DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 5: Trevor Story #27 of the Colorado Rockies points to the sky to celebrate his home run during the fourth inning as catcher Aramis Garcia #16 of the San Francisco Giants looks on at Coors Field on September 5, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
It’s September 5th and the Colorado Rockies are in first place in the NL West. Yes, you read that right the Rockies are in first, not the Arizona Diamondbacks or Los Angeles Dodgers. As the Rockies enter the final game of the three-game set against the San Francisco Giants they find themselves in an unfamiliar place. Colorado has never sat on top of the NL West this late in a season and are ready to claim their first division crown. As they prepare for the stretch run in which they play the Dodgers and Diamondbacks a combined 13 times in September meaning the division race is likely going to come down to the final games of the season. Here are the keys to a Rocktober Return for Colorado.

Keys to a Rocktober Return

Nolan Arenado needs to break his slump

Over the last week, Arenado has been in a major funk hitting a measly .195 and driving in only one RBI. Colorado’s MVP candidate has maintained his Gold Glove play at third base but has been bringing down the Rockies offense by squandering at bats with runners in scoring position. Somehow the Rockies have managed to win four games in a row despite Arenado’s struggles. If his poor play continues it is difficult to see the Rockies in the postseason. Arenado needs to return to the play Rockies fans are accustomed to seeing, producing a slash line similar to his career averages. If his MVP caliber play returns he could carry Colorado to the playoffs.

Someone without an O must step up

This offseason the Rockies assembled what was supposed to be a super bullpen. Big money signings Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw, and Jake McGee were brought in to lock down every game, the results have been far from what was expected. The trio combined has an ERA of 5.77 proving to be anything but reliable. The good news, however, has been the play of the three O’s. Adam Ottavino, Scott Oberg, and midseason acquisition Seunghwan Oh have been more than reliable for manager Bud Black. Ottavino has been one of the top relievers in baseball this season, posting an ERA of 1.99 and striking out 13.1 batters per nine innings. Oberg has dropped his ERA over two points from last season, 4.94 to 2.64, and a solid WHIP of 1.083. Oh has been sensational since coming over from Toronto, owning an ERA of 2.83. All Colorado needs is someone outside of those three to become a reliable option out of the bullpen. Yes, Davis leads the NL in saves but he also blown six saves after blowing only one all last season. Bud Black is going to burn out his star trio unless someone else steps up. Whether its Davis, Shaw or a recent September callup somebody needs to provide extra bullpen depth.

Continue the late-inning heroics

The -10 run differential is a perfect indication of how the Rockies season has gone. They have excelled in close games and have often times come back in late innings. For some reason, the Rockies offense tends to go dormant until the seventh or eighth inning creating tense, exciting games for fans. Players like Ryan McMahon have excelled in clutch situations, producing hits that have often been the deciding runs. So far in the current series against the Giants McMahon hit a game-tying home run in the seventh and recent callup Noel Cuevas hit a go-ahead single in the eighth. While the run differential is scary and typically a sign of a team destined to miss the playoffs, the Rockies ability to consistently win close games means Colorado will be in the playoff hunt until the very end.

Pennant Looming?

The final weeks of the regular season are going to be one for the ages in the NL West. Three teams all within a game and a half of first place, and this isn’t considering the tight wild-card race. In a season that will likely see the division champion crowned on one of the final days, the Rockies will need to follow these keys to claim their first division title and bring Rocktober to 20th and Blake.

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