I’ve tried to warn you in both of my series previews (here and here) that despite their struggles this season, the 4th-place Colorado Rockies are totally fine and simply rope-a-doping the Giants into a sweep. In between my warnings, Kenny chimed in with his own:
Theoretically, it shouldn’t be that difficult to win the series. The Rockies are one of the worst offensive teams by park-adjusted metrics. They’re last in wRC+ and second to last in OPS+. By wRC+, the 2018 Rockies have their worst offense in team history. In a vacuum, they can’t hit. But the Giants will still have to pitch to them at Coors. They’re hitting .263/.337/.446 at home compared to .215/.290/.364 on the road. The park still makes them look like a competent team, but those aren’t Coors numbers.
Of course, now that I’ve pointed out how bad their offense has been, they’re going to score 30+ runs in the series. They will be hitting against the Giants’ rotation after all.
They wound up scoring 21 runs in that 3-game series and winning 2 of 3, as he predicted. I predicted the Rockies would win both of the series played at AT&T Park, based solely on how miserable the Rockies make us feel all the time.
I was wrong, of course. What I failed to take into consideration is how much the Rockies hate the Giants. Not just for all the success, but because of AT&T Park. It’s their nega Coors, and they resent having to play there. The Rockies’ record at AT&T Park more or less makes this clear. The Giants’ record at Coors Field does the same.
A good and healthy thing to do is look at the 2017 Giants schedule and realize that as bad as they were, they still managed to win 7 games against a playoff-bound Rockies team. Those 12 losses, though, included a 7-game losing streak at Coors Field. They won 1 game at Coors all of last season. The place is programmed for pain.
And yet, I’m looking at these stats and I’m beside myself. The Rockies are 27th in the entire sport with a home wRC+ of 85. Since Kenny’s preview, the team’s home OBP has risen slightly and their slugging percentage nicely, so they could be rebounding, or they could’ve just had a nice run against the Mets.
Simply put: the Rockies can be as bad as they want when they play everybody else. Against the Giants, we know better. This season, they’re 12-10 against the Giants and Padres and 4-11 against the Diamondbacks and Dodgers, which fits in neatly with the narrative that the Rockies are always game to throw a rock slide in the Giants’ path to glory.
Nolan Arenado might be getting tired of team’s We Only Beat the Giants policy, however, as just yesterday, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale got him on the record saying:
“I want to win a division so we actually play a series. I see the Dodgers, and the guys over there, and they’ve won this division the last five years. I know some of the Giants’ players. They’ve got their World Series rings.
That’s amazing. Not just for his candor, but because praising division rivals in the middle of the season signals (even accidentally) some clubhouse turbulence. Which can only mean that he’s playing the press to mess with the Giants.
Don’t get cocky, Giants. Nolan Arenado is not your friend. The Rockies want to steal your souls.
Hitters to watch: I’m picking three this time because Nolan Arenado is always a given, but especially because of that Nightengale report I think he’ll be out to prove that he’s committed to winning in Colorado, too.
In my last preview, I forgot about D.J. LeMahieu for no good reason and so I’m rectifying that here. He has 115 hits in 97 games against the Giants, second only to his 119 in 104 games against the Padres. He has 7 hits in 43 plate appearances against Madison Bumgarner, 3 in 7 PAs versus Chris Stratton, and even though he’s never faced Andrew Suarez, he has a lifetime .804 OPS in 944 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers.
And then I would be negligent as a Giants blogger if I didn’t mention that Ian Desmond’s 2018 season has seemingly been Frankstein’d to life entirely on the arms of Giants pitching.
Pitcher to watch: Antonio Senzatela was a huge surprise for the Rockies last season. He won all three of his starts against them last season, but by season’s end, he found himself in the bullpen, a situation that stretched into 2018. He’s slated to make his first start of the year tomorrow. He’ll be trying to prove last year wasn’t a fluke while the Giants will be trying to prove it was.
Prediction: Madison Bumgarner has allowed 8 home runs in 78.2 career innings at Coors Field along with a 4.00 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP. These traditional counting stats don’t tell us how he’s doing at this point in his recovery from the broken finger, and the fact that he’s coming off two of the best regular season starts in his career can’t help us escape the fact that this is the Rockies and they always mess things up, but his start tonight feels like the Giants’ best chance in the series.
The Rockies’ numbers against Chris Stratton and the conditions at Coors don’t seem to favor him, particularly with the way he’s pitched of late; and, who knows about Suarez. The conditions will very likely affect his stuff, which means Wednesday could be a slug fest... which the Giants have the talent to hang in. So... I’ll predict 1 out of 3, because it’s Coors, but I suggest we all keep an eye on that fifth straight series win. It’s not impossible.
P.S. The Giants play all 3 major holidays at Coors Field this year (Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day) which, given the rivalry, feels political.