Which Rockies pitcher should start in a must-win game?
Hey, Patrick “Pecan Saundies” Saunders, let’s revisit a debate we had earlier this season, because, honestly, I need a do-over. Let’s say the Rockies are in a one-game playoff against the Arizona Diamondbacks and ace Zack Greinke, or, in the final game of the season, they need to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw to get into the postseason. Whom do you start? Who is Colorado’s ace? It’s an evolving rotation, so the pool of arms might change. But as of now, who gets the ball? Saunders: “Nickels,” FYI, we just found out that the National League wildcard game is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 4. Hopefully there’s a baseball party in LoDo that night. On the mound for the Rockies that night should be … drumroll, please … rookie right-hander German Marquez. That’s right, the young man with the fiery demeanor and the knee-bending curveball.
The Rockies’ young rotation makes this question especially tricky. Four starters are rookies. Two of them are 24, and two others are 22. Chad Bettis, when he returns, will be the oldest starter at 28. Tyler Chatwood, 27, is now in the bullpen. Right-hander Jon Gray is only 25. None of them has pitched in the postseason. For manager Bud Black, it will be a gut decision one way or the other. Is this a question of “who is the best?” Or should we be asking: “Who is best suited for the pressure?” Saunders: Ideally, the pitcher would be a true ace — someone who has the best stuff and also thrives under pressure. But the Rockies don’t have a true ace. That’s no knock on anybody. It’s just a fact. The truth is, we really don’t know how any of them would react to the pressure of a one-game playoff. I’m sure Black has his own thoughts on the matter, but it could come down to which team the Rockies are playing. It’s probably going to be Arizona, meaning Black could make his pick based on who has had the most success against the Diamondbacks.
The Rockies’ best starter this season has been rookie Kyle Freeland. He authored a near-no hitter in July. Marquez has been the best starter over the past month, ever since a benches-clearing incident against Pittsburgh riled him. But I’m going to go with Gray, the fireballer, for one pressured-packed game. He is their strikeout machine. He missed a chunk of the season with a broken foot, but he is coming along strong. And he will be fresh down the stretch. The Wolf, Patrick. Let him loose. Saunders: Nickels, I love The Wolf, too. When he’s on and the howls are coming over the loudspeakers at Coors Field, it’s cool. I would love it if the fans started to join in. But, I’m sticking with Marquez for one big game. Why? Because I think his fastball is as potent as Gray’s, and I think his curveball has become a wicked weapon. But more than that, I love Marquez’s demeanor when he’s on the ropes. When the going gets tough, German gets tougher.