D-backs, Rockies shaping up for Wild finale

September 15th, 2017

PHOENIX -- No two Major Leagues teams are more familiar with each other than the D-backs and Rockies.

They share the Salt River Fields at Talking Stick Spring Training facility in nearby Scottsdale, Ariz., played two Cactus League games against each other this year and a number of others between Minor Leaguers on the back fields of the complex.

Thursday was the 19th and final time the two teams have met during the regular season. The D-backs won, 7-0, at Chase Field, to finish 11-8 against their National League West rival and take a five-game lead over the Rockies for the NL's top Wild Card spot with 15 games left to play.

Colorado has a 2 1/2-game lead over Milwaukee and St. Louis for the second spot, also with 15 games remaining.

Wild Card standings

The teams both have first-year managers in Colorado's Bud Black and Arizona's Torey Lovullo. Neither club was a favorite to be in the postseason this year.

It seems only fitting, then, that bragging rights between the teams could be decided in the NL Wild Card Game, most likely at Chase Field on Oct. 4.

"Anything can happen in one game," Black said prior to his club being shut out on five hits Thursday. "It doesn't matter which is the best team or not. In any one game, or in any playoff, it's who plays the best. And there are times when the team that's best on paper doesn't win.

"That's the beauty of baseball, or any competition. You don't know. That's why we play. To find out."

This is the one thing Black does know: If your team loses that one game, there's nothing but heartache. He's still sensitive about the 163rd game of the regular season that his Padres lost, 9-8, to the Rockies on Oct. 1, 2007, at Coors Field. That game was necessary to determine the NL Wild Card after both teams were 89-73 after 162 games.

"We scored two runs in the top of the 13th. I gave the ball to Trevor Hoffman, and he let up three in the bottom of the 13th," Black recalled.

The game ended when Jamey Carroll hit a medium fly ball to right, scoring . Brian Giles made a rainbow throw to catcher Michael Barrett. Holliday slid wide. He still hasn't touched the plate. Barrett still hasn't made the tag.

In today's game, the play would have been subject to instant replay. Not then.

That's baseball, as Black would say.

It was the closest Black came to the postseason in his eight-plus years managing the Padres -- at the end of his first season. The Rockies went on to sweep the D-backs in the NL Championship Series. The Red Sox returned the favor in the World Series. The Padres were already home.

The Rockies and D-backs haven't played a postseason game since. Perhaps that changes on Oct. 4.

"I think that would be awesome," Black said. "I think that would be great."

Here's the path the two teams must take before they can meet again in that game:

The D-backs have a soft schedule -- no more games against teams with .500 or better records. They have six against the Giants, three against the Padres, three against the Marlins and a closing three-game set against the Royals in Kansas City.

The Rockies have virtually the same mix: Seven against the Padres, two against the Giants and three vs. the Marlins, although they finish with three games against the Dodgers at Coors Field.

"Yeah, I think there's some irony in that," Lovullo said about the possibility of a Wild Card rematch. "We know there's still some time, and if it comes down to that moment, we're going to be very familiar with each other. We spend a lot of time in the same space, and that starts early in Spring Training.

"We see each other a lot there. We cross paths a lot. It's about getting the job done at the right time. And if we wind up playing the Rockies, I'm sure it will be a fantastic game."

The D-backs took five of the last seven between the two teams, splitting this week's four-game series. They lost a pair of close ones on Monday and Tuesday, but rebounded nicely to outscore the Rockies, 15-2, in winning the final two games.

"We were very much aware of what happened the first two days," Lovullo said. "And to rebound the way we did and create a little bit of space in the standings -- the same type of space that was there when the Rockies came into town -- was much needed."

The 3-4 homestand kept the D-backs on a 16-4 run that includes a club-record 13-game winning streak. The Rockies won six in a row on their trip through Los Angeles and Arizona, before dropping the last two.

At this point, the teams are so evenly matched, there's not much more to learn.

"There's no hidden secrets," Black said.

The first Cactus League game between the teams was Feb. 25, an 8-4 Rockies win. With a little more than two weeks to go in the regular season, whether Thursday's tilt was the last is still to be determined.