Caution: Rough Road Ahead for Rockies Division Title Hopes
The Rockies are in uncharted territory. With 16 games remaining in the season, they are in first place in the NL West. They head into Friday’s game in San Francisco leading the second-place Dodgers by 1 1/2 games, and the third-place D-backs by 4 1/2 games, having just completed a series at Coors Field by taking three of four games from Arizona.
Now, however, they are headed on the road — to San Francisco, Los Angeles and Arizona. It’s a chance for them to take care of business, given they play three games each against the Dodgers and D-backs, but what can’t be overlooked is where they are headed are three ballparks that have been particularly challenging for the Rockies.
“Obviously, every game is big now,” said Nolan Arenado. “It’s going to be a tough road trip. we’re ready. We understand there is something to play for, and it gives us more energy.”
Once they finish the 10-day, nine-game visit West, the Rockies will return home and finish the regular season by hosting the Phillies for four games, and the Nationals by three. And they have, in the last two months, regained their home-field domination of visiting teams.
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Can they, however, suddenly take charge on the road? They are a virtual cinch to set a single-season road record for wins. They arrived in San Francisco having won 40 road games, with nine road games remaining.
They are one win shy of their all-time best set in 2009 and equaled a year ago.
Among current NL ballparks, AT&T Park in San Francisco, Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, and Chase Field in Phoenix are three of the five most challenging parks for the Rockies.
There are only two ballparks the Rockies have an all-time winning record in — Sun Trust Park, where the Braves have played only two seasons, and Nationals Park.
“We try to not think too much about that,” said Trevor Story. “We try to do like we do at home, play ball and win. We are not putting pressure on ourselves. We are just playing well.”
Looking to Smooth Out the Bumps
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The Giants are struggling. They are winless in their first 11 games of September, the longest losing streak since they moved to San Francisco, and the longest for the franchise since 1944.
They have to win seven of their final 16 games to avoid the worst September/October record in the history of the franchise, which is one of the eight original National League teams.
Three of those eight losses came earlier this month at Coors Field, the opening series of the Rockies just-completed 7-3 homestand.
And they do have a prime 2018 highlight from their last trip to San Francisco. After losing the first two games of that series, and falling into fourth place, eight games out of first, they rallied in the final game of the series, winning 9-8 thanks to DJ LeMahieu’s two-run home run in the top of the ninth. LeMahieu was 3-for-4 that afternoon with five RBI.
It was the turning point in the season for the Rockies, who quickly got back into contention in the NL West, and have not faded, compiling the best record in the NL since that win at AT&T Park.
Now they are looking to build on it.
“All these games are important,” said Charlie Blackmon. “They are all important, but the last month they are more important because we are playing for a spot in the post-season.”