The Cincinnati Reds and Colorado Rockies overcame slow starts to the season and put themselves in the playoff picture with successful stretches in May and June. They each headed into the All-Star break on down notes, however, and will try to turn things around again when they open a three-game series in Denver on Friday night.
The Reds lost eight of their first nine games to open the season. They pulled within two games of .500 with a season-high six-game winning streak last month, but then lost two one-sided games to the Cleveland Indians heading into the break.
The 11-1 loss to the Indians on Sunday was Cincinnati's largest margin of defeat this season. The Reds exit the break 4 1/2 games behind the Chicago Cubs for the National League Central lead and 4 1/2 games back of the Philadelphia Phillies for the second wild card from the NL.
"I know guys will be anxious to get back to playing because two games doesn't take away from what we've been able to do," Reds manager David Bell said after Sunday's loss. "Really, what we've been able to do is give ourselves a chance here going into the second half."
The Rockies opened the season 3-12 before an eight-game winning streak from May 26 to June 2 lifted them four games over .500. They remained above that mark until losing six in a row heading into the All-Star break to fall to 44-45.
"We obviously didn't finish the first half the way we wanted to," Colorado shortstop Trevor Story said. "It's a good time for a break, that's for sure. Kind of get our bearings, come back, start the second half like we know we can play ball."
The Rockies are 2 1/2 games back of the second wild card.
"It's not the end of the season, that's for sure," Story said. "We have been in some much worse spots before, and we are leaning on that (experience). We know what kind of team we have here, so we'll see at the end."
Sonny Gray will start on the mound for the Reds. The 29-year-old right-hander has never faced the Rockies in his career.
Sonny Gray (5-5, 3.89 ERA) ended the first half on a high note, throwing eight shutout innings in a 3-0 win against the Milwaukee Brewers on July 3. He matched his career high with 12 strikeouts
"It was one of those magical performances," said Reds catcher Curt Casali.
The Rockies opted to start right-hander Jon Gray in the series opener.
The 27-year-old Gray lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks in his last turn, allowing three runs and eight hits over five innings on Saturday.
Cincinnati rookie center fielder Nick Senzel (ankle) is hoping to play after leaving the 11-1 loss to the Indians. He got his spikes caught in the wall while trying to catch a double in the first inning.
"I think that when we have our early workout when we get to Denver, I'll just go through some things and see how it feels and go from there," Senzel said. "But I expect to be back after the break."
Votto and Puig are likely looking forward to playing at Coors Field again.
Votto is hitting .363 in 31 games at the stadium with six home runs and 22 RBIs. Puig is hitting .300 with eight home runs and 20 RBIs in 36 games.
--Field Level Media