|Rockies, Diamondbacks meet in significant NL West series|
PHOENIX -- Arizona and Colorado met in the NL wild card game when the West was the dominant division a season ago, and each enters the post-break scheduled poised for another postseason run.
Arizona, Colorado and the division-leading Manny Machado-acquiring Los Angeles Dodgers are within two games of each other as the Rockies and Diamondbacks open the second half with a three-game series at Chase Field on Friday. The Dodgers lead the Diamondbacks by one-half game and the Rockies by two.
The Rockies return on a roll, having won 13 of their last 16 games before the break with a team that featured three All-Stars -- starting third baseman Nolan Arenado, reserve shortstop Trevor Story and reserve outfielder Charlie Blackmon.
"Guys are stepping up," Arenado told reporters after the Rockies closed the pre-break schedule with a 4-3 victory on Story's ninth-inning homer in Seattle on Sunday.
"We've been playing really good baseball. It's a good feeling. We're going to go into the second half playing really meaningful games, and for a while there it looked like it was getting away from us."
Story is hitting a major league-high .378 since June 8. Blackmon is hitting .404 in his last 11 games. The Rockies have a 2.76 ERA in their last 16 games, during which they are 13-3.
The Rockies, who entered July six games behind the division-leading Diamondbacks, will start right-hander German Marquez in the first game of the series Friday. Arizona will counter with left-hander Robbie Ray.
"We still have our best baseball ahead of us," All-Star left-hander Patrick Corbin said after his start last Sunday, "We got some guys back. The position we are, it's good. We can work with it and continue to get better and try to win the division."
Because of injuries, the Diamondbacks did not have their anticipated starting lineup together until July 5, when outfielders A.J. Pollock and Steven Souza Jr. returned from the disabled list. Third baseman Jake Lamb missed seven weeks with a shoulder injury and No. 4 starter Taijuan Walker suffering a season-ending elbow injury on April 14.
The Diamondbacks have won six of the nine games in the season series, although Colorado won two of three July 10-12 in Coors Field.
"Overall we are right where we want to be," Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said. "We had some tough circumstances with a lot of in injuries. We recently are getting our predicted lineup out on the field fairly consistently. I know it is going to take a little time for things to gel.
"I think we are learning and growing as an offense. I would say we are putting ourselves in good positions to possibly score a lot of runs but we not are totally closing the deal. Those are things hopefully we all address and come out in the second half and do a little bit better. It's a tough game."
Marquez, 8-8 with a 4.81 ERA, will made his third start of the season against a Diamondbacks team that is third in the NL in ERA, first in bullpen ERA but eighth in the league runs and 14th in batting average.
"There are times we played well. There are times we could have played a little bit better," Arizona All-Star Paul Goldschmidt said. "Just try to come out in the second half and play hard and see what happens. There is still a long way to go, but it is nice we are playing a little bit better."
Ray, 3-2 with a 5.03 ERA, has made four starts since missing two months with a strained oblique, going 1-2 with a 5.23 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 20 2.3 innings. His last starts before the break was a 5-1 loss in Colorado, where he gave up two runs and had eight strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings.
He beat the Rockies in the second game of the season, a 9-8 slugfest in which he gave up six earned runs in five innings. Ray is 1-1 with a 7.97 ERA in four home starts this season, having given up nine homers in 20 1/3 innings. He gave up homers to the Rockies' Ian Desmond, Gerardo Parra and Charlie Blackmon in that 9-8 win. He is 3-4 with a 5.52 ERA in 11 career starts against the Rockies.
Marquez gave up two runs in six innings for the victory when the Rockies beat Arizona 19-2 on July 11, the game in which the injury-thinned Diamondbacks used infielder Daniel Descalso and catcher Alex Avila to pitch the final 4 2/3 innings. He had no-decisions in his other two starts against Arizona this season and closed the pre-break schedule well, giving up four runs in his last 20 innings over three starts.
He had lost his previous four decisions to Arizona before the July 11 victory and is 1-4 with a 4.29 ERA against them in 10 career appearances, nine starts, while giving up nine homers in 50 1/3 innings. He has had much better success at Chase Field, where he is 0-1 with a 2.82 ERA in five outings.