PHOENIX — The Diamondbacks and Rockies share a spring training facility and played each other 19 times this season.
They know each other very well.
Now comes game No. 20 on Wednesday night, the biggest one of them all, an NL wild-card matchup with Arizona’s Zack Greinke facing Colorado’s young Jon Gray.
“There’s no secrets here,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “We know what they like to do. They know our players. … They know our tendencies, they know our hitters’ tendencies, they know our pitchers’ tendencies. And we know theirs.”
It’s a matchup of under-the-radar franchises in the NL West that had turnaround seasons under first-year managers. The Rockies are in the playoffs for the first time since 2009. The Diamondbacks haven’t been here since 2011. The game is sold out at 48,686-seat Chase Field.
“A couple of guys were wondering why the fans weren’t here early in the season and when were they going to start showing up,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said Tuesday. “And I told them you keep playing the same type of baseball, they’re going to come out and support us.
“So we want to earn that. We know that they’re out there, and I can’t wait to what tomorrow brings as far as the crowd, the noise and the energy.”
— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) October 3, 2017
Here are some things to consider when the Rockies meet the Diamondbacks:
WILD ATMOSPHERE:Diamondbacks slugger J.D. Martinez relishes the idea of playing in the energized atmosphere of the winner-take-all contest, but said the players can’t get too caught up in the scene.
“It’s going to be awesome, it’s going to be fun,” he said. “But at the same time you have to control it. I think that’s going to be the hardest thing for everyone, both sides. It’s just being able to control that environment and being able to control your adrenaline, your emotions and your feelings, because all that stuff’s going to be on a high.”
GREINKE’S ARM: Greinke (17-7, 3.20 ERA) will be making his 10th career playoff start. His postseason record is 3-3 with a 3.55 ERA. He is 2-1 in five starts against Colorado with a 3.41 ERA in 34 1-3 innings.
The Diamondbacks signed Greinke to a six-year, $206.5 million contract before the start of last season. This is just the situation where they expect him to earn some of that money.
“I feel good going into it,” he said. “I feel pretty prepared. All my pitches feel good, so I’ll be doing as good as I can do. We’ll see how it is, but it will be as good as I can do.”
YOUNG ROCKY: The Rockies counter with the 25-year-old Gray (10-4, 3.67), who said “it’s very cool” to go against Greinke.
“The guy’s obviously got a great track record,” Gray said. “He’s been a really good pitcher for years. It’s very exciting for me. He’s a guy I used to watch on TV so it’s very, very surreal.”
Gray is 2-1 with a 3.50 ERA in three starts against the Diamondbacks. He didn’t allow more than three runs in any of the starts.
MARTINEZ SIZZLING, GOLDSCHMIDT SLUMPING:Dealing with Martinez could be quite a chore. Acquired from Detroit before the trade deadline, Martinez has hit .302 with 29 home runs and 65 RBIs in 62 games with Arizona. In September, he hit .404 with 16 home runs and 36 RBIs in 24 games.
— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) October 3, 2017
But Paul Goldschmidt comes in with just the opposite performance down the stretch. The perennial All-Star and MVP candidate had a miserable September at the plate and enters the postseason in a 0-for-17 slump.
“It’s not about me,” he said. “We’re just trying to win. So I’ll go out there and do my best. But it’s not about me at all. You’re going to struggle throughout times of the year. I didn’t play well the last week or so, but that’s why it’s a team game.”
— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) October 3, 2017
POWER SURGE:The Rockies bring a powerhouse lineup featuring NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon (.331, 37 home runs, 104 RBIs), Nolan Arenado (.309, 37 homers, 130 RBIs) and Carlos Gonzalez, whose bat came alive late in the season after an uncharacteristically tough year at the plate.
But the entire one-through-eight in the batting order are dangerous.
Blackmon had just eight hits in 44 at-bats at Chase Field, but he loves hitting there.
“The thing I like about it the best is it has a really nice batter’s eye. It’s very big, bigger than most parks,” he said. “It makes for seeing the ball well. It also carries pretty good. The gaps are big. The infield can be fast.”
The teams split 10 games at Chase Field. Containing the power of both squads is crucial to the outcome of their 11th matchup there.
“Power’s always dangerous,” Black said, “because it’s one swing and especially one swing with a couple of guys on can really change the game.”
Season Series: Arizona won 11-8.
Rockies: CF Charlie Blackmon (.331, NL batting champ, 37 HRs, 104 RBIs, 14 triples, 14 SBs), 2B DJ LeMahieu (.310, 8, 64), 3B Nolan Arenado (.309, 37, 130), RF Carlos Gonzalez (.262, 14, 57, 34 doubles), SS Trevor Story (.239, 24, 82, 191 Ks), 1B Mark Reynolds (.267, 30, 97), LF Ian Desmond (.274, 7, 40), C Jonathan Lucroy (.265, 6, 40 with Rangers and Rockies; .310, 2, 13 in 46 games with Rockies).
Diamondbacks: LF David Peralta (.293, 14, 57), SS Ketel Marte (.260, 5, 18 in 73 games), 1B Paul Goldschmidt (.297, 36, 120, 94 BBs, .966 OPS), RF J.D. Martinez (.303, 45, 104, 1.066 OPS with Tigers and Diamondbacks), 3B Jake Lamb (.248, 30, 105), CF A.J. Pollock (.266, 14, 49 in 112 games), 2B Daniel Descalso (.233, 10, 51 in 131 games), C Jeff Mathis (.215, 2, 11 in 60 games) or Chris Iannetta (.254, 17, 43, .354 OBP).
Rockies: RH Jon Gray (10-4, 3.67 ERA in 20 starts, 110 1/3 IP).
Diamondbacks: RH Zack Greinke (17-7, 3.20, 215 Ks in 202 1/3 IP).
It’s the second postseason meeting between the teams. Colorado swept Arizona in the 2007 NLCS. … The current collection of Rockies has a .260 combined batting average against Greinke with 15 homers and 42 RBIs. Lucroy leads the way at .636 (7 for 11), while Gonzalez has five home runs. Reynolds and Story each have four homers against Greinke. Arenado and Blackmon have never homered off him. Desmond is 3 for 22. … The Diamondbacks are hitting .295 against Gray with two homers and 11 RBIs. Martinez has both homers, and four RBIs. Goldschmidt is 0 for 11 with five strikeouts. … Greinke is 13-1 at home with a 2.87 ERA and 131 strikeouts in 116 innings. He went 2-1 with a 3.41 ERA in five starts against the Rockies this season. … First-year Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo appeared to be leaning toward Mathis over Iannetta. But he said he wanted to see how Mathis responded to another workout on Tuesday after just returning from a broken hand. Mathis, a strong defender, normally catches Greinke when healthy. … If Iannetta starts, he would probably bat second in the lineup with Marte dropping to seventh. … Gray has allowed three or fewer runs in 13 consecutive starts. … Goldschmidt ended the season in an 0-for-17 slump and batted .171 over the final month. … Martinez hit .478 against Colorado with three homers, nine RBIs and 10 runs scored. … Two of Rodney’s six blown saves came against the Rockies. … Blackmon had only eight hits in 44 at-bats (.182) at Arizona. … Colorado and Arizona split 10 games at Chase Field this season. … The winner heads for Los Angeles to play the NL West champion Dodgers (104-58) in a best-of-five Division Series beginning Friday.
— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) October 4, 2017
Rockies: Under new manager Bud Black, the surprising Rockies (87-75) got off to a fast start and hung on down the stretch to take the second NL wild card. This is their fourth postseason appearance and first since 2009. Colorado finished a game ahead of upstart Milwaukee, clinching baseball’s final playoff spot on the next-to-last day of the regular season when the Brewers blew a six-run lead in a 7-6 loss at St. Louis. That put Black in the postseason for the first time as a big league skipper. He managed the Padres for 8 seasons from 2007-15 and was the 2010 NL Manager of the Year, but never took them to the playoffs. … Colorado improved by 12 wins over last year and fashioned the third-best record in team history behind 2009 (92-70) and the 2007 team (89-73) that got swept by Boston in the World Series. … Rockies had just one losing month, going 12-15 in August, and typically play solid defense. They are 65-40 when committing no errors and 22-35 when they make one or more. Arenado made one highlight reel after another at third base and is a favorite for his fifth straight Gold Glove. … The biggest offseason signings were Desmond and Holland. Desmond has dealt with injuries this season, but Holland rebounded after missing 2016 as he recovered from Tommy John surgery. He matched the club record for saves in a season set by Jose Jimenez (2002). … Blackmon is known for his bushy beard, mullet and sweet swing. He won the NL batting title and drove in 103 runs from the leadoff spot, most in major league history. He surpassed Darin Erstad, who knocked in 100 for the Angels in 2000. … Gonzalez struggled most of the season but hit .377 in September. He’s the only holdover from 2009 when the Rockies were beaten by Philadelphia in the NLDS. … Lucroy steadied a young pitching staff after arriving from Texas in a July 30 trade. … Right-hander Chad Bettis has been a feel-good story in his return from testicular cancer. He had surgery last November and went through treatments during spring training and into the season before returning in August. … Reynolds was signed to a minor league contract in the offseason. He joined Arenado and Blackmon in the 30-homer club this season.
— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) October 2, 2017
Diamondbacks: Just like the Rockies, Arizona (93-69) also flipped its record after going 69-93 last year. Lovullo preached communication from the first day of spring training and repeatedly uses the word “love” to describe team chemistry. … New general manager Mike Hazen chose not to overhaul the roster, saying he saw enough talent. Instead, he tinkered around the edges. … Arizona got off to a 6-1 start and was 44-26 on June 18 after a seven-game winning streak. Although the Diamondbacks couldn’t keep up with the torrid pace set by Los Angeles in the NL West, they were in the playoff picture throughout. A franchise-record 13-game winning streak late in the season helped secure the No. 1 wild card. … While the lineup was expected to be good, Arizona also got strong pitching. Only the Indians and Dodgers had a better ERA than the Diamondbacks (3.66). … Goldschmidt led the offense most of the season but faded in September. That didn’t matter much because of the powerhouse performance by Martinez. Acquired from Detroit on July 18 for three minor leaguers, Martinez hit .302 with 29 homers and 65 RBIs in 62 games with the Diamondbacks. He was NL player of the month for September, when he batted .404 with 26 runs, eight doubles, 16 homers and 36 RBIs in 24 games.
MVP! MVP! MVP! Three top contenders for NL MVP are in this game: Goldschmidt, Blackmon and Arenado. Goldschmidt finished runner-up for the award in 2013 and 2015. Arenado hit 18 home runs on the road this season and 19 at home. Blackmon’s 37 homers were the third-most by a leadoff hitter, trailing Alfonso Soriano’s 38 in 2002 with the Yankees and 39 in 2006 with the Nationals.
Ray in Reserve. Hard-throwing lefty Robbie Ray had a breakout season and would figure to start Game 1 against the Dodgers if Arizona advances. Lovullo, however, said he wouldn’t hesitate to use Ray for an inning or two in the wild-card game if needed.
Wacky Wednesday. The Rockies have a winning record on every day of the week except one. They are 10-14 on Wednesdays, while the Diamondbacks are 15-10.
Surging Pollock. The D-backs center fielder came on strong at the end of the season after a subpar year at the plate. He batted .363 in September.