‘They know us, we know them’: D-backs familiar with Wild Card foes
PHOENIX – They share a spring training complex.
They shared the field 19 times during the regular season.
And now, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies share the spotlight in Wednesday’s National League Wild Card Game. It’s one game, after 162 regular season games, to decide which team moves one step closer to the World Series.
“They know us, we know them. Two great teams going at it,” third baseman Jake Lamb said. “It’s a do-or-die game, it’s exciting stuff.”
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The D-backs went 11-8 against the Rockies this season, winning the season series despite dropping five of the first seven meetings. The teams split the 10 matchups at Chase Field, where the Rockies batted just .208, their lowest mark at any National League ballpark, and were outscored 43-32.
Colorado, though, did homer quite a few times at Chase Field. The team hit 11, their most away from Coors Field.
“Their lineup is strong. You look at their lineup and — our lineup is strong, too — but their lineup, I feel like one-through-nine can about put some damage on you,” right fielder J.D. Martinez said Monday, before quickly catching himself, “One-through-eight — I forgot we’re in the N.L.”
Overall, the Rockies scored the third-most runs in all of baseball, averaging just over five runs a game.
“Their lineup is structured in a way where they produce runs at a very big rate,” reliever Archie Bradley said. “Obviously, Zack (Greinke) is going to start us off, but it’s going to be a whole-team effort from everyone involved.”
Opposite Greinke, who won a team-best 17 games this season, the Rockies will start pitcher Jon Gray, who is making his first career postseason start. Gray, the Rockies Opening Day starter, won 10 games with two of those wins coming at Chase Field. He looked very comfortable pitching in Arizona, recording his only two double-digit strikeout starts.
Gray struck out 20 and walked one in 13.0 innings pitched in the desert.
“He’s got really, really good stuff. He’s got an upper 90s fastball with a really good slider. It’s tough. It’s never going to be an easy at-bat against him,” center fielder A.J. Pollock said.
Sitting next to Pollock during Monday’s media availability, left fielder David Peralta agreed, adding about the Rockies’ 25-year-old right-hander: “You’re looking for him to make a mistake. If he makes a mistake, you have to be ready for it. You have to have a good plan against him. We have to work as a team. If we’re going to win the game, 1-0, this is all we need, one run. We’re just looking for a mistake. We have to be ready and have a good game plan.”
Sticking to that game plan is going to be key.
“We know a lot about them, they know a lot about us, so we’ll go out there and just try to execute. The team that executes more is going to win,” catcher Chris Iannetta said.
This is the sixth year of the Wild Card Game, and the first appearance for either the D-backs or Rockies.
Among D-backs players, only outfielder Gregor Blanco and infielder Daniel Descalso have prior experience. Blanco played in two, with San Francisco in 2014 and 2016, and Descalso appeared in one for St. Louis in 2012. Combined, they are 3-0 in the one-game format.
“You can’t get away with as many mistakes in a one-game scenario,” Descalso said. “One pitch, one play can be the difference between going on and going home.”
Chase Field will be sold out on Wednesday, which only adds to the drama awaiting both teams.
“This is the greatest time of the year,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “October baseball, long sleeve baseball is the absolute best, and I want these guys to experience it, embrace it and remember it. It’s a good feeling.”
Tune in to 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station starting at 6 a.m. Wednesday
as our shows come to you live from Chase Field before
the 5:08 p.m. first pitch of the NL Wild Card Game.