Rockies May Be Long Shots, But Still Alive in Post-Season Bid
Rockies manager Bud Black had a flashback to the final days of July and first week of August on Monday night. After wrapping up what was a disappointing home season with a victory against the Dodgers on Sunday afternoon, the Rockies began a regular-season-ending road trip with a 7-2 victory at San Francisco on Monday night.
It was only a step in a challenging journey the Rockies face this week in their effort to rebound from an in-season fade.
"Tonight and (Sunday) we put a couple games together that were reminiscent of what we did in the first two, three weeks of the season," said Black.
Reminiscent of that season-opening stretch when the Rockies won 11 of 14 games, creating a belief that in a pandemic-shortened season of 60 games the Rockies had reason to feel one of the National League spots in the expanded, eight-team post-season was theirs for the taking.
Well the last two games were at least two steps in that direction, but with seven games in the next six days to wrap up the regular season, the Rockies still have heavy lifting to be done.
Here's the reality check:
-- The Rockies have three more games in San Francisco -- Tuesday and Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon -- which will feature Kyle Freeland on the mound Tuesday. But then the Rockies will cross their fingers with a weakened-back-end-of-the-rotation featuring rookie Ryan Castellani and comeback hopeful Chi Chi Gonzalez on Wednesday and Thursday.
-- And when they get to Arizona for a four-game series to wrap up a short-season, the Rockies will face a doubleheader on Friday night -- making up for the game postponed by the Black Lives Matter boycott of an Aug. 27 scheduled game. That means looking for a sixth starter, to go along with Antonio Senzatela in those two seven-inning games.
-- If the Rockies survive the next four days, however, they do have the promise of Marquez and Freeland on regular rest for Saturday and Sunday.
-- That is, if the games matter. The Rockies can overtake the Giants themselves -- a sweep of the four-game series would put the Rockies a game ahead of San Francisco in the battle for that eighth slot in the post-season showdown. They, however, are going to need help from afar in terms of the Phillies, currently in eighth place, and 2 1/2 games up on the Rockies, and the Brewers, tied with the Giants for the ninth slot, two games in front of the Rockies.
The Phillies have games on Tuesday and Wednesday at Washington, and then finish the regular season with three games at Tampa Bay, which well could have the No. 1 seed in the AL locked up by then, which could take the edge off the Rays.
Meanwhile, the Brewers have games against Cincinnati on Tuesday and Wednesday, and then St. Louis in a four-game weekend visit to Busch Stadium, where both teams are clinging to post-season slots. The Cardinals are clinging to the No. 2 slot NL Central by one percentage point on the Reds, who currently are sitting as the No. 7 NL team.
In other words, they are going to need help from afar if they are to get back into the post-season for the third time in four years, but they also have to take care of their own business for any of it to matter.
That they did on Monday night with a strong effort from Marquez, and an early offensive jolt from the bat of Kevin Pillar, a Rockies trading-deadline addition from Boston, who had spent his career in the Toronto organization before being dealt to the Giants in the opening week of 2019, and then shunned by the Giants at season's end.
That added to the upbeat feeling he had after singling to ignite a two-run Rockies rally in the second inning, and then added a home run for a 3-0 lead in the third.
"It always feels good coming back and playing against a former team, especially after a team had the ability to bring you back and didn't for whatever reason," said Pillar.
But there was more to this night than Pillar's shot at revenge, and Pillar said it was evident long before Giants right-hander Johnny Cueto threw his first pitch.
"You could feel it in the dugout before the game," he said. "It felt different. I don't know if with Nolan going on the injured list, maybe the pressure on the team to perform disappeared.
"The end of the season is coming. We're one week from either going to the post-season or going home, but everyone seemed to be in a good mood. We understand what the challenges are in front of us. None of us has packed it in."
If anything, the last two games have given the Rockies reason to think of what could be, giving them that added drive to take advantage of any opportunity that is created.