Before the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies face off in the postseason for the first time since the forgettable — at least for D-backs fans — 2007 NLCS, we asked Kevin Henry from Rox Pile five questions about the “Blake Street Bombers” ahead of Wednesday night’s wild card showdown.
Here are his responses.
Preseason to now
Q: If I told you the Rockies would begin the season with four rookies in the starting rotation and would make the postseason, would you call me crazy?
A: Yeah, probably so. I was at spring training when the Rockies were just starting to talk about Antonio Senzatela making the rotation. It’s amazing what he, Kyle Freeland, German Marquez and Jeff Hoffman have meant to this team this season. If you’d told me Colorado would flourish like it did without Chad Bettis or Jon Gray, I certainly would’ve thought every game would have been a 13-12 decision. However, those four rookies made a huge impact. It bodes well for Colorado’s future rotation as well.
The Rockies starter
Q: What has made Jon Gray so great over his last 13 starts?
A: He is healthy. That’s one of the biggest things. I talked to him right before September began and he mentioned how he really felt the best was yet to come for him. He also mentioned how getting hurt in April might have been a blessing in disguise because he entered the stretch run of the season fairly fresh.
Gray has also honed his curveball so he is now a three-pitch guy. When that curve is working along with his nasty slider and powerful fastball, he is tough to beat. That’s what I am watching on Wednesday: Can he throw all three pitches for strikes? If so, that’s a great sign for Colorado.
Q: Who is your X-factor?
A: It seems weird to say, but I really think it’s Carlos Gonzalez. He hit .377 in September after having a horrible start to the season (he hit .172 in June when there were plenty of calls for him to be benched or even traded or designated for assignment). He’s also the only Colorado player left from the 2009 playoff team. He hit .588 that year against the Phillies. That fact isn’t lost on the guys like Nolan Arenado, DJ LeMahieu and Charlie Blackmon. When CarGo heated up, those guys were genuinely excited to see him snap out of his slump. If CarGo goes, this team goes.
Now, one thing I am watching is that CarGo is hitting .203 in 66 away games this season. That’s not good. He’s also hitting just .217 against the Diamondbacks. That’s not good either. If he can get some hits on Wednesday, it could be big for this team’s psyche.
Q: What makes Chris Rusin so effective out of the bullpen?
A: He can thrive in any situation against any batter. He’s shown that this season, whether it’s been multiple innings or one batter. Remember the game when Jon Gray got hurt in San Francisco in April? It was Chris Rusin who stepped in after Gray left and helped the Rockies win that game. That’s how he has been all season.
Manager Bud Black said it best recently during a pregame media talk…
“He’s a pitcher that, within his exertion level, makes pitches. He’s a classic pitcher. He changes speeds, he has deception, he moves the ball around the strike zone, he can dot the fastball on both sides of the plate. He pitches. He truly pitches. The stuff has good action to it. The changeup dives away from right-handed hitters, he’s got a tight little slider, so don’t overlook the stuff but he’s a guy that can truly handcuff both right and left-handed hitters.”
That’s what makes Chris Rusin effective.
Home field advantage
Q: Is the Coors Field effect real? In other words, how big of an advantage is home field?
A: Would the Rockies like to have been playing this game in Denver? Sure, home field is always great … but it’s not just because it’s Coors Field. Colorado finished the season 46-35 at home and 41-40 on the road. That’s only the second time in a decade that the Rockies have had a winning road record. This team feels confident playing anywhere, and that’s something we haven’t been able to say for a while.
Yes, Coors Field has a big outfield and several of Colorado’s players thrive at home. However, don’t forget that more home runs were hit at Chase Field this season than Coors Field.
I would argue with anyone who tells me that Blackmon or Arenado is a Coors Field product. If that’s your logic, then Gray or Rusin should win the Cy Young this season.
Q: What are the keys to victory for the Rockies and who do you see advancing to the NLCS?
A: Gray has to outpitch Greinke. It’s that simple. Bud Black always says success starts with starting pitching and this is certainly the case on Wednesday.
Thanks to Kevin for sharing his insights and perspective on the Rockies. Be sure to read Rox Pile and follow the site on Twitter for great analysis from the other side of this divisional showdown.
Stay tuned to hear my answers to Kevin’s questions. Those answers will be available on roxpile.com
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