This year’s NL Wild Card game is a battle between the Rockies and Diamondbacks, so here are your preview and predictions about this NL West matchup.
It’s a battle in the Wild West as the Colorado Rockies travel to Arizona to face the Diamondbacks in the 2017 National League Wild Card game on Oct. 4.
If not for the smoking hot Los Angeles Dodgers this season, the top spot in the National League West could have belonged to either one of these wild card teams. Both the Rockies and the Diamondbacks spent quite a bit of time in first place in the NL West standings leading up to the All-Star Break before the Dodgers took over and never let go. Both teams commanded impressive records given that both teams have new managers at the helm this season and no one thought they’d be hot so soon.
The winner of the NL Wild Card game goes on to face the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the five game National League Division Series that begins on October 6.
Scouting the Diamondbacks
It has been a banner year for the Diamondbacks, who celebrated their 20th season as one of the 1997 expansion teams at the start of the year. They finished the regular season with a 93-69 record and spent most of the year bouncing between first and second place.
The Diamondbacks have home field advantage, and that’s a big advantage considering that their 52-29 home record is the second highest in baseball. The team is healthy and ready to continue playing deep into October.
In his first year with the Diamondbacks, manager Torey Lovullo easily sums up this Wild Card game:
“We’re very familiar with one another. We share the same complex [in spring training]. There’s some irony in that. We’re two teams that are evenly matched, two teams that has surprise types of years that are both very happy. We continue to fight for the same turf. Wednesday is going to be an all-in moment.”
Scouting the Rockies
Like the Diamondbacks, the Rockies (87-75) started the season with a new manager and expectations to be in the mix by 2018. Bud Black was able to seize the wealth of talent the team had in place and get them into contention within one season. As a result of that success, the Rockies and Diamondbacks spent most of 2017 battling each other for the top two spots in the NL West standings.
The Rockies have met Zack Greinke three times at Chase Field this season and they won two of those meetings. This is encouraging news given that the Rockies were much more solid at home (46-35) while they were almost even (41-40) on the road. They lost the last two games of the regular season to the Dodgers, so expect to see some fire in their eyes as they fight to get to the NLDS and face the Dodgers one more time this year.
Rockies manager Bud Black gave the start to Jon Gray. Gray’s 2017 numbers are impressive: he’s 10-4 with a 3.67 ERA and 112 punchouts. The concern here is that Gray is untested in the postseason as he makes his first career postseason start against the Diamondbacks in the NLWC, making this game a trial by fire..
Though he doesn’t have postseason experience, Gray knows the Diamondbacks. Gray had two regular season starts at Chase Field this year with a total of 20 strikeouts. Another upside: Gray comes into the NLWC riding a 13-game streak without giving up more than three runs.
Bud Black feels optimistic about having Gray on the mound: “He’s feeling good about where he is. I know Jon is going to be ready for Wednesday. More importantly, Jon is in a place in his career that he is set up for Wednesday.”
It’s a complete 180 for the Diamondbacks, who put their ace Zack Greinke on the mound. Greinke (17-7) will notch his tenth postseason start at this NLWC game, and he’s 3-3 over the course of his previous nine postseason starts. He owns a 3.20 ERA and has 215 Ks this season and he’s 2-1 with a 3.41 ERA against the Rockies this year.
The Diamondbacks have a stronger record at home and are coming off a big 14-2 win over the Kansas City Royals in the final game of the 2017 season. There’s no question that they have the momentum to keep this season going.
Don’t discount Colorado, though. The Rockies are the underdog in this game and that gives them the extra motivation to push harder to get the win.
This will not be a close game and both teams are going to give this game everything they’ve got. At the end of the day, though, it’s going to come down to leadership. The Diamondbacks have a wealth of experience in Torey Lovullo, and that’s going to help propel them to the win.
You can catch all of the action of the NLWC game on Wednesday, Oct. 4 at 8 p.m. ET on TBS.