Rockies see final series before all-star break as chance to gain ground on third wild card spot

Rockies see final series before all-star break as chance to gain ground on third wild card spot

Fresh off a series win over San Diego, the Rockies are looking at this weekend’s final three games before the all-star break as a chance for more momentum heading into the second half.

Entering Friday’s series opener against the Pirates at Coors Field, the Rockies are six games back of the third NL wild card spot. And there is a belief within their clubhouse that a shot at the playoffs is more than just a pipe dream.

Allow veteran right-hander Jhoulys Chacin to explain the reasons for putting on purple-tinted lenses to evaluate a club that, by most standards, has underperformed this year.

“We’re playing better on the road compared to last year,” Chacin said. “What we did last year was playing well at home, winning more games here, and we’re finally doing that.

“If we can keep playing like this at home and then get some series wins on the road, we can go in the right direction. Now with the extra wild card, you never know what’s going to happen. You never know if the Rockies can get hot — I’ve seen so many (crazy playoff chases), you never know.”

This month, the Rockies put together their longest divisional winning streak (seven games) in five years. They are 21-18 against the rest of the West and 20-31 against all other opponents entering play Friday. To Chacin’s point, if Colorado plays slightly better on the road — where the club is a National League-worst 15-27 — and performs better outside the division, it might have an outside chance at the third wild card.

“It’s a long run, and it’s 162 games for a reason,” right-hander Carlos Estevez said. “We still have a chance, because it’s still early.”

The oddsmakers disagree. Fourth-place Colorado is one of six teams that Fangraphs currently gives a 0.0% chance to win a wild card berth, while Baseball Reference puts the Rockies’ chances 0.1% and FiveThirtyEight has them at less than 0.1%.

Estevez to paternity list. After getting his first save of the season to seal Thursday night’s win over the Padres, the Rockies placed Estevez on the paternity list. Estevez and his wife, Margaret, are expecting a girl. In a corresponding move, Colorado recalled right-hander Chad Smith from Triple-A Albuquerque.

Pitching injuries update. Right-handed reliever Alex Colome, who sustained a slight strain in his right hamstring in Tuesday’s win over the Padres, is okay and will not have to go on the injured list. The 33-year-old veteran has been one of the most reliable arms in the Rockies’ bullpen with a 2.94 ERA across 35 appearances and four saves.

“He’s going to be fine,” manager Bud Black said. “He threw (Thursday), 10 pitches in the bullpen, and he said, ‘I’m good.’ He’s a man of few words… But we are down (Lucas) Gilbreath, no (Jake) Bird, no Chacin (for Friday).”

Black also said he is still deciding whether right-hander Antonio Senzatela (set to come off the injured list from right shoulder inflammation) or southpaw Austin Gomber will start Sunday’s series finale at Coors Field.

On Deck

Pirates RHP Mitch Keller (3-6) at Rockies RHP Jose Urena (0-1, 2.66)
1:10 p.m., Saturday, Coors Field
Radio: KOA 850 AM/94.1 FM

Urena has looked good through his first two starts with the Rockies. In his Colorado debut against the Dodgers in L.A., he pitched 6 2/3 innings, allowing one run. He followed that up with six innings of two-run ball in a loss to the Padres to begin the homestand earlier this week. Right-handers are hitting just .135 against him, with no extra-base hits. If Urena can continue the reliability he’s shown through his first couple starts, he’ll give manager Bud Black rotational flexibility heading into the second half. Meanwhile, Keller has been unpredictable this season, but is coming off his best start. The right-hander held the Marlins to one run in seven innings on Monday. Jose Iglesias is 3-for-7 with a homer off him, while Kris Bryant is 3-for-6 with two doubles.

Trending: Even though the Diamondbacks are behind the Rockies in the cellar of the National League West, Fangraphs still gives Arizona better playoff odds (0.1%) than the Rockies (0.0%).

At issue: Elias Diaz has struggled to consistently produce. The Rockies’ No. 1 catcher has accumulated -0.8 in WAR, per Fangraphs, which ranks 21st of 22nd among MLB catchers with at least 200 plate appearances.

Pitching probables

  • Sunday: Pirates TBA at Rockies RHP Antonio Senzatela (3-5, 4.95) or LHP Austin Gomber (5-7, 6.11), 1:10 p.m., ATTRM
  • Monday: All-star break begins
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