NL wild-card preview: D-backs, Rockies reignite their NL West rivalry

Big League Stew

It was quite a year in the National League West — so good, in fact, that it sent three teams to the postseason to ultimately vie for one spot in the National League Championship Series.

With the division-champ Los Angeles Dodgers waiting in the National League Division Series, the  Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies will play a do-or-die game Wednesday to see whose season lives on.

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The wild-card game gets a tad wilder when it’s played between division foes. By nature, the wild-card game is thrilling. It’s equal parts Game 1 and Game 7, but when you put together two teams that played each other 19 times during the regular season, it’s even more of an anything-can-happen situation.

As it stands, we have two teams with explosive offenses, whether we’re talking about Paul Goldschmidt, J.D. Martinez and the D-backs or Nolan Arenado, Carlos Gonzalez, Charlie Blackmon and the Rockies. The starting pitching matchup is equally powerful, with two guys – Zack Greinke and Jon Gray — who could potentially dominate.

The National League wild-card game will take place Wednesday, Oct. 4 at 8 p.m. ET. The D-backs host the game at Chase Field in Phoenix. The game will be broadcast on TBS.

The NL wild-card starting pitchers: Zack Greinke and Jon Gray. (AP)
The NL wild-card starting pitchers: Zack Greinke and Jon Gray. (AP)

Greinke (17-7, 3.20 ERA) brings a lot more experience to the NL wild-card game than his counterpart Jon Gray, though Gray (10-4, 3.67) can be just as dynamic as Greinke when he’s on. Both have the ability to turn this into a pitcher’s duel. And both can turn the game into a strikeout fest.

For a good example of what they’re capable of, we only need to look back at the last times each pitcher faced their wild-card opponent. For Greinke that was Sept. 11. The Rockies won the game, but Greinke didn’t figure into the decision. He pitched seven innings, allowing two runs on five hits, striking out six. Gray faced the D-backs the next day. He also pitched seven innings and allowed two runs. He struck out 10 D-backs hitters as the Rockies won 4-2.

Greinke has the big advantage in postseason pedigree, but that’s partially because Gray is making his first postseason appearance. Greinke is 3-3 with a 3.55 ERA in nine postseason starts, four of which came recently as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Take away his 2011 postseason games with the Brewers and Greinke has never given up more than three earned runs in a postseason start. And he’s lasted at least six innings in each start.

Both pitchers are capable of racking up the strikeouts, which is something to watch for. Gray struck out 9.1 batters per nine innings this season. Greinke’s number was slightly higher this season at 9.6.

Here are the lineups the Diamondbacks and Rockies will send out for the wild-card game:

These two teams know each other well, having met 19 times during the regular season. The D-backs won 11 of those meetings, outscoring the Rockies 101-69. We can look at an even smaller, more recent sample too: The D-backs and Rockies played seven times in September with the D-backs winning five of those.

The first three wins came in Colorado at the start of September, when the D-backs swept a three-game series as part of their 13-game winning streak. The two teams met again later in the month in Arizona, a four-game series that they split two apiece. That might be a tad more encouraging for the Rockies, knowing they won two games at Chase Field just a few weeks ago.

The Rockies need Nolan Arenado at his best in the NL wild-card game. (Getty Images)
The Rockies need Nolan Arenado at his best in the NL wild-card game. (Getty Images)

Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon are playing like the MVP candidates that they are. Both are underrated in the larger scope of baseball and they’ll have a chance to shine in primetime in the postseason. Arenado is particularly important for the Rockies’ fortunes. He had 29 homers and 105 RBIs this season in Rockies victories vs. eight homers and 25 RBIs in their losses. That seems obvious — you win when your best players play well — but Arenado is an important cog to the Rockies as a whole. If he’s hitting, the D-backs could be in trouble.

When J.D. Martinez homers, the D-backs have a good shot to win. (AP)
When J.D. Martinez homers, the D-backs have a good shot to win. (AP)

Greinke goes deep into the game. He’s capable of keeping an opponent in line and pitching seven or eighth inning if he’s on, which obviously would help Arizona. The D-backs bullpen is underrated, though, so Arizona doesn’t need Greinke to go to the distance for this to turn into a win. Their 3.78 bullpen ERA ranked fifth in MLB this season. Another thing: The D-backs are 16-7 this season when J.D. Martinez homers. So that would help.

• 153 — How many more runs the high-powered Rockies offense scored at home vs. on the road, something that the D-backs will have to see as an advantage.

• 6 — Homers allowed by Greinke against the Rockies this season. Colorado would like a few of those this time around.

• 1.140 — Carlos Gonzalez’ OPS in his career against Greinke. That includes 14 hits, five homers and seven RBIs.

• 15 — Paul Goldschmidt’s RBIs against the Rockies this season. That’s tied for most against any team in MLB this season. He also had 15 against the Giants.

• 0 — Goldschmidt’s career hits against Gray. He’s actually 0-for-11 against Gray with five strikeouts.

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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