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Know your enemy: Colorado Rockies

The Cubs and Rox have history, now.

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Over the last couple of decades, the Cubs and Rockies have played each other just a handful of times a year. Before 2018, the most memorable Cubs/Rockies game was probably the John Baker Game from 2014. Overall in the regular season, the teams have just about evenly split: Cubs 100 wins, Rockies 98.

Now, the Cubs have a playoff loss to the Rockies to avenge, last year’s 13-inning Wild Card Game defeat. That game brought into high focus the issue that damaged the Cubs most in the 2018 season’s last two months, a lack of offense.

The Rockies, of course, don’t have that issue. They generally lead the National League in runs scored, or are close. Last year they scored 780 runs, second in the league to the Dodgers and 19 more than the Cubs.

And pretty much the entire Rox offense returns. They have added former Cub Daniel Murphy to their lineup. He’ll play first base for them, as they are going to try Ryan McMahon or Garrett Hampson from their system at second, now that DJ LeMahieu has departed via free agency. LeMahieu was one of the best defenders in baseball at second base and while McMahon or Hampson might be competent, the Rox will not have as good defense on the right side of the infield.

Offensively elsewhere, the Rockies have great hitters everywhere: Trevor Story, Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon and David Dahl, the latter someone who might have a breakout season offensively in 2019 after being one of Colorado’s best prospects for the last few years. The signing of Arenado to an eight-year extension Tuesday takes that worry away from the team.

Ian Desmond is being moved to center field this year with Blackmon moving to left. That, as the linked article says, will be a challenge.

Pitching is always a challenge in Coors Field, and last year was no exception. Rockies pitchers allowed 745 runs last year. Only the Padres, Reds and Marlins allowed more, and obviously the Rockies have been in the wild-card game the last two years because of their hitting.

Still. Kyle Freeland is one of the best pitchers in the National League. A seventh-place finish in N.L. Rookie of the Year voting led to a fourth-place finish in N.L. Cy Young voting in 2018, and a 2.85 season ERA? Pitching in THAT ballpark? Incredible, and Freeland actually pitched better at home (2.40 ERA, 15 starts) than on the road (3.23 ERA, 18 starts). Freeland is one of only two qualifying starters in Rockies history (Ubaldo Jimenez, 2010) to have a season ERA below 3.45.

The rest of the Rockies rotation is competent, although pretty young. A year’s worth of experience in a pennant race, and a division series in 2018, should help them. Former Cubs closer Wade Davis, signed to a four-year deal by the Rox last winter, led the league in saves with 43, although he also had five blown saves and five outings in which he allowed three or more runs, likely a Coors Field effect (4.73 ERA at home, 3.55 on the road).

The Rockies should be a good team again this year and could challenge for the N.L. West title.

The Cubs and Rockies will play their entire season series within a nine-day period, one fewer day than the Cubs and D-backs. Fortunately, this year that period is in June. Over the nine seasons from 2010-18, the Cubs played road series in Denver in four of those nine years, leading to multiple postponements and games played in very cold weather.

This year: Wrigley Field June 4-5-6, Coors Field June 10-11-12.