Although I can’t locate any of these pieces, I know for sure that I’ve referenced Matt Cain’s start in Colorado at the end of 2010 many times over the years when discussing the San Francisco Giants and a late season playoff push. Well, here we are again watching the Giants in a very similar situation.
In 2010, the Giants rolled into Coors up half a game in the NL West having just overtaken the Padres finally a week earlier. The Rockies, though, weren’t the pushovers they are now and were still in the hunt, too. It was a four game series in the penultimate weekend of the season, so that’s another difference; but the point remains that the Giants had no margin for error in a place that had been tough for them to win and had been the setting for so many dashed postseason hopes over the prior 16 seasons that it was really stressful.
13 seasons later and the Giants roll into Coors Field really really needing to win this series. The circumstances aren’t all that similar, though. While it’s true that the Giants have no margin for error, they’re not in direct competition with the Rockies this time, and they’ve dominated the matchup for a while now: 8-2 in their last ten games at Coors Field, 17-5 in Coors post-COVID year, 19-9 in the Kapler era and 25-12 in Zaidi’s tenure.
Even though it hasn’t been a house of horrors for the Giants lately, it doesn’t mean the ancient spirits have left this haunted land. They might simply have been waiting for this very moment to spring into action. The 2023 Giants are unlike that 2010 team in some key ways, too: they haven’t been as good on the road (32-39 vs. 43-38), they can’t hit (averaging 4.3 runs/game - same as the 2010 team that didn’t have a DH), and even though defensive measures have changed over the years I’m still going to argue the 2010 team had better defense.
These 2023 Giants do have a similar margin for error, though, in that a bad showing in Coors more or less sinks their chances. With only 16 games remaining and 24.6% playoff odds according to Baseball Reference this morning, the Giants will probably need to get to 85 wins to have a shot at Wild Card #3. As of this writing, they’re tied with the Marlins for the “outside looking in” spot with the Diamondbacks and Reds tied for Wild Card #3, leading by half a game. The Rockies are the worst team left on the Giants’ schedule.
Meanwhile, after this trip, the Giants will face the Diamondbacks twice, then the Dodgers four times in LA, the Padres thrice, and then three more times against the Dodgers. The Padres are out of the race, but they still have a +60 run differential and as they just showed a couple of weeks ago, they have an ON/OFF switch they can flip and suddenly go from disappointing to dominant. The Giants are the last “winning” team the Padres are scheduled to face this season, too! You don’t think they’re looking forward to that three game series in San Francisco as a chance to spoil things? The Giants need this series — a sweep, preferably — just to balance out what figures to be a bad showing in those 7 versus LA.
We saw these Rockies last week and the Giants handled them just fine, but it’s worth noting that the Rockies beat themselves as much as — perhaps even more than — the Giants beat them. Please remember that the Giants are 9-20 on the road in the second half, and that record looks as good as it does because they came out of the All-Star break with that sweep in Pittsburgh and two wins to open up that series in Cincinnati which combined to create a seven-game winning streak. But then they lost their next six road games, turning a promising start to a long trip into a disaster. I think it’s more dramatic to say the Giants are 4-20 on the road since their last long winning streak ended.
Who: San Francisco Giants vs. Colorado Rockies
Where: Coors Field, Denver, Colorado
When: Thursday (5:40pm PT), Friday (5:40pm PT), Saturday (5:10pm PT), Sunday (12:10pm PT)
National broadcasts: None.
Thursday: Logan Webb vs. Chase Anderson
Friday: Keaton Winn vs. Peter Lambert
Saturday: Alex Cobb vs. Kyle Freeland
Sunday: Sean Manaea vs. Chris Flexen
Where they stand
Record: 53-92, 5th in NL West
Run differential: -217 (15th in NL)
Postseason standing: 35 games back in division, 22 games out of Wild Card
Momentum: 2-game winning streak; 3-7 in last 10 games
Record: 75-71, 3rd in NL West
Run differential: -7 (7th in NL)
Postseason standing: 13.5 games back in division, 0.5 games out of 3rd Wild Card
Momentum: 1-game winning streak; 5-5 in last 10 games
Rockies to watch
Kris Bryant: He’s back! — and he’s spectacular? The boy who would be king, the player the Rockies moved heaven and earth to get, has had a hilarious career with Colorado, having played a total of 110 games across the first two seasons of his 7-year deal. The Giants saw him before the break when they hosted the Rockies and he went 3-for-10 with a walk and helped them break a long road losing streak in Oracle when the Giants really needed that win! He got hurt on July 22nd and only just returned on Monday where he faced his other former team, the Cubs, in Coors Field, and went 4-for-11 with a pair of home runs and helped the Rockies take that series. Hmm... does Kris Bryant make the Rockies much better? Could that be a really unfortunate development in this series the Giants absolutely need to win? He’s 9-for-30 against Giants pitchers (keep Alex Wood away from him!) but hasn’t faced Camilo Doval before. A real wild card, I’d say.
Charlie Blackmon: Dude can still hit (.796 OPS at 36). Very comfortable hitting at home, especially (.887 OPS this year at Coors).
Kyle Freeland: Did you know he has a career 7-6 and 3.96 ERA record against the Giants in 21 starts (116 IP)? He got the loss back in the first half in the Giants’ 1-0 win but he still allowed just one run in 6.1 innings. In three home starts against the Giants last season, he went at least six innings. Here were his totals: 3 starts, 0-1, 18.1 IP, 4.97 ERA, 17-6 K-BB, 1.38 WHIP. In his last home start against the much more dynamic Cubs lineup, he pitched... six innings... allowing 3 runs on 8 hits. His last four starts (2 home, 2 away) have been against some really strong lineups, in fact: @ Baltimore (6 IP 3 ER), Atlanta (5.2 IP 6 ER), @ Arizona (6 IP 2 ER), and Chicago. He will be formidable.
Ryan McMahon: He didn’t have a great series in San Francisco last week (1-for-8 with a double), but his home/road split suggests that’s going to change in this four-game series. His .867 Coors OPS is significantly greater than his .694 road OPS. Kyle Tucker at home, Patrick Bailey on the road.
Elehuris Montero: Same deal. .555 OPS on the road (129 PA) and a .907 OPS at home (115) PA. The Rockies are very high on him, and that’s in no small part because of how productive he’s been in front of the hometown fans. In the Rockies’ last two home series (vs. the Blue Jays and Cubs), he went 8-for-19 with 2 home runs, 2 doubles and 2 walks. So, figure at least one home run and one double in this series.
Giants to watch
Logan Webb: He’s played the role of Matt Cain for most of the season, with the Giants just 14-16 in his starts thanks in large part to their being unable to score when he starts; but, compounding matters has been his road struggles. That 4.58/2.37 road/home ERA split really stands out to me and it’s largely the result of the home run ball, a situation that’s entirely attributable to the pitcher. He has a career 4.89 ERA in 7 starts at Coors (38.2 IP), but has allowed just three home runs there (so far). His start to kickoff the four-game series doesn’t have to be the tone setter, but it sure would help.
Michael Conforto: If he does return from the IL during this series, his bat and plate discipline could very well be a key addition at the exact right time. He’ll never be the player he was before his shoulder surgery, but a guy who can take walks and hit doubles is incredibly valuable in a Coors Field slugfest. I guess you could put Joc Pederson here, too, and it’s very possible that he could have a big series as well, but Joc Pederson’s season has been such a disappointment that it’s maybe a bit more hopeful to look to somebody else.
Brandon Crawford: Instead of the long, unfocused preamble I wrote up top, I could’ve just focused on this being Crawford’s last ever trip to Coors Field (at least as a member of the Giants). He’s been so bad this season that it’s clear you, me, and the team are trying to mentally fast forward to the congratulatory ceremonies in his future, but let’s take a moment to remark upon Crawford’s Coors Field career. Mainly, he’s hit more home runs in this stadium (15) than any other besides Oracle Park (57). Petco would be next at 10. In stadiums where he’s had a 100+ PA, his .787 at Coors is just 4th-best on his own list, but save for Marlins Park, he’s really done nicely with this farewell tour:
Wrigley Field: career .930 OPS (1-3 with a walk and RBI this season)
Marlins Park: career .824 OPS (0-for-7 with 3 strikeouts)
Miller Park: career .806 OPS (1-for-3 with a double and walk)
Coors Field: career .787 OPS (2-for-8 with 2 doubles and 2 RBI)
Now, does that mean he’s already used up his farewell magic earlier this season at Coors? That’s why he’s one to watch!
Patrick Bailey: I have no idea what impact altitude might have in a post-concussion recovery scenario, but it’s something to keep an eye on. He looked good in his return against the Guardians, but Coors games are taxing even for the non-concussed. It’s also late in the season and, plausibly, this is the most baseball his body has played in a calendar year.
Ryan Walker: His stuff could be neutralized a bit by the altitude and so don’t be surprised if he coughs up a game. On the other hand, he’s been so impressive this season that I wouldn’t be surprised if he perseveres.
Giants @ Rockies - how will it go?
This poll is closed
Giants win series (3-1)
Giants lose series (1-3)