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Can the Colorado Rockies do it again?

Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor

Rounding Third Logo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - While the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers do their best to lose the NL West, a third team has entered the fray in by far the league's worst division.

That's right, the Colorado Rockies are right back in the mix and with nine of their 21 games remaining against the division's top two teams, who says they can't steal this thing once it is all said and done?

As I write this, the D'Backs hold a one-game edge on the Dodgers in the West with a critical three-game set between the two of them slated to get underway at Chavez Ravine. Colorado, meanwhile, finds itself six back thanks to wins in 12 of its last 18 games.

Of course, the Rockies were 6 1/2 games back in the division last year when they went on one of the most amazing runs in the history of sports, winning 12 their final 13 regular season games before winning the first eight games of the postseason on their way to an NL pennant.

Besides the nine aforementioned games with Arizona and LA, Colorado's other 12 contests come against Houston, Atlanta, San Diego and San Francisco - the latter three teams being under .500.

Then again, despite the Rockies' recent success they are still nine games below the break-even mark at 66-75.

This weekend could go a long way in determining the team's success. The Rockies host the Astros, who have climbed back in the playoff mix themselves courtesy of an eight-game winning streak.

If Colorado comes out of this weekend's set relatively unscathed, things could get real interesting out West.

What has gotten the Rockies back into contention, if you want to call it that?

Well, two things, in my opinion.

One, the emergence of 24-year-old Ubaldo Jimenez as a legitimate front-of-the- line starter. During a seven-start stretch from July 2 through August 1, Jimenez went 6-1 with a 1.49 earned run average. He has cooled off considerably since - winning just one his four decisions - but I would trust him in a big spot.

And secondly, the fact that Troy Tulowitzki, one of the driving forces behind last season's late run, has come to life. After hitting a mere .166 as late as July, Tulowitzki has been on fire since returning from the disabled list on July 21, batting .327 to raise his season average to a still-paltry .245.

I don't know how it is all going to shake out in the West. I guess somebody has to win it. Why can't it be the Rockies?

If you look at the three teams, Arizona, with that pitching, should be running away with this. Brandon Webb, though, hasn't been the same pitcher since taking a line drive off his chest three starts ago. If he doesn't right himself, things could get ugly for them in a hurry.

Is history going to repeat itself? Probably not, but then again, I won't be surprised either if that final weekend series in Arizona between the D'Backs and Rockies is more than just a playoff tune-up for Bob Melvin's crew.

How's that for taking a stance?

PHILS-METS BATTLE FOR NL EAST SUPREMACY

The Dodgers and Diamondbacks are not the only teams battling for first place this weekend, as the NL East-leading New York Mets host the Philadelphia Phillies for three games in the final matchup of the season between these division rivals.

New York, which enters the series with a three-game lead in the division, will be throwing Mike Pelfrey, Pedro Martinez and Johan Santana. Philadelphia, meanwhile, counters with its top three pitchers in Brett Myers, the ageless Jamie Moyer and Cole Hamels.

Sunday's finale (should it still play out this way with Tropical Storm Hannah looming) has all the makings of a thriller with Santana and Hamels facing off on national television.

However, with heavy rain in the forecast for Flushing on Saturday, it looks as if we could be seeing a day/night doubleheader to close the series.

Hopefully, the pitching matchups will stay the same, though, and the aces go in the finale.

HOME SWEET HOME FOR MINNESOTA

The Minnesota Twins return home this weekend after wrapping up their 14-game road trip - the team's longest since a 15-game trek in 1969 - at 5-9. Luckily, though, they only lost a half-game in the standings to the AL Central-leading Chicago White Sox, whom they trail by 1 1/2 games.

Minnesota is now home for the next six games before hitting the road again for 10 contests.

If the Twins are going to reach the postseason, their stretch from September 19-25 will likely be the reason why or why not. Minnesota will visit the Tampa Bay Rays for four games before closing the seven game run with three games at the Metrodome against the White Sox.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Michael Rushton at mrushton@sportsnetwork.com.

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