Rockies Head Into 162 With Plenty to Think About

Hey, the Rockies, at least are in the post-season. It’s only the fifth time in their 26-year history they can claim that, and this is the first time they have advanced in back-to-back seasons.

That’s the good news.

And to be honest, that’s not really anything to celebrate, not after the 12-2 loss the Rockies suffered against the Nationals on Saturday night at Coors Field.

That dropped the Rockies back into a tie for the NL West lead with the Dodgers.

That means they could be the wild-card. They could be the NL West champions. And they could find themselves finishing up the 162-game schedule on Sunday, and then having to play as many as four games in the next five games.

Say what?

They could:

Scenario 1

Rockies and Dodgers either both win on Sunday or both lose on Sunday

— The Rockies fly to Los Angeles on Sunday night for a playoff game with the Dodgers for the NL West title on Monday.

— If they lose that game they wind up the No. 2 NL wild-card team for the second year in a row, and on Monday night fly to either Milwaukee or Chicago to play either the Brewers or the Cubs in the one-game wild-card game. The loser of the wild-card game goes home for the winter, which is what happened to the Rockies against the Diamondbacks last year.

—If they win the NL West title game they are off on Tuesday and Wednesday, and on Thursday and Friday host the Atlanta Braves in Games 1 and 2 of the NL Division Series, with a potential Game 5 also at Coors Field.

Rockies Win Sunday, Dodgers Lose

—The Rockies can catch their breath. They open the NL Division Series against the Braves on Thursday, hosting Games 1 and 2, and also a possible Game 5.

Dodgers Win Sunday, Rockies Lose

—The Rockies travel to either Chicago or Milwaukee for the NL wild-card game on Tuesday. The loser goes home. The winner travels to the NL Central champion (Chicago or Milwaukee) for Games 1 and 2 of the NL Division Series on Thursday and Friday.

Get the picture?

It’s more like a jigsaw puzzle than a Rembrandt. It’s a jumbled mess.

The Rockies were looking at bringing German Marquez back on three days of rest to start Sunday, but will instead go with Tyler Anderson, who was scratched from his start last Monday becuase of left shoulder soreness. That led to Jon Gray being moved up a day, and shutting down the Phillies for a win, and the Rockies going to a bullpen-day on Tuesday.

Anderson says he feels fine, but it will be a short leash on Sunday, much like the bullpen game Tuesday, when eight Rockies pitchers got into the game. Starter Chad Bettis worked 2 2/3 innings. DJ Johnson faced two batters, walked one, and was credited with his first big-league win.

That, however, means Marquez (14-10. 3.76), coming off an 11-strikeout, 101-pitch effort on Wednesday will be ready on normal rest for a Monday Game 163 at the Dodgers, or, if that game isn’t played, he would be ready on extra rest either for the Wild-Card Game on Tuesday or Game 1 of the NL Division Series on Thursday.

The Nationals, meanwhile, will stay with originally scheduled starter Erick Fedde (2-3, 5.24), passing on earlier conversation that they could turn to Max Scherzer, who won his 18th game and reached the 300-strikeout mark in his last start, on Tuesday. Fedde has not pitched in a week, having suffered the 8-6 loss to the Mets last Sunday, allowing three runs on five hits and four walks in 3 1/3 innings.

In San Francisco, veteran left-hander Rich Hill will start for the Dodgers against rookie left-hander Andrew Suare. Hill is 10-5 with a 3.87 ERA this season, which includes a 5-1 record, but 4.50 ERA in his last seven starts. Suarez is 7-12 with a 4.23 ERA, but 3-4 with a 3.70 ERA his last seven starts.

The Rockies, apparently, decided they are better off to take the chance on Sunday (and it worked out when they did it last Tuesday) and be able to go into the post-season, in whatever role they face, with German Marquez, Kyle Freeland and Antonio Senzatela, who would seem to be the third starter at this point, rested for their next assignments.

Gray, obviously, has become a concern because of his inconsistency. He either dominates or gets dominated. In a season, which saw him in mid-year sent to Triple-A Albuquerque for two starts, Gray has been a major puzzle.

Gray, who went 1 1/3 innings when he started the Rockies 11-8 loss at Arizona in the Wild-Card Game last September, had given the Rockies hope he was ready to go on an upward trend when he started against the Phillies last Monday, and struck out seven in seven innings of a 10-1 win. He, however, allowed five runs in two innings of the loss to the Nationals on Saturday.

"It's just been a bad year all the way around," Gray said. "I try to change that. Every time they give me a chance to take the ball, I take it. I think I'm going to do good. Sometimes I don't. Sometimes I do.

"It's really frustrating for me. It's really frustrating for the fans. I can't imagine having to deal with that. But I can't wait to prove anybody wrong. I know a lot of crap has happened this year. It's been a rough year for me. I can't wait to prove everybody wrong and show them what I'm all about."

It could be in a Game 4 of the NLDS, or it could be next year.

For now, however, Gray will be sitting, watching and wondering what might have been, hoping the Rockies can rebound and he can get a chance for redemption in October.

"I've won a lot of big games for this club,” said Gray. “It's just when things are shaky, I don't know what to expect out of myself. I'm gonna leave it all out there every single time, and make them drag me off. When things aren't going good, what can you do?"

Tracy RingolsbyComment