Colorado conundrum: Try to win the division or rest for the playoffs?

Updated: October 1, 2009

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Rockies manager Jim Tracy has a tough decision -- catch the Dodgers or rest his team?

Which teams have the most to figure out before Wednesday?

After a one-year hiatus, the Colorado Rockies were able to clinch a spot in the playoffs Thursday. But the Rockies and the Los Angeles Dodgers are the teams that have the most to figure out before the postseason starts.

The Rockies and Dodgers will go head-to-head this weekend in the final series of the regular season. The Rockies have to figure out whether they want to throw all their pitchers against the Dodgers and try to win the division outright. Or do they want to set up their rotation for the playoffs?

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Right now, the Dodgers -- who have lost four in a row and six of eight -- sit only two games in front of the Rockies in the NL West. Colorado needs to set up its rotation for the playoffs, though. Who cares about winning the division? You're in the playoffs! The Rockies should focus on winning the first round, so they can get to the second round. They should be focusing on keeping their pitchers fresh. In the end, it's going to be a tactical decision by Colorado, but you have to understand the team's desire to win.

On the other hand, the Dodgers have pitching issues. They have Randy Wolf, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, Clayton Kershaw -- and what have they done? These guys really haven't stepped up to the plate. At this point, it seems as though Wolf will be the starting pitcher for the first game of the series. After that, Colorado has a lot of question marks. Look at the bullpen; it has a lot of issues. It's amazing to think back to the start of the season when this team looked as if it had the strongest pitching staff, yet now it looks like a team that is completely lost.

It's interesting because the Rockies' Aaron Cook is phenomenal, but at the same time, you have Ubaldo Jimenez, Jorge De La Rosa, Jason Marquis and there are so many to pick from for the postseason rotation. Keep in mind that Colorado will have to make sure it makes its decisions based on good matchups.

I'm not worried about the defense for the Rockies or the Dodgers. But there are a few things both teams can continue doing that will push them ahead of the rest. Mostly, they both need that timely hitting. Colorado believes. We've seen how the Rockies did it a couple of years ago, just with a different manager this time in Jim Tracy. He has these guys believing in themselves and having a lot of fun. You can see the chemistry is there -- part of it is because the Rockies are winning, but it's also because of the belief he has instilled in them that they are truly a good team. Colorado has played well overall, excluding teams within its division. But guess what? The Rockies aren't playing any teams within their division in the first round. So they need to just go out there and play their game.

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: Sept. 30 | Sept. 29 | Sept. 28 | Sept. 27 | Sept. 24

TOUCH 'EM ALL

Touch 'Em AllWho went deep? Keep track of all the home runs hit each day on "Baseball Tonight" and on the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page.

For more, check out the Home Run Tracker page.

Home Run Tracker
NAME HR OPPSITUATION
Kendry Morales, LAA34MillwoodBot 3: 2-1, 1 Out. 1 on.
Ryan Braun, MIL31CookTop 6: 2-2, 2 Outs. None on.
Ben Zobrist, TB27WatersBot 4: 2-0, 1 Out. None on.
Brad Hawpe, COL22SmithBot 8: 0-0, 0 Outs. 1 on.
The complete list of Thursday's homers

ON DECK: WEEKEND WATCH

White Sox at Tigers

Detroit stands two games clear of Minnesota in the AL Central entering the final weekend. Edwin Jackson opens the series Friday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN) against Jake Peavy. Jackson was roughed up in his most recent start, giving up five runs in an 8-4 loss against these same White Sox. Peavy has been solid in his two starts with the White Sox, winning both times. In his most recent outing, he pitched six shutout innings, striking out eight in a 2-0 win against -- you guessed it -- the Tigers.

Royals at Twins

The Twins are 9-6 against the Royals this season. Waiting for Minnesota on Saturday, in what is possibly the penultimate baseball game at the Metrodome, is Zack Greinke. He has made only one start against the Twins this season, but it was a good one. The Cy Young hopeful, in his most recent start, allowed only one run and struck out eight in a 4-1 win. Greinke has won his past five decisions, dating back to Aug. 22.

Rockies at Dodgers

Will the Rockies decide they want to win the NL West and try to erase the Dodgers' two-game lead, or will they opt to rest up for the postseason after clinching the NL wild card Thursday? The Dodgers, meanwhile, have failed for nearly a week to put away the division crown. Ubaldo Jimenez and Randy Wolf are scheduled to open the series at Dodger Stadium.

For the rest of Friday's schedule, click here. To see what's on tap for Saturday, click here. And for Sunday's full slate of games, click here.


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BBTN MINUTE: ROCKIES FACE TOUGH CALL

SIMON SAYS

Simon Says ESPN researcher Mark Simon digs deep looking for the night's best baseball numbers.

Tonight, he takes a look at Chris Carpenter and how his 17-win season ranks in Cardinals' history:

17+ wins, ERA less than 2.25
for Cardinals in past 60 years
Wins ERA
Chris Carpenter 2009 17 2.24
John Tudor 1985 21 1.93
Steve Carlton 1969 17 2.17
Bob Gibson 1986 22 1.12

THURSDAY'S BEST AND WORST

BEST
Chris CarpenterChris Carpenter had a better day at the plate than on the mound, and that's saying something considering he tossed five shutout innings for the win against the Reds. At the plate, Carpenter belted a grand slam, had a double and drove home six runs. Before Thursday, he had one RBI all season in 66 plate appearances.
WORST
Kip Wells• While Chris Carpenter had his good day, the pitchers in the other dugout did not. Kip Wells and the five pitchers who followed him combined to give up 15 hits in the Reds' 13-0 loss. Wells was around for only two innings, giving up five hits, five runs, a walk and a homer.

WEB GEMS

NUMBERS TO KNOW

Brad HawpeTo say Brad Hawpe likes to face the Dodgers would be an understatement. Hawpe has a career .352 average against the Dodgers to go along with 19 homers.

The Rockies already have clinched a playoff berth, and they can win the NL West with a sweep of the Dodgers.

Hawpe vs. Dodgers (2009)
BA .362
BA w/RISP .500
SLG .745
HR 4

-- ESPN Stats & Information

FANTASY: PREVIEW OF FRIDAY'S GAMES

Fantasy Adam Madison examines the 15 games on Friday's slate.

Madison ranks the pitchers scheduled to take the mound and supplies loads of other information that could help shape your roster for Friday. Daily Notes

HUNT FOR OCTOBER

Here's the latest in the playoff races:

AL CENTRAL
TEAM W-L GB POFF
Tigers 85-74 -- 91.8%
Twins 83-76 2.0 8.2%

For more on all the playoff races, see the Hunt for October.