Yes, the first official full day of summer isn’t until Wednesday. And yes, the season hasn’t even reached the halfway point.
And no, this isn’t Rocktober 2007, when the Rockies swept Arizona in the National League Championship Series to advance to their first and only World Series.
But the Rockies, Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers are setting such a torrid base in the National League West that every game within the division is important. That gives the Diamondbacks-Rockies series some extra spice.
The three-game set begins Tuesday night at Coors Field with ace Zack Greinke on the mound for the D-Backs and rookie right-hander German Marquez throwing for the Rockies.
“We know how well those teams are playing,” Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado said Sunday after hitting a walk-off home run to complete his first cycle and beat San Francisco 7-5. “Obviously, it’s a tight division, but we are a good team and we’re playing at home and we need to take care of home field. But it’s going to be a battle, for sure.”
The division-leading Rockies swept a four-game series from the Giants for the first time in franchise history to improve to 46-26, a .639 winning percentage. But the D-Backs (44-26, .629) and Dodgers (44-26 entering Monday night’s game against the New York Mets) are allowing no breathing room. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this is the first time since divisional play began in 1969 that three teams in the same division had winning percentages of .620 or higher on or after Fathers’ Day.
And while the NL West race is shaping up to be wild one, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts clearly believes his team has the edge.
“We realize we’re the best team in the division,” he told reporters over the weekend.
After the Diamondbacks series, the Rockies travel to Los Angeles for a three-game weekend series against the Dodgers. Then on June 30-July 2, the Rockies are in Phoenix for a three-game set against the D-Backs.
Arizona, one of the biggest busts of the 2016 season, is loaded. All-star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, a legitimate MVP candidate, is on pace for 37 homers and 30 steals. Third baseman Jake Lamb has built on his 2016 season to become a dynamic offensive force. He’s batting .281 with 16 homers, and his 59 RBIs lead the majors.
Second baseman Brandon Drury, right fielder David Peralta and shortstop Chris Owings are integral pieces of an Arizona lineup that stacks up with Colorado and Washington as the most potent in the National League.
And that lineup is about to get better. All-star outfielder A.J. Pollock, who has been on the disabled list since May 15 because of a strained right groin, was scheduled to continue his Triple-A rehab progression with Reno on Monday night, and he’s close to rejoining the Diamondbacks.
“The names are good names. They have talented players” Colorado manager Bud Black said of Arizona. “They are playing solid baseball, and they are believing it.”
The Diamondbacks have a 3.43 ERA, second in the National League to the Dodgers’ 3.39. The Rockies rank third with a 4.41 ERA.
Greinke has bounced back from a disappointing 2016, but he has not been the D-Backs’ best starting pitcher. That would be left-hander Robbie Ray. Over 14 starts, he’s 7-3 with a 2.87 ERA. He’s striking out a career-high 11.7 batters per nine innings.
Arizona’s bullpen, a disaster last year, has a 3.38 ERA, second in the NL behind the Dodgers’ 3.11. Right-handed closer Fernando Rodney and right-handed set-up man Archie Bradley throw a wicked one-two punch. Rodney has an unimpressive 4.73 ERA, but he has 20 saves in 23 opportunities and hasn’t allowed an earned run over his last 17 appearances. Bradley has a 1.13 ERA and a minuscule 0.84 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched).
Diamondbacks utility man Daniel Descalso, who played two seasons in Colorado before signing with Arizona, envisions a fight to the finish.
“Our division is tough,” he told The Arizona Republic. “It’s three really good teams right now that we’re going to battle with and are going to be playing a lot down the stretch. We’re going to have to keep playing the way we are, keep grinding, because those two teams are playing really well right now, too. We’re right up there with them.”