Three days. Three cities. Three different time zones. This is what the Colorado Rockies were up against on Tuesday night. Playing their third game in as many days, the Rockies had one final chance to punch their ticket to the NLDS. With the franchise taking flight in 1993, how would their 25th Anniversary season be defined?
On this Tuesday night in the North Side of Chicago, the Rockies would need to conjure up some Mile High magic at sea level. Only a victory over the 2016 World Series Champion Chicago Cubs at historic Wrigley Field would do. Yes. This was the win or go home 2018 National League Wild Card game.
Looking back to Sunday afternoon at Coors Field in Denver, CO, the Rockies needed to beat the Washington Nationals if they wanted to keep playing. A win in their 162nd regular-season game would award them the opportunity to play their 163rd game versus the Los Angeles Dodgers. With the pedal to the metal from the outset, Colorado dismantled the Nationals, 12-0. In the game, Rockies’ fan favorite Charlie “Chuck Nasty” Blackmon hit for the cycle. Wow. Nasty. Now that’s the perfect ending at home for the versatile leadoff man.
Hot as Hades down the stretch, the Rox won nine out of 10 contests. The surge gave Colorado this tiebreaking scenario. One game against Los Angeles on Monday afternoon at Dodger Stadium for the NL West crown.
Come Monday afternoon in Los Angeles, the Rockies looked weary. It didn’t help that Dodgers’ starting pitcher, Walker Buehler, looked virtually unhittable during his 6 2/3 innings of action on the mound. In fact, he gave up only one hit in his outing. The lone Colorado hit came off the bat of, you may have guessed it, Chuck Nasty. Blackmon ended his afternoon with two hits. Nobody else in the Rockies’ lineup did anything until the 9th inning. That’s when Rockie superstars, Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story, provided back-to-back solo taters that turned a giant goose egg on the Rox scoreboard into two runs.
Finishing off the Rockies 5-2, the Dodgers were once again champions of the NL West — their sixth-straight season winning the division title. Goodness, gracious.
All wasn’t lost for Colorado. They’d fly to Chicago to play the aforementioned Cubs the very next day. Tuesday night’s affair was a one-game playoff. The winner would advance to play the Milwaukee Brewers in the NLDS, and the loser would be left to wonder what could have been.
Taking the hill in the game, veteran left-hander Jon Lester would be hurling the baseball for the Cubbies. As for the Rockies, they’d rely on the left arm of the young 25-year-old, Kyle Freeland. Experts were saying this was a complete mismatch. Lester had the upper-hand and Freeland was pitching in too big of a moment with just three-days rest. Jon was fully charged on five-days of rest. To use a tennis term, advantage Lester. Wait a minute. Not so fast.
Freeland had electric stuff in 6 2/3 innings of superb shutout baseball on Tuesday evening. The young lefty was painting the corners like Vincent van Gogh, keeping Cubs’ hitters off-balance the entire night. Lester had really good stuff as well. However, the Rockies manufactured a run off of Mr. Lester in the 1st inning. A leadoff walk to Mr. Blackmon, a ground rule double to left-center off the bat of DJ LeMahieu that found its way to the Wrigley ivy at the wall, and a sacrifice fly from Arenado toward right-center that allowed Chuck Nasty to tag and score from third base. The definition of a productive out.
Colorado clung to that 1-0 lead until the bottom of the 8th inning unfolded. Chicago shortstop and slugger, Javier Baez, delivered the tying run with a double to left-center off of Rockie reliever Adam Ottavino. Even though both teams had runners on base and in scoring position deep into the night, the game stayed stuck in neutral. Until the top of the 13th inning. Can you say hero’s moment for backup catcher, Tony Wolters? That’s what happened. After both Story and Gerardo Parra singled with two outs in the top of the frame, Mr. Wolters came up cash money.
Wolters’ single up the middle off a Kyle Hendricks changeup put the Rockies up 2-1. To the disbelief of Cubs’ fans inside the confines of Wrigley, Colorado reliever Scott Oberg struck out the side in the bottom of the 13th inning to end Chicago’s season just like that. One, two, three. A Rockies’ celebration ensued with a mob on the infield grass. Beer and champagne flowed in the clubhouse, and the Colorado Rockies had punched their ticket to the NLDS.
With Matt Holliday back in the dugout and occasionally on the field, can the Rockies reproduce the magic that took them to the Fall Classic in 2007? Nobody knows, but this is a dangerous ball club. Welcome to Roctober! The Rockies will dig in against the Milwaukee Brewers in Game 1 of the NLDS later today at 04:07 PM Central Time.