The National League's Wild Card Game on Wednesday night pairs familiar foes in an unfamiliar place.
The Arizona Diamondbacks are in the playoffs for the first time since 2011, while the Colorado Rockies are appearing in the postseason for the first time since 2009. For either to go any further, it will require winning the 20th meeting this season between West Division rivals led by first-year managers.
Arizona (93-69) wrapped up its spot a week ago, reversing its record from a season ago, as Torey Lovullo orchestrated a turnaround that's likely to earn him NL Manager of the Year honors. The Rockies (87-75) clinched on Saturday when the Milwaukee Brewers lost to the St. Louis Cardinals, putting Bud Black into the postseason for the first time in 10 years as a manager.
The Diamondbacks took the season series 11-8, splitting 10 meetings in Phoenix. The winner gets to take on the Los Angeles Dodgers, beginning Friday, in the NL Division Series.
NL Wild Card Game: Colorado Rockies vs. Arizona Diamondbacks
Where: Chase Field, Phoenix
Date: Wednesday, October 4
Time: 8 p.m. ET
Live Stream: MLB on TBS
The number of offensive standouts in this wild-card matchup are enough to field almost the entire National League All-Star team, with both the Diamondbacks and Rockies set to send a slew of great hitters and sluggers to the plate on Tuesday.
It all starts at the top for the Rockies, where center fielder Charlie Blackmon put together one of the best seasons ever by a leadoff hitter. He led the NL in batting average (.331), hits (213), runs scored (137) and total bases, his 104 RBI the most ever by a leadoff hitter. And just for good measure, Blackmon smacked 37 home runs.
"I've been in this game for a long long time, and that's probably the best year I've ever seen from a single player," teammate Carlos Gonzalez said, per BSN Denver's Jake Shapiro. "With the way he played with how consistent he was the entire year... It's special. I've never seen anything like this."
Blackmon's 37 homers tied for the team lead with third baseman Nolan Arenado, who had 130 RBI to rank second in the NL, while first baseman Mark Reynolds' 30 homers were his most since 2011 with the Baltimore Orioles. Reynolds' 97 RBI are his most since 2009 with the Diamondbacks. Arenado, Blackmon, second baseman DJ LeMahieu and left fielder Gerardo Parra all hit over .300, as did catcher Jonathan Lucroy in 46 games after being acquired from the Texas Rangers on July 30.
The Diamondbacks lineup is no slouch, either.
First baseman Paul Goldschmidt hit .297 with 129 RBI and tied a career high with 36 home runs, but unlike in recent years, he had some offensive help around him. Third baseman Jake Lamb had 30 homers and 105 RBI, though his second-half numbers (.204 with a .735 OPS) were far lower than what he did before the All-Star break. That drop-off was less noticeable, though, because of the boost from one of the most impactful midseason trade acquisitions in recent memory.
Right fielder J.D. Martinez has given Arizona a huge lift in the middle of the order, crushing 29 homers with 65 RBI and a .302 average in just 62 games with the Diamondbacks since his trade from the Detroit Tigers on July 18. All told, he recorded 45 homers and 104 RBI as well as a 1.066 OPS and .690 slugging percentage, which would have overwhelmingly led the majors—Giancarlo Stanton was at .631—had an injury while with Detroit not kept him from logging enough plate appearances to qualify.
Martinez was solid for Arizona from the outset, but he turned it up in September, according to the team's Twitter account:
It was during that month that he had a four-homer game, going deep in four consecutive plate appearances in a 13-0 win over the Dodgers on Sept. 4, part of the Diamondbacks' team-record 13-game win streak.
On the mound, Arizona is turning to its big-money starter to get it to Los Angeles. Right-hander Zack Greinke, in the second year of a six-year, $206.5 million contract, went 17-7 with a 3.20 ERA and 215 strikeouts in 202.1 innings. His home numbers explain why the Diamondbacks are turning to him instead of saving him for a potential ALDS Game 1 start: In 18 starts at Chase Field, he's 13-1 with a 2.87 ERA and 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings.
Colorado's starter, righty Jon Gray, went 2-0 in Phoenix this season on his way to a 10-4 record with a 3.67 ERA in 20 starts. In mid-September, he allowed two runs over seven innings with a season-high-tying 10 strikeouts, though one of those runs came on a solo homer by Martinez.
Arizona's 52-29 home record is second-best in the majors behind the Dodgers, and a big part of that home dominance has been due to the back of its bullpen. Setup man Archie Bradley recorded a 1.73 ERA over 73 innings. Meanwhile, 40-year-old closer Fernando Rodney, after some early-season hiccups, converted 39 of 45 save attempts, including 17 of 18 since the All-Star break.
The Rockies' Greg Holland tied with Los Angeles' Kenley Jansen for the NL saves crown, finishing off 41 of 45 opportunities after missing all of 2016 while recovering from Tommy John surgery. He had seven saves during the Kansas City Royals' run to the 2014 World Series but got hurt before getting to be a part of their World Series title a year later.