And so, it has came to this. After 162 games, the Arizona Diamondbacks (93-69) will host the Colorado Rockies (87-75) in a one-game playoff Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET to determine which NL West rival faces NL West champion Los Angeles (104-58) in the NLDS.
Zack Greinke will take the hill for the Diamondbacks, while Jon Gray will take the hill for the Rockies. Gray, 25, went 2-0 with a 2.77 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 13.0 innings at Chase Field this season.
“Apparently it’s a place he feels really comfortable with,” Denver Post Rockies writer Nick Groke said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “He’s done really well against them. For whatever reason, Jon Gray kind of has their number so far. I wouldn’t say Jon Gray is Zack Greinke, but he has pitched very well against the Diamondbacks.”
The Rockies are back in the postseason for the first time since 2009, and they’re here, by and large, because of their young arms. Some of those young arms tired toward the end of the season, but Colorado held off the Brewers (86-76) by one game in the Wild Card standings.
“A lot of (Colorado’s young pitchers) got really tired, and it showed up on the team,” Groke said. “It’s a team that has not played meaningful baseball since 2009, 2010, and I think it caught up to them a little bit. They had to take a step back. Their manager, Bud Black, even mentioned it. He said, ‘We had to sit down and say, look, let’s just chill out for a little bit and not worry about it. What we need to be doing is playing really well at the end of September.’ They waited until the last weekend before they finally eliminated the Brewers. They started playing really well over basically the last week, and that’s ideally what you really want to be doing going into the playoffs, especially a one-game Wild Card playoff when anything can happen. It’s so random sometimes how that game turns out, but if you have some confidence, it can really help you into the playoffs.”
Colorado’s strategy Wednesday? Get to the sixth inning with a lead.
“If they have even a one-run lead even as early as the sixth inning, that’s really ideal for the Rockies because they can turn to a bullpen that’s really carried them this year,” Groke said. “It really has. (Chris) Rusin has been there best pitcher. I’m not saying he’s Andrew Miller, but if they have someone who’s Andrew Miller-ish, it’s lefty Chris Rusin and he does just about everything for them. He can match up against one hitter or he can throw three innings. He can do just about anything.”
Colorado also has Pat Neshek, Jake McGee, and closer Greg Holland, who saved 41 games this year.
“They will take him in a one-run-lead situation in the ninth inning – any day, any playoff game – that they can,” Groke said of Holland. “That is probably exactly how they would like it to unfold. They don’t need Jon Gray to pitch a complete game. They need to have a lead in the fifth or sixth inning that they can turn over to the bullpen and just bite their nails through the rest. It’s a tall task. The Diamondbacks hit really well, but if the Rockies want to draw it up in any kind of way that is beneficial to them, that’s how they do it.”