona wins 6-2.