Despite everything against them, the Colorado Rockies ended the year with a postseason berth, their first since 2009. Despite a young pitching staff stuffed with rookies, a stacked offense who nonetheless couldn’t always quite put it together and the usual complaints of altitude and cheapness from media and rival fans, the Rockies brought Rocktober back to Denver once again. It just wasn’t enough.
The Rockies had a lot going for them as they entered Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona to duke it out in a one game do or die with the newly powerful Arizona Diamondbacks. Center fielder Charlie Blackmon had just secured the National League batting title in a career year, superstar third baseman Nolan Arenado was still playing MVP-caliber ball and starter Jon Gray was coming off a five-game hot streak where he posted a 2.70 ERA and looked to be back in his ace form. The Rockies had lots of success at Chase, especially against Dbacks ace Zack Greinke. Players such as shortstop Trevor Story loved to hit the long ball against him, and it seemed a combination of this ability to hit for power, Gray’s recent dominance and a fiery desire to win would lead the team to the National League Division Series. But before the Rockies could even blink, they were down 6-0.
Gray had a bad, nervous start, giving up four runs in just one and a third innings before his was pulled. He had allowed a home run from star player Paul Goldschimdt and a run-scoring triple from Starling Marte to make it 4-0. Former starter Tyler Anderson later came in for relief, but too was pulled after former Rockie Daniel Descalso hit a two run bomb to make it 6-0. It felt like the beginning of the end.
However, as the team has continued to prove over the course of the year, they had plenty of fight left in them. Before long, the team bounced back to make it 6-5, chipping away nicely at the Dbacks large lead and sending Greinke to dugout in the fourth inning. The game was swinging in their favor until Archie Bradley arrived to take it all away.
Bradley, a relief pitcher who only had four at-bats the entire year, was up to hit against solid Rockies reliever Pat Neshek. With two on and two out, the Dbacks weren’t expecting him to hit, keeping him in so he could pitch the eighth inning and take some of the heat off of closer Fernando Rodney. He proceeded to shock everyone watching a ripping a triple to left field to make it 8-5.
Despite the shocking turn of events, the Rockies weren’t out of it yet. While Bradley may have had fun putting his team ahead, hitting and running around the bases had clearly worn him out. The Rockies quickly capitalized, as Arenado and Story proceeded to rip a pair of angry, back-to-back homers to make the game 8-7.
However, the Rockies still couldn’t put it away. Soon enough, closer Greg Holland, who had been shaky in the second half of the season after a phenomenal first half, gave up three runs to make 11-7. In the top of the ninth, Rockies veteran Carlos Gonzalez got a two-out RBI single in what was likely the last at-bat of his storied Rockies career to make it 11-8. Arenado grounded out shortly after, and the Rockies postseason had ended as quickly as it had begun.
While the loss was a tough one, the determination and grit of the Rockies to fight for all nine innings of play was a testament to their ability and desire to win it all for their hometown. It wasn’t all for nothing; it was year of growth, improvement and success. If the Rockies lock up their free agents, make smart trades and keep healthy, the team will be poised to contend next year. Rocktober will come again.