PHOENIX -- Including Cactus League games, the Rockies will face the D-backs for the 22nd time this year when they play the National League Wild Card Game at Chase Field tonight.There are no hidden secrets between the teams, but one thing is certain: Whichever club can contain the other's power
PHOENIX -- Including Cactus League games, the Rockies will face the D-backs for the 22nd time this year when they play the National League Wild Card Game at Chase Field tonight.
There are no hidden secrets between the teams, but one thing is certain: Whichever club can contain the other's power will win the game and move on to the NL Division Series presented by T-Mobile on Friday evening against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium.
For the D-backs, that power is Paul Goldschmidt, J.D. Martinez and A.J. Pollock. For the Rockies, the core is Charlie Blackmon, Nolan Arenado and Carlos Gonzalez.
These are the major elements that starting pitchers Zack Greinke of the D-backs and Jon Gray of the Rockies have to be aware of.
"Contains is a good word for it," Rockies manager Bud Black said during Tuesday's workout. "Power's always dangerous because it's one swing. One swing with a couple of guys on can really change the game. You have to contain the power. Both pitching staffs have to be aware of that."
To be sure, there are other elements in the lineups to contend with, but the D-backs' trio hit 95 homers this season, 16 for Martinez with Detroit before the July 18 trade that sent him to Arizona. He had 16 in September to tie a Major League record, including four in one game on Sept. 4 at Dodger Stadium.
The Rockies' group has hit 88 of the club's 192 homers.
"Mistakes could be hit out of the ballpark. And this ballpark is a good place to hit, like our park," Black said about Chase Field, which has been rated as the second-best hitting park in the Majors, behind Coors Field. "Pitches have to be executed because these big hitters are going to take their swings. Pitchers are going to have to make good pitches during the course of this game."
Case in point: The teams split a four-game series here from Sept. 11-14, with the Rockies winning the first two games, in which the D-backs pitched to Arenado and Gonzalez. Arenado hit a three-run, eighth-inning homer off reliever Jake Barrett to win the Sept. 11 game and CarGo hit a pair of homers the next night; his two-run seventh-inning shot off David Hernandez was the difference in a two-run win.
On Sept. 13, Pollock homered for the D-backs in an 8-2 victory, and on Sept. 14, it was Martinez who hit one out in a 7-0 D-backs win.
You may notice a trend. Certainly, the clubs do. That's why the difference would seem to be who contains the big boys in the single-elimination Wild Card Game.
"I wish I could predict that," said D-backs manager Torey Lovullo. "We respect the entire lineup of the Colorado Rockies on a pretty immense level. They can strike easily, they can strike quick. They are a lot like our lineup. To say that shutting down Blackmon, Arenado and [Gonzalez] is [important is] a tremendous understatement. We're not going to overlook anybody."
Gray was the beneficiary of CarGo's power on Sept. 12 and came away with the 4-2 win after pitching seven innings of two-run, seven-hit ball. He struck out 10. Greinke pitched on Sept. 11, throwing seven innings, allowing two runs on five hits and whiffing six. He wasn't the pitcher of record after Arenado hit the three-run homer off Barrett.
Gray, 25, will be making only the 59th start of his three-year career tonight and first in the postseason.
The right-hander said he didn't expect to change anything to limit the potential damage from Goldschmidt, Martinez and Pollock, who were 3-for-12 on Sept. 12. Martinez had a homer off of Gray and a double of off reliever Scott Oberg; Pollock had a double off of Gray. Goldschmidt was 0-for-4.
"I'm not really changing much in my plan," Gray said. "I just need to control my effort level, my tempo and delivery. And keep doing the same things I've been doing. They're a very tough offense. They have some very big bats in their lineup, and so do we."
Greinke will be making his 391st start, 10th in the postseason. The right-hander was in the playoffs with the Dodgers two years ago. He lost the 2015 NLDS Game 5 vs. the Mets, 3-2, to Jacob DeGrom, when Daniel Murphy caught fire, going 3-for-4, with a double and homer off Greinke.
Greinke has obviously looked down the gullet of this type of lineup in October before. Against Greinke on Sept. 11, Blackmon, Gonzalez and Arenado went 2-for-9. Arenado had an RBI double off of Greinke two innings before winning the game with the three-run homer off Barrett.
"They're kind of deep," Greinke said about the Rockies' lineup. "They have some good hitters at the top of the order and some good power hitters in the middle. All of their hitters have value all the way through the eighth spot. Even their pitchers are some pretty good athletes in comparison to other teams."
No doubt, the clubs are evenly matched. They share the Salt River Field at Talking Stick's training complex in nearby Scottsdale, Ariz. Another matter that is for certain: Tonight's game will be the last against each other until next spring.
Which slugger will supply the power?
"Whoever comes up with the hit in the right spot wins the game," Blackmon said. "It could be a home run. It could be that one leveraged matchup that goes this way or that. It could be anybody."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter.