Rox balance may serve them well in final week

With the second NL Wild Card within grasp, last homestand is key

Rox balance may serve them well in final week

SAN DIEGO -- At this point for the last couple of years, Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado found himself discussing the chase for the National League RBI and home run titles. Now neither matter, and he's fine with that.

The Rockies head home to face the Marlins on Monday and embark on the final six regular-season games two games up on the Brewers and 2 1/2 up on the Cardinals for the second National League Wild Card. Those are the only numbers that matter.

"I'm happy I don't have to talk about my stats," Arenado said Sunday, when the Rockies beat the Padres, 8-4. "I don't want to talk about my stats. I don't want to talk about how well I've been doing. I want to talk about us as a group."

The final regular-season days serve as a test of a club with an interesting structure:

• The offensive leaders -- leadoff man Charlie Blackmon, No. 2 hitter DJ LeMahieu and Arenado, who hits either third or fourth -- are playing their first meaningful September games.

• None of the starting pitchers have been in this spot, either. Yet, a rotation led by Jon Gray has posted a 2.50 ERA over the last nine games. While it's true the Rockies were 4-5 in those contests, any notion that the starters' inexperience would drag the team down has been disproven.

• The Rockies' decision to go with experienced relievers could prove key. After an August slump with three blown saves and a loss, closer Greg Holland has a 0.90 ERA with 12 strikeouts against two hits and two walks in his last 10 games, righty Trade Deadline acquisition Pat Neshek and lefty Jake McGee have been solid in setup roles.

Holland K's Sanchez, the side

• The club is getting contributions from several veteran role players. Its best hitters during the 2-4 road trip that ended Sunday were Ian Desmond (6-for-15), Jonathan Lucroy (7-for-19) and Mark Reynolds (6-for-14).

Desmond's RBI infield single

A key will be to get the top and middle of the lineup going.

There are health questions, since Carlos Gonzalez suffered a left shoulder injury in Saturday's 5-0 loss to the Padres and Arenado left Sunday's game in the fifth with what he thought was a slight right hand sprain. Both believe they can return soon.

Blackmon, who has emerged as an MVP candidate because of his 36 homers and 96 RBIs, homered and went 2-for-4 Sunday to end the road trip 4-for-24.

Blackmon's homer came off Padres lefty Buddy Baumann, who had not given up a homer to a left-handed hitter this year.

Blackmon's solo home run

"My at-bats were competitive today and I swung at the right pitches, for the most part," Blackmon said. "That's what I'm going toward. But I don't read too much into one swing."

LeMahieu (5-for-24), Arenado (4-for-20), Gonzalez (1-for-12) and Gerardo Parra (3-for-21) also struggled on the road trip.

LeMahieu said the Rockies have embraced the ups and downs, and hope to have only positives at Coors Field after playing 14 of their last 17 games on the road.

"I feel like we've been on the road for the last three weeks," LeMahieu said. "We need to be home for a little bit, and finish strong."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.