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NL Wild Card Preview: Colorado Rockies @ Arizona Diamondbacks

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October 4th is finally here. Winner moves on, loser goes home. Let the battle begin.

San Francisco Giants v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

Here we are at last. The National League Wild Card game is today, and whoever wins gets to move on to face the Dodgers in the NLDS. It has been 2,190 days since the Diamondbacks and their fans last had the chance to experience the beauty of postseason baseball. Yet, despite the wait and the torture of a one game playoff series, excitement is reaching a fever pitch, since this will be just the fourth occurrence of a winner take all game in Dbacks postseason history. They will be facing the Colorado Rockies at home tonight, so getchya popcorn ready, because this is gonna be a good one.

Postseason Resumes

Arizona Diamondbacks (17-19) *All-time postseason record

The Diamondbacks have played in 36 postseason games in their 20 years of existence, in comparison to 19 games for the Rockies in their 25 years. Arizona has of course won the only World Series they played in (2001), and they are 4-4 in postseason series’ all time. As many of you remember, their most recent playoff experience was an epic 5 game series against the Brewers in 2011, which they lost in extra innings. They have several players on the roster *(albeit, maybe not for this game, since Wild Card rosters haven’t been released as of the time of this writing) that have been a part of World Series teams, and this is invaluable to a relatively young team. J.D. Martinez has some valuable playoff experience with the Tigers, and others like Mathis, Rodney, and Descalso have also played baseball deep into October. Hopefully Goldy has a repeat performance of his 2011 NLDS, where he triple slashed .438/.526/.813 in 19 Plate Appearances with 2 HR, including a spectacular opposite field grand slam in Game 3.

Colorado Rockies (9-10)

The Rockies’ postseason appearances have been few and far between for a team that has been around for as long as they have. In fact, they have only made it to the playoffs three times since they became a franchise (1995, 2007, and 2009). In ’95 they lost to the Braves in the NLDS in four games, and in ’09 they lost to the Phillies in the same manner. However, in 2007, they steam rolled their way through September and straight into the World Series. During that stretch, they won 13 out of 14 to end the season, which vaulted them into a tie with the San Diego Padres at 89-73. This meant that they would face off in a one game playoff to move on to the NLDS, and Matt Holiday’s infamous face slide sealed a victory in that game too. From there they swept the Phillies in the NLDS, swept the Diamondbacks in the NLCS, and then got swept by the Red Sox in the World Series. As such, our head-to-head record against the Rockies in the postseason stands at 0-4. Time to start evening that out, eh?

Pitching Matchup

Jonathon Gray: 10-4, 3.67 ERA, 110.1 IP, 112 K, 1.296 WHIP

Zack Greinke: 17.7, 3.20 ERA, 202.1 IP, 215 K, 1.072 WHIP

Jon Gray has been a very good pitcher for the Rockies this year, but he missed quite a bit of time. He is just 25 years old, but the flame throwing right hander is well on his way to becoming the Rockies’ ace for years to come. Let’s just hope that doesn’t happen until 2017 is over. Greinke, on the other hand, has pitched exactly like the ace that we needed this year. He was worth a whopping 6.3 bWAR in 2017, which the highest total by any Diamondbacks pitcher since Dan Haren was worth 6.5 back in 2009. I joked with a friend the other day, that Greinke pulled a Brandon Webb in 2017… He had an ERA in the high two’s until the end of the year, and then had a bad outing or two to push it over 3.00. So while his numbers look good, we all know that he has been even more valuable at times. This type of game is exactly why we are paying him like the ace that he is, and I think he will live up to the task.

Keys to Success

One of the fellow writers here at the ‘pit wrote an excellent article yesterday that detailed what might be the best way to use Zack Greinke. And if last night’s contest between the Yankees and Twins is any indication, we should be prepared to see a handful of pitchers early and often. However, I have a couple of additional thoughts as to what would be the keys to each team’s success

  • Zack Greinke vs. Trevor Story

Story is 8-24 (.333) lifetime against Greinke with 4 Home Runs, including 2 in his major league debut. This matchup is important to me, because the other hitters in the Rockies lineup are always dangerous. Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon are MVP candidates, and Mark Reynolds still has some serious thunder in that bat. But Story has been struggling this year, so hopefully Greinke isn’t what the doctor ordered to cure what ails him. Let him ail a while longer.

  • Paul Goldschmidt vs. Jon Gray

Goldy is slumping hard in September and it may have even taken away his shot at an MVP award. Unfortunately for him, Tim Lincecum is retired, and the next pitcher he faces won’t be an easy one. Goldy is 0-11 lifetime against Gray with 5 strikeouts and no walks. Our favorite hometown hero will have to rekindle his 2011 playoff heroics if he wants to get in the hit column against Gray. J.D. Martinez has hit a couple of dingers off of Gray, so maybe that extra bit of protection will give Goldy some better pitches to hit. Either way, it is going to be a pretty big key to the success of the Dbacks in this game.

  • Bullpens

Both bullpens have amazing pieces, but they have also had some really rough patches over the year. Rodney blew a couple of saves so badly this year, that every time he pitched from thereon out, the fan base held their collective breath. While Greg Holland was one of the best closers in all of baseball for a good chunk of the year, he went through a stretch where he couldn’t get a save to save his life.

  • Zack Greinke at Home

At his home ballpark in 2017, Zack Greinke has been masterful. At Chase Field in 2017, Greinke has a 2.87 ERA over 116 IP and a 13-1 record. He has struck out 131 batters at home with a 0.957 WHIP. This is one of the many, many reasons why he is pitching in this game. His success or failure in this game will go a long ways towards how well the team does, and if history is any indication, that will be a good thing for the Diamondbacks.

Season Stats that matter

WC.csv

Team Runs/Game Run Differential ERA+ K/9 Avg. OBP% SLG%
Team Runs/Game Run Differential ERA+ K/9 Avg. OBP% SLG%
Arizona Diamondbacks 5.01 +153 131 9.3 0.254 0.329 0.445
Colorado Rockies 5.09 +67 111 8.0 0.273 0.338 0.444

It is pretty obvious that these teams are equal in some regards, but pretty different in other areas. They both score roughly the same number of runs per game, but the Diamondbacks pitching staff appears to be significantly better across the board.

Conclusion

I won’t put a prediction on such a beautiful game, but I will tell you that you should enjoy the hell out of every minute of it. This type of opportunity doesn’t come around every day, so when it does, we should relish it. I for one have been up since dawn with my Goldy jersey on, watching all the content that Fox Sports Arizona can throw my way. I won’t be at the game unfortunately, but that just means that we will have to light the gameday thread on fire! THIS IS OUR HOUSE! LET’S GO!!!