PHOENIX – The Diamondbacks and Rockies share a spring training facility and played each other 19 times this season.
They know each other very well.
Now comes game No. 20 on Wednesday night, the biggest one of them all, a National League wild-card matchup with Arizona’s Zack Greinke facing Colorado’s young Jon Gray.
“There’s no secrets here,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “We know what they like to do. They know our players. … They know our tendencies, they know our hitters’ tendencies, they know our pitchers’ tendencies. And we know theirs.”
It’s a matchup of under-the-radar franchises in the N.L. West that had turnaround seasons under first-year managers. The Rockies are in the playoffs for the first time since 2009. The Diamondbacks haven’t been here since 2011. The game is sold out at 48,686-seat Chase Field.
“A couple of guys were wondering why the fans weren’t here early in the season and when were they going to start showing up,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said Tuesday. “And I told them you keep playing the same type of baseball, they’re going to come out and support us.
“So we want to earn that. We know that they’re out there, and I can’t wait to what tomorrow brings as far as the crowd, the noise and the energy.”
Here are some things to consider when the Rockies meet the Diamondbacks:
Wild atmosphere: Diamondbacks slugger J.D. Martinez relishes the idea of playing in the energized atmosphere of the winner-take-all contest, but said the players can’t get too caught up in the scene.
“It’s going to be awesome, it’s going to be fun,” he said. “But at the same time you have to control it. I think that’s going to be the hardest thing for everyone, both sides. It’s just being able to control that environment and being able to control your adrenaline, your emotions and your feelings, because all that stuff’s going to be on a high.”
Greinke’s arm: Greinke (17-7, 3.20 ERA) will be making his 10th career playoff start. His postseason record is 3-3 with a 3.55 ERA. He is 2-1 in five starts against Colorado with a 3.41 ERA in 34 1/3 innings.
The Diamondbacks signed Greinke to a six-year, $206.5 million contract before the start of last season. This is just the situation where they expect him to earn some of that money.
“I feel good going into it,” he said. “I feel pretty prepared. All my pitches feel good, so I’ll be doing as good as I can do. We’ll see how it is, but it will be as good as I can do.”
Young Rocky: The Rockies counter with the 25-year-old Gray (10-4, 3.67), who said “it’s very cool” to go against Greinke.
“The guy’s obviously got a great track record,” Gray said. “He’s been a really good pitcher for years. It’s very exciting for me. He’s a guy I used to watch on TV so it’s very, very surreal.”
Gray is 2-1 with a 3.50 ERA in three starts against the Diamondbacks. He didn’t allow more than three runs in any of the starts.
Martinez sizzling, Goldschmidt slumping: Dealing with Martinez could be quite a chore. Acquired from Detroit before the trade deadline, Martinez has hit .302 with 29 home runs and 65 RBIs in 62 games with Arizona. In September, he hit .404 with 16 home runs and 36 RBIs in 24 games.
But Paul Goldschmidt comes in with just the opposite performance down the stretch. The perennial All-Star and MVP candidate had a miserable September at the plate and enters the postseason in a 0-for-17 slump.
“It’s not about me,” he said. “We’re just trying to win. So I’ll go out there and do my best. But it’s not about me at all. You’re going to struggle throughout times of the year. I didn’t play well the last week or so, but that’s why it’s a team game.”
Power surge: The Rockies bring a powerhouse lineup featuring N.L. batting champion Charlie Blackmon (.331, 37 home runs, 104 RBIs), Nolan Arenado (.309, 37 homers, 130 RBIs) and Carlos Gonzalez, whose bat came alive late in the season after an uncharacteristically tough year at the plate.
But the entire one-through-eight in the batting order are dangerous.
Blackmon had just eight hits in 44 at-bats at Chase Field, but he loves hitting there.
“The thing I like about it the best is it has a really nice batter’s eye. It’s very big, bigger than most parks,” he said. “It makes for seeing the ball well. It also carries pretty good. The gaps are big. The infield can be fast.”
The teams split 10 games at Chase Field. Containing the power of both squads is crucial to the outcome of their 11th matchup there.
“Power’s always dangerous,” Black said, “because it’s one swing and especially one swing with a couple of guys on can really change the game.”
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