After struggling throughout the majority of the season, the Rockies found a way to stay within striking distance. As the hole starting getting larger, the club went 8-2 on a 10-game homestand leading up to the All-Star break. They were within one error of being tied for the lead in the National League West when the break started.
Everyone in Rockies nation was thrilled. It seemed as if the team that had been basically mediocre the entire first half seemed to be hitting their stride. Then, the Rockies decided that taking off and mounting a dominant second half wasn't going to be enough drama. So they proceeded to go 2-9 on the road trip immediately following the break.
They played better after that, but instead of being contenders, the best way to describe the Rockies was lurkers. They were on the outside looking in. However, with their history, everyone knew it wasn't smart to write them off.
After Saturday's nail biter, the Rockies are suddenly 1.5 games out of first place in the West and 2.5 games out of the wild card race.
Essentially what the race comes down to is this. There are four teams vying for two spots. The Giants, Padres and Rockies will duke it out for the National League West, while the Braves will look to overtake the Phillies in the National League East.
The reality is, the Braves probably won't be able to catch the Phillies. Philadelphia is the only team in the league hotter than the Rockies. They have won nine of their last 10 and have increased their lead to three games.
So essentially there are four teams trying to capture the final two spots.
The good news for the Rockies is that it seems like both the Braves and the Padres have peaked and are on their ways back down.
The Padres are a very good team. They have surprised nearly everyone in baseball with their success, but the reason nearly everyone picked them to finish far out of the playoff race was due to their extreme youth. That youth carried them for the majority of the season, but it is finally becoming the reason that they are fading.
There is no doubt that San Diego has shown the talent that they have and that they deserve respect, but Mat Latos, Clayton Richard and Wade LeBlanc simply cannot be asked to throw 200 innings apiece. With all due respect to Adrian Gonzalez, who is clearly one of the best players in baseball, the Padres lineup simply does not have the ability to carry the team.
Also, San Diego still has to play the first place Reds three times and they finish the season in San Francisco. It is easy to think that the Padres will have a tough time going more than .500 the rest of the way.
The Braves are also on a free fall. Tim Hudson is a Cy Young candidate, but Derek Lowe and Jair Jurrjens don't scare anyone after him. Tommy Hanson is a good young arm, but is not extremely dominant yet. He will, however, keep the Braves in games.
The Braves recently lost two of three to the Nationals and seem to be struggling.
If those two teams falter, the Rockies should be able to sneak into the playoffs as the wild card at worst. Then, to capture their first ever National League West crown the Rockies will need to take at least two of three from the Giants next weekend at Coors Field. That will be a tall order, considering that the probable pitchers for that game are Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito and Matt Cain.
Either way, the way the Rockies get into the playoffs is to simply continue to stay hot. If they are able to win 90 games it should be enough to get them in. That means that, including Saturday, the Rockies must go 9-6 the rest of the way. That won't be easy with only six home games remaining, three of which will be extremely tough against the Giants, the Rockies have their work cut out for them.
Regardless of what happens, it should be interesting to see what happens. The Rockies are clearly one of the hottest teams in the league, and if they can stay hot, they have a very good chance at sneaking into October.
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