The Colorado Rockies haven’t taken the smoothest possible path to the playoffs, but that route looks very clear entering the season’s final days.
Their magic number down to three with five games to play, the Rockies will try to ride the momentum from a pair of dramatic victories as they continue their series with the visiting Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday night.
Colorado’s poorly timed slump, which included eight losses in 13 games from Sept. 12-26, caused the team’s lead in the NL wild card to slip to two games after Atlanta’s seventh straight win on Monday night.
But the Braves finally lost 5-4 to Florida on Tuesday, and the Rockies (89-68) extended their edge to three games with a 7-5, 11-inning win in the series opener over Milwaukee. Closer Huston Street(notes) blew a three-run lead on Jason Kendall’s(notes) ninth-inning home run—just the catcher’s second of the year— but reserve Colorado catcher Chris Iannetta(notes) won it with a pinch-hit, walk-off blast.
“It’s good to see I-Man hit that home run right there,” first baseman Todd Helton(notes) said. “Every time he goes up to the plate, you pull for him. He’s such a good guy and he works really hard and it’s a season-changer right there for him.”
The win had less controversy than Colorado’s previous victory, a 4-3 win over St. Louis on Sunday that ended when Clint Barmes’(notes) diving catch of a pop-up in shallow right field turned into a double play.
It was unclear whether Barmes maintained control of the ball, but either way the Rockies appear primed to return to the postseason for the first time since their run to the World Series in 2007.
They could even be thinking about an unlikely NL West title, as they trail the Los Angeles Dodgers by 3 1/2 games. Colorado closes the season with a three-game set versus the division leaders.
First, the Rockies will try to inch closer to a playoff spot behind Jason Hammel(notes). The right-hander has pitched well down the stretch, but has just one win in his last seven starts despite a 3.63 ERA.
Hammel (9-8, 4.30 ERA) did not get a decision Thursday against San Diego after allowing two runs in 6 1-3 innings of Colorado’s 5-4 defeat, but he beat Milwaukee on June 9 with six strong innings in Colorado’s 3-2 victory.
The Rockies are 4-0 against the Brewers this season, but they haven’t yet faced Jeff Suppan(notes). The right-hander has a 6-1 record and 3.40 ERA in nine career starts against Colorado, and he was the winning pitcher in Milwaukee’s only victory in eight games at Coors Field.
Suppan (7-11, 5.04) will hope to end his sluggish season by rebounding from a difficult start Thursday against Philadelphia. He allowed eight runs and a season-high 12 hits in 4 1-3 innings of a 9-4 loss, his third defeat in four starts.
“I just couldn’t make a pitch in the fifth (inning) when I need to, and they put up a big number,” Suppan said.
The Brewers (77-80) are trying to avoid a third straight loss as they look to finish the season at or above .500. Milwaukee is 2-3 in a 10-game season-closing run against likely NL playoff teams that ends at St. Louis this weekend.