The Coors Effect

September 4, 2009 5:14 PM

Entering the home stretch

Jason Marquis's meltdown against the Mets yesterday seemed almost to guarantee that the Rockies would once again be tied in the Wild Card race today, with Lincecum pitching for the Giants last night.  But the dominated, sub-6-foot righthander of a few years ago (Pedro Martinez) outpitched Lincecum, leaving the Rockies with a one-game lead with a few weeks to go in the regular season.

I do worry a bit that the Rockies may have gotten their hot stretch out of the way too early this season.  After torching the NL in June, the Rockies cooled off a bit but were still a solid ballclub in July and August.  The good news is that the Rockies can play .500 ball the rest of the way and wind up with 88 wins; the bad news is that that might not be enough to win the Wild Card, and it certainly won't be enough to win the division unless the Dodgers go completely in the tank.  Since 1996, only once has the NL Wild Card winner had 88 wins; that was in 2006, an odd year in which the Cardinals won the Central with 83 wins.  In 2007, 89 wins was enough -- barely -- to get the Rockies into a playoff for the wild card.  So realistically, the Rockies probably need to win at least 90 games to make the playoffs.

Going 16-12 down the stretch is doable, so realistically, the Rockies need to play as well as they did in July and August.  With the Giants breathing down their throats, however, the team is in danger of playing well down the stretch but losing to a team that's simply playing better.  The two teams have three more games left; the bad news is that those games are in San Francisco.  The Giants play 21 more games against the division (including six against the Dodgers); the Rockies play 18; both teams have 12 games left against the Padres and Diamondbacks.

So, the two teams' schedules down the stretch are almost as even as they can be, with one exception.  The last weekend of September, the Rockies will play the Cardinals while the Giants will play the Cubs.  The Cardinals are clearly the better team, and their magic number today is 19.  There's a chance the Cardinals will have clinched by then, but if they haven't, they'll likely be playing to do so at Coors.  It could come down to a series against a team trying to wrap up a playoff spot, while the Giants are playing a team that's likely out of the race.

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