Three of the top candidates for the National League Most Valuable Player are doing battle at Coors Field in a three-game series right now. Two of those three need to deliver MVP-caliber performances over the next two games, or they could find themselves bitterly disappointed come Sunday – regardless of where they end up in the MVP voting.

The Miami Marlins are in Denver for three games, bringing with them the current prohibitive favorite for the NL MVP, Giancarlo Stanton. The slugger claims the MLB lead in home runs and a wave of support for his case to be the Marlins’ first-ever league MVP.

I have a hunch the management at 20th and Blake would gladly trade Larry Walker‘s 1997 trophy for a pair of World Series trophies like they have in South Florida.

Miami won’t be chasing No. 3 this October. Their chances faded with a miserable 2-16 stretch from Aug. 28 to Sept. 15.

The Rockies are holding out hope that No. 1 will still be a possibility come Oct. 1. After the series with Miami, Colorado welcomes the Los Angeles Dodgers – still the best team in baseball despite a September swoon – for the final three games of the season.

If they’re going to live to play beyond the final game of the regular season, they need Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon to return to the form that has them chasing Stanton for the MVP. Both had their chances to come up big on Monday night, and both came up empty.

Blackmon currently leads the National League in batting at .326. His 36 home runs are tied for third in the NL. He set a new standard of productivity and power out of the leadoff spot this season, setting NL records for RBIs and extra-base hits from a batter at the top of the lineup. His 375 total bases lead baseball and are the most in the game since Miguel Cabrera‘s 377 in 2012.

But for as good as Blackmon has been all season, September has been a struggle for the centerfielder.

Blackmon leads the National League in batting despite a .247 average this month. His slugging percentage has never been below .500 in a single month this season, yet it’s currently .459 for September. He’s also flirting with his highest strikeout total (26 in June) in a single month (21 in September) with some big arms looming on the horizon when the Dodgers visit for the final series of the year this weekend.

The tide appears to be turning for Blackmon of late, but only somewhat. He scored three of Colorado’s eight runs Sunday to help Colorado secure a winning record on the road for the season (only the second in club history) and gain valuable ground in the Wild Card race; his solo home run in the ninth inning capped a 2-for-4 day.

On Monday, Blackmon doubled home a run in the fifth inning to get the Rockies on the board after falling behind 4-0 early. He took a key one-out walk as part of a two-run seventh inning, but was stranded at third. His biggest moment to put the team on his shoulders would come later.

Arenado, meanwhile, is trying to regain the form that has him tied with Stanton for the NL RBI lead following Monday’s series opener.

The four-time Gold Glove winner looks to be a lock to pick up No. 5 this season and could be headed for his third straight Silver Slugger at third base. His .305 batting average this season is on pace to be the best of his career and he needs just four more RBIs to reach 130 for the third season in a row. His 85 extra-base hits are tied with Blackmon for third in baseball.

Arenado hasn’t struggled at the plate to the same degree Blackmon has down the stretch, but he certainly hasn’t played up to his MVP candidacy during crunch time.

He’s now playing with a bruised right hand that will impact more than his legendary ability to barehand the baseball. He’s been finding ways to get on base, carrying a .307 batting average and .429 on-base percentage this month into the series, but his power numbers aren’t where the Rockies have needed them to be in such a critical stretch.

After the Rockies drubbed the Padres 16-0 on Sept. 16, Colorado proceeded to lose five of their next six games. They were shut out three times in that span. During that stretch, Arenado had just four hits and one RBI. A solo home run on Sept. 22 was his only extra-base hit in those six games.

Arenado came to the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning Monday in the perfect spot to prove his MVP worth: One out, the bases loaded and his team trailing 5-3. The last time he was in such a big moment this season, he hit a walk-off home run to complete the cycle. This time around was less dramatic, sending a sacrifice fly to right-center field. The Rockies would end the inning still trailing by one.

Miami’s MVP candidate would get his own chance with the bases loaded in the very next half inning. Miami loaded the bases with no outs against Scott Oberg before Chris Rusin worked two ground balls to set up the biggest showdown of the game to that point. After whiffing at a 98-mph heater on the first pitch, Stanton hit a chopper back up to the middle, which Carlos Estevez corralled and practically hand-delivered to first base to end the threat. Stanton was 0-for-5 on the night.

Blackmon, too, would get his chance to play hero in the game, only to have it end in the most disappointing fashion imaginable. With the tying run on first and one out in the bottom of the ninth, Blackmon hooked a looping line drive down the first-base line only to have it snagged in mid-air by Tyler Moore.

Moore stepped on first for a game-ending double play. Marlins win 5-4; Colorado’s lead in the Wild Card down to 1.5 games.

Arenado and Blackmon both let MVP moments slip through their fingers Monday. If the final week of the season is a prelude to the postseason, this game was an ominous harbinger.

Los Angeles has begun to right the ship after losing 11 straight games – including three- and four-game sweeps in L.A. at the hands of the Diamondbacks and Rockies – in the first two weeks of the month. You have to imagine Dave Roberts and Company would love to sweep the Rockies at Coors to end their season (and maybe Colorado’s playoff hopes), only to follow that with a sweep of the D-Backs in the NLDS (in the instance Arizona advances past the Wild Card Game). They won’t be taking it easy when the regular season’s final series arrives.

The Rockies need both Arenado and Blackmon to play up to their MVP-candidate abilities in these final two games against Miami and to carry that momentum into the final series of the year if they want to have any hope of playing past Oct. 1. For as important as a batting crown, an RBI title or even the NL MVP would be for either of them, delivering Colorado’s first trip to the playoffs since 2009 is the far bigger prize.