MLB LOOK AHEAD

Confident Diamondbacks set to face reeling Rockies

Field Level Media

August 12, 2019 at 4:12 am.

Aug 5, 2019; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Merrill Kelly in the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Chase Field. Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Aug 5, 2019; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Merrill Kelly in the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Chase Field. Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

When the Arizona Diamondbacks traded ace Zack Greinke to Houston on July 31, it seemed like they were sacrificing the present for the future.

Without Greinke, chasing a playoff berth is considered a longshot, but nearly two weeks after the deal Arizona is still alive for one of the NL wild-card spots.

“I know that there’s been a lot of change,” manager Torey Lovullo told reporters a week after Greinke was traded to the Astros. “But I think the team now feels it’s us. This is the group. We’re moving forward each and every day and we’re marching on.”

The Diamondbacks have gone 5-4 since the trade and just finished a tough three-game road series against the Los Angeles Dodgers with 9-3 loss. They sit three games out of the second wild-card spot and have a chance to gain ground when they play a three-game series at Colorado starting Monday.

The Rockies had been on a good roll against the Diamondbacks before they swept a series in Arizona last month. It was at the front end of Colorado’s downward spiral that has lasted six weeks and doesn’t appear to be ending despite Sunday’s 8-3 win at San Diego.

Since June 21, the Rockies are 13-31, the starting pitchers have combined for nearly a 7.00 ERA and the offense hasn’t been able to pick up the slack. Colorado is headed to its first losing season since 2016 and has gone from a serious postseason contender to a last-place team.

The players and coaches are understandably frustrated.

“What diffuses it is guys getting some hits and relaxing, pitchers making pitches and ultimately getting some wins,” manager Bud Black said in San Diego this weekend. “Through that, however, you can still enjoy this game through the competition. Sometimes it’s hard to win a game. We’re going through that stretch now where it’s hard for us. It’s been a long stretch of hard.

“The last couple of years, we’ve had some bad stretches, we’ve come out of it. Earlier in the year, we had a bad stretch and we came out of it. This is a little bit of a longer one. I don’t know when we’re going to come out, but we’re going to come out of it.”

It won’t get any easier against Arizona. The Diamondbacks are still a formidable team and will face Colorado’s rookie right-hander Peter Lambert, who has struggled since making a successful debut in June. Lambert (2-3, 6.87) won his first two starts but has gone winless in his last 10, all Rockies losses.

He has never faced Arizona, but Colorado is familiar with Arizona’s scheduled starter Merrill Kelly (7-12, 4.52) and has had success against the right-hander. Kelly is 0-2 with a 6.39 ERA in two career starts against the Rockies. The last time he faced them, June 18th in Arizona, Kelly allowed six runs — five earned — in six innings in an 8-1 loss.

Kelly’s last victory was a 2-0 win at Philadelphia on June 12th when he scattered three hits over 7 2/3 innings. He has dropped six decisions since that victory and the Diamondbacks are 1-8 in his last nine starts.