NL West race goes down to wire

First-place Colorado holds slim lead over Los An­ge­les, Ari­zona

The Detroit News - - Baseball - BY PAT GRA­HAM As­so­ci­ated Press

Den­ver — Op­pos­ing man­agers Dave Roberts and Bud Black are close friends. Star in­field­ers Nolan Are­nado and Paul Gold­schmidt talk all the time.

Just maybe not so much right now.

This NL West ti­tle chase is se­ri­ous business and shap­ing up to go down to the wire. Colorado holds a 1 1/2-game lead over Los An­ge­les and stretched its mar­gin to 4 1/2 over Ari­zona by taking three of four this week. The Rock­ies are aim­ing for their first di­vi­sion ti­tle in fran­chise his­tory.

“I ex­pected us to be in this po­si­tion,” Are­nado said . “I thought we had the type of play­ers who could do some­thing like this.”

Typ­i­cally, Dodgers left-han­der Rich Hill doesn’t start look­ing at the stand­ings un­til mid-Septem­ber. He made an ex­cep­tion af­ter his win over the Rock­ies on Sun­day, just to see where things stood.

It’s scoreboard-watch­ing sea­son.

“We have a beau­ti­ful scoreboard out there,” Rock­ies manager Black cracked.

“We have to have that height­ened fo­cus we’ve had all sea­son long. I don’t think you ratchet it up any higher.

“You keep it at a nice level of in­ten­sity with the fo­cus but yet loose in your body to per­form. I think our guys are in a pretty good spot.”

This marks the lat­est in a sea­son Colorado has been alone in first place since 1995.

“It’s what you grew up dream­ing about, hav­ing a chance to win the di­vi­sion and play im­por­tant games like this,” Rock­ies short­stop Trevor Story said. “For me, though, it’s try­ing not to do too much. Just play within my­self and that will be enough.”

The Dodgers have 10 NL West ti­tles since Colorado en­tered the league in 1993, while the Di­a­mond­backs have five since ‘98. The Rock­ies fin­ished just be­hind Ari­zona in 2007, when they beat San Diego in a tiebreaker game for a wild-card spot and ad­vanced to their only World Se­ries ap­pear­ance.

Fol­low­ing a 7-3 home­s­tand, Colorado em­barks on a ninegame trip, in­clud­ing three in Los An­ge­les and three more in Ari­zona. The Rock­ies fin­ish up with seven in a row at home against Philadel­phia (four) and Wash­ing­ton (three).

Los An­ge­les started a fourgame set Thurs­day night in St. Louis with a win against a Car­di­nals team try­ing to get into the post­sea­son. Then, the Dodgers play only di­vi­sion op­po­nents the rest of the way.

The Di­a­mond­backs have the tough­est stretch of the three. They still play a se­ries in Hous­ton against the reign­ing World Se­ries cham­pi­ons and host a Chicago Cubs team that’s try­ing to win the NL Cen­tral.

“Pretty much ev­ery game for us, the Dodgers and the Rock­ies has been a play­off game in Septem­ber,” said Gold­schmidt, whose Di­a­mond­backs team is 3-9 this month. “You don’t get this op­por­tu­nity that of­ten. It should be a fun end to the year, for what­ever team comes out on top.”

Are­nado and Gold­schmidt have been friends for a while, stem­ming from their meet­ings at All-Star Games and play­ing for Team USA. It’s on the back­burner for the mo­ment.

“I prob­a­bly won’t talk to him dur­ing this se­ries,” Are­nado said. “Af­ter it, we’ll talk a lit­tle more.”

Roberts and Black go way back, too, with Roberts serv­ing as one of Black’s coaches when they were to­gether in San Diego.

“He knows a lot of my ten­den­cies. I know his,” Roberts said. “It’s go­ing to be ex­cit­ing. I know that.

“(The tight di­vi­sion race) is great for base­ball. It’s great for all three fan bases. It’s great.”

The Dodgers have won five straight NL West crowns in mostly com­fort­able fash­ion – by 11 games in 2017, four in ‘16, eight in ‘15, six in ‘14 and 11 in ‘13.

“It’s been a fun Septem­ber so far, and a lot of good games from now on,” Dodgers util­i­ty­man En­rique Her­nan­dez said. “It’s go­ing down to the fi­nal se­ries.”

Na­tional League

(At) Philadel­phia 14, Mi­ami 2: Aaron Altherr home­red twice and drove in five runs for the Phillies.

In­ter­league

N.Y. Mets 8, (at) Bos­ton 0: Noah Syn­der­gaard pitched seven in­nings of three-hit ball and the Mets hit four homers to snap Bos­ton’s four-game win­ning streak.

Daniel Shirey/Getty Im­ages

In­fielder Nolan Are­nado and the front-run­ning Rock­ies are aim­ing for their first di­vi­sion ti­tle in fran­chise his­tory.

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