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D-backs’ upcoming games vs. Rockies could make for NL West shake-up

Arizona Diamondbacks' Chris Owings (16) celebrates the team's 6-2 win against the San Diego Padres with David Peralta, second from left, Yasmany Tomas, second from right, and A.J. Pollock, after a baseball game Thursday, April 27, 2017, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The Arizona Diamondbacks’ late-April and early-May matchups with the Colorado Rockies will likely decide first place in the NL West for at least a brief time. Who would’ve thought?

The D-backs will begin a three-game series with the Rockies Friday at Chase Field before the two teams face each other again next weekend in Denver. Entering the weekend, Arizona has a half-game lead over the Rockies for first place in the NL West.

Before the season, Fangraphs projected that the Diamondbacks would win 76 games and finish in fourth place in the NL West behind the Dodgers (1st), Giants (2nd) and Rockies. Now, nearly a month into the season, Fangraphs’ updated projections have the D-backs winning 82 games and placing second in the West behind the Dodgers and ahead of the Rockies (the Giants have fallen to 4th place in that projection).

Part of the shake-up in the West is thanks to the Giants’ 8-15 start to the year, but the Rockies and Diamondbacks have both played strong baseball to earn a record well above .500 in the early going. Arizona’s starting rotation has a National League-best 3.47 ERA, and its 132 runs scored and .276 team average are each second in the major leagues behind the Nationals.

Those Nationals just took three of four games from the Rockies at Coors Field, outscoring them 46 to 29 in the series.

UPCOMING HURLERS

In this weekend’s series, the Diamondbacks’ probable pitchers are Robbie Ray (2-0), Zack Greinke (2-2) and Patrick Corbin, in that order. Greinke leads D-backs starters with his 2.93 ERA and 30.2 innings pitched. Ray has posted a 3.42 ERA in four starts, and Corbin a 3.10 ERA in five starts.

The D-backs will see lefties Kyle Freeland (2-1, 3.32 ERA) and Tyler Anderson (1-3, 7.11 ERA) before Colorado sends right-hander German Marquez to the hill in the series finale. Marquez has made one start this year, allowing eight earned runs over just four innings.

The rematch in Colorado next weekend is harder to project for pitchers, especially as the D-backs figure out a solution for filling the rotation spot for Shelby Miller, who’s eyeing a possible Tommy John surgery. Arizona used Zack Godley on Wednesday night, but he was sent back down to Triple-A after his start.

Because of a day off on Monday, the D-backs shouldn’t need another arm until Saturday, May 6.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Chris Owings has been outstanding for the D-backs so far this year, swinging a hot bat at key moments. His .325 average is second on the team among regular starters behind only David Peralta (.341), and his 19 RBI are tied for a team lead and for eighth in MLB. He hit two home runs in Thursday’s win over the Padres.

Yasmany Tomas hit his fifth home run of the year on Thursday, now leading the D-backs in that category. He’s also hitting .308 and slugging .615. He hits .374 in his career against the Rockies with 35 RBI and four home runs in 30 games. He’s also hitting .393 at Coors Field.

Former D-back Mark Reynolds is hitting .317 with seven home runs and five doubles this season. Assuming he plays on Friday, it will be the 33-year-old’s 26th game against the team that once drafted him.

Although they’re off to a 14-9 start, the Rockies’ 4.85 team ERA is the third-worst in the major leagues, ahead of only the Padres and Tigers.

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