Friday, June 30, 2017

MLB Spotlight Series: Colorado Rockies at Arizona Diamondbacks

Colorado visits Arizona in big NL West series
The weekend series that is about to take place between the host Arizona Diamondbacks and division-rival Colorado Rockies is extremely important.
These have been two of the more surprising contenders of the 2017 season. The Dbacks lead the NL Wildcard race. Arizona has a 9.5 game cushion on one of those postseason berths.
The Rockies currently control the second NL Wildcard berth. Their nearest pursuer for that spot, the defending NL champion Chicago Cubs, are six games back.
But while these have indeed been two successful clubs over the course of the season, each is struggling of late. Colorado has dropped eight straight games. Arizona comes in after dropping the final two of their last series with the Saint Louis Cardinals.
Both teams have fallen behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the race for the NL West Division crown. The Rockies led the division for most of the season until the current losing streak. Arizona has been playing catch-up, spending just one recent day tied atop the division back on June 1.
The desperation factor is clearly a check mark on the Colorado side. Already fully immersed in a losing streak, the team needs to wake up and reverse the skid before losing becomes habitual. No time like a big weekend series with a division rival to do so.
The Dbacks have lost three games in a row just three times all season. They haven’t dropped four in a row all year. The club certainly doesn’t want to slip in to such a losing skid now.
The series has plenty of talent for MLB fans to enjoy. That includes two of the top superstars in the game today in Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado and Dbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.

WEEKEND PITCHING MATCHUPS

FRIDAY: Jon Gray (COL) vs Robbie Ray (ARZ)
SATURDAY: Tyler Chatwood (COL) vs Zack Greinke (ARZ)
SUNDAY: German Marquez (COL) vs Taijuan Walker (ARZ)
At age 25, Gray is the Rockies best starter. He has made just three starts this year, however, due to a stress fracture in his left foot. The righty is expected to be activated for Friday night’s game, his first appearance since April 13.
He will be opposed by the 25-year old lefty Ray, who has drawn at least even with Greinke as the Dbacks top starting pitcher. Both clubs will be looking to get off on the right foot in the Friday night matchup.
Both teams are already experiencing major improvement in the standings from a year ago. In 2016 they finished third and fourth in the NL West. The Rockies went 75-87 in what was their sixth consecutive losing campaign. Arizona went 69-93, narrowly avoiding last place.
The rivals have already met nine times this season. The results have been fairly even, with the Rockies capturing five of the nine games thus far. Just over a week ago, the Dbacks took two of three at Coors Field.

STATISTICAL COMPARISON

The Diamondbacks rank fourth and the Rockies sixth in all of Major League Baseball in runs scored this season. That is no surprise. Chase Field, host to this weekend’s matchup, ranks second among all ballparks in the MLB Park Factors ranking for run production. Coors Field is at the very top of the list.
Arizona shows a bit more power. Their cumulative .782 OPS mark is fourth-best in MLB this year. The Rockies .757 is tied in the 11th spot.
The Dbacks are also more patient, ranking 13th in all of MLB compared to Colorado’s 24th in the Walks category. Speed also shows as a huge Arizona advantage, with the Diamondbacks ranking sixth in steals and the Rockies only in 25th place.
Arizona has the statistical advantage on the mound as well. The Dbacks staff is tied for third with a .235 Batting Average Against. The Rockies .256 mark ranks 16th in baseball. Arizona is 7th and Colorado 15th in Quality Starts.
One of the major factors cited by many following this year’s Arizona turnaround has been the positive influence of new manager Torey Lovullo. This is the first big league managerial opportunity for the long time bench player and coach.
Bob Baum of The Boston Globe recently quoted Lovullo on his journey. ‘‘I started to sit on the bench a lot and I started to pay attention a lot. I started to realize there was something inside of me that felt like I could manage. … I thought about being the leader of a team that could win a World Series. That became a goal of mine.’’
It appears that Lovullo can indeed manage a big league ball club. If he continues to push the right buttons in the clubhouse and dugout, he could very well end up leading a team to win the World Series, far sooner than he may have ever believed was possible.

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