ROX, DBACKS IN ONE MORE DANCE FOR SPOT IN TOURNEY
It is without doubt uncool to be talking baseball while we’re all struggling to come to terms with another exercise of grotesque inhumanity, this time in the city of Las Vegas, Nevada. The load of wrath and sorrow that’s come down on mankind over the past month or so is barely comprehensible. It is knocking down the spirit on the edge of a season that could be cause for joy.
The Colorado Rockies logged their 87th and final win of the 2017 regular MLB season Friday evening with a rousing 9-1 triumph over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Coors Field in Denver. On Saturday afternoon the (then) 85 win Milwaukee Brewers blew a 6-0 lead over the St Louis Cardinals and fell 7-6, a strategically fatal miscalculation that left them trailing the Rockies by 2-1/2 games with one to play. There were no further mathematical combinations the Brewers could fall back upon. Colorado got the grab on the visiting National League Wild Card and will face-off with the Arizona Diamondbacks Wednesday at 6:00 pm MT in Phoenix at Chase Field. Jon Gray (10-4, 3.67) goes against Arizona’s Zack Greinke (17-7, 3.20) in a battle of ace right-handers.
The Rockies decided to mail-it-in for their final two games with Los Angeles once news of the Brewers’ demise became official. They took a 3-0 lead after 2 on Saturday before giving it back and falling 5-3. 22 Rockies played, 6 of them pitchers, and a big celebration occurred following the contest, despite the result being a loss. Sunday Colorado fell behind 5-0 by the 5th inning before scoring a run in the 6th and 2 in the 7th. The Dodgers would nevertheless prevail, 6-3. 20 people saw action on Sunday, again 6 were pitchers. Call me an old fuddy-duddy, but it all seemed unsuitably casual to me. After all there are still fish to fry, or at least rattlers to subdue.
But back on Friday, when consequences were still in-play, the Rox got busy early, getting 3 in the 1st and 2 in the 2nd against Los Angeles left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu. Nolan Arenado got the party started with a gigantic 2-out solo homer to center, then Trevor Story knocked a single and came around on an even larger blast off the bat of Mark Reynolds. Ian Desmond worked Ryu for a walk leading-off the 2nd and scored run no. 4 when Charlie Blackmon, who has become the National League Batting Champion, drilled a big shot of his own, opposite field, to right. Walker Buehler held Colorado in-check for an inning, but in the 4th Arenado singled with two out and this time it was Story who would drop one over the wall in center. Tony Cingrani took over for Buehler in the 5th and was immediately greeted with a Carlos Gonzalez double. Desmond made out on a line drive, Jonathan Lucroy got a base-on-balls after a 9-pitch at-bat, and starting pitcher Chad Bettis loaded the bases when he reached on an error. Gonzalez scored on a passed-ball while Blackmon was batting, then the MVP candidate drove-in Lucroy with a single, pushing the lead to the final score of 9-1. Bettis worked 7, giving-up a run on 4 hits, and Carlos Estevez and Scott Oberg each delivered an inning of scoreless relief.
So now we come upon this most curious of events, MLB’s one-and-done contest to determine which Wild Card advances to the post-season. Certainly capricious, perhaps unfair, the one chance to make good on the other 162 is uniquely baseball, where if you haven’t taken care of business by securing your Division, you subject yourself to the whims of a single contest of skill and chance. The New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins take their turn tomorrow night, also at 6:00 MT, going after it at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.
The Rockies, who headed to Phoenix this afternoon, and Diamondbacks have played 19 times in 2017, Arizona taking 11 of them. But as sdcarp has pointed-out several times, Colorado has had greater success in the desert than home here in Denver, a marker of 5-5 at Chase Field versus one of 3-6 at Coors. The DBacks were back and forth the first half of 2017 before taking control after the All Star break and emphatically winning the home card. Colorado conversely got off to a big start then had a long, grueling drive to the finish, virtually backing-in to secure the other one on the Milwaukee loss.
Arizona has a strong, deep, veteran lineup, richly deserving of a post-season run. But our Rockies are strong and deep too, even battle-tested after a contending season’s long grind. It’s just one more test against a rival we’ve already beaten 8 times.
I like our chances.