Rockies play spoiler in sweep vs. Padres

Aug 18, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Rockies left fielder Connor Joe (9) and right fielder Charlie Blackmon (19) and center fielder Garrett Hampson (right) celebrate after a game against the San Diego Padres at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Rockies aren’t going to be in baseball’s playoff conversation down the stretch, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have a dramatic effect on what happens during the final month-plus of the season.

They did exactly that this week, sweeping the reeling San Diego Padres in a three-game set at Coors Field.

Colorado finished its season slate against the Padres with an 11-8 record–including a 10-3 stretch since the beginning of July–with a 7-5 victory on Wednesday afternoon. Trevor Story hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the fifth inning to give the Rockies some breathing room in what was a 5-4 game that featured a pair of scuffling starting pitchers–the Padres’ Jake Arrieta and Colorado’s Chi Chi Gonzalez–who weren’t scheduled when the series began.

The Rockies needed late heroics to win the first two games of the series. C.J. Cron hit a walk-off home run to lift the Rockies to a 6-5 victory on Monday after his team blew a 5-1 lead heading into the final frame. Connor Joe and Charlie Blackmon went deep for the Rockies, who got seven innings of two-run ball out of Antonio Senzatela. Blackmon and Cron hit back-to-back homers in the bottom of the seventh inning on Tuesday to clinch a win for Germán Márquez, who cruised through six innings and was staked to a 4-0 lead before he allowed three solo home runs in the top of the seventh. Márquez did plenty to help his own cause, delivering an RBI single and a run-scoring double while fighting off a case of diarrhea, according to Rockies manager Bud Black.

The Padres, who once held a huge lead for the second National League Wild Card spot, now lead the Cincinnati Reds by just a game and a half. The Rockies, meanwhile, find themselves at 55-66 overall but are now 20 games over .500 (41-21) at home.

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C.J. Cron is on an incredible run, having not stopped hitting since the beginning of the month. Cron, over his last 14 contests, owns a .449/.534/.959 line with seven homers and 25 runs driven in. He’s walked nearly as many times (eight) as he’s struck out (nine), and his incredible month has the Rockies in position to avoid the embarrassment of failing to  have at least one qualified player on their roster post a .500 or better slugging percentage.

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Austin Gomber is on paternity leave, so it’s not like he did anything this series to warrant winding up in this category. But it’s worth noting that Gomber has struggled overall since his return from the injured list late last month. The 27-year-old southpaw owns a 5.48 ERA over his last five starts, and didn’t make it into the fifth inning in two of his previous three. Gomber’s addition to the rotation is a big reason why the Rockies are nowhere near as bad as some prognosticators thought they might be entering the season, but hopefully he can right the ship upon his return this weekend.

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The Rockies welcome the Arizona Diamondbacks to Coors Field for a three-game set starting Friday. The D-backs are the worst team in the NL, posting a 39-81 record through the season’s first 120 games. But they’ll have a chance to start the series on the right foot with Tyler Gilbert, who is coming off of a no-hitter in his first career start, on the mound in the opener opposite Gomber. The Rockies will send Kyle Freeland and Jon Gray to the hill on Saturday and Sunday opposite Zac Gallen and Taylor Widener, a pair of pitchers with high walk and high strikeout totals and varying degrees of results.

Perhaps it’s worth noting that the Rockies, should they sweep the D-backs and see continued struggles out of the Padres, could find themselves within eight games of the second Wild Card spot at the end of the weekend. That means nothing, sure, but maybe it means something?