One-way tickets, hanging curves and reliever on reliever crime: The Rockies lose wild Wild Card game to D’backs

“You feel bad that you only play one game, and that’s it,” Gonzalez said.

Carlos Gonzalez watches Arizona celebrate after an 11-8 win. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)
Jon Gray gave up four runs in 1 1/3 innings. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)
Jon Gray gave up four runs in 1 1/3 innings. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

3:13 p.m. The game is still 1 hour and 47 minutes away, but already the Porters look anxious. The gates at Chase Field opened 13 minutes ago. Preston and Katie were among the first to arrive. It didn’t take them long to settle into their seats on the first base side. They snap video on their smart phones and talk quietly as different Rockies step into the cage for batting practice.

The Porters have followed this team all year. They made it to 10 spring training games and six regular season games. Coors Field is a bit of a hike from their home in Alamosa. For this one, they drove four hours to Denver and bought one-way flights to Phoenix. Thursday, they hope to purchase another pair of one-way tickets to Los Angeles for the NLDS.

“I’m so nervous,” Katie says. “You probably shouldn’t be allowed to play a postseason game in a dome. It doesn’t feel like baseball.”

The Parsons at the Rockies game. (Christian Clark/Denverite)
Preston and Katie Porter at the Rockies game. (Christian Clark/Denverite)

3:28 p.m. Charlie Blackmon has taken his cuts. The Rockies center fielder, who last week set the single-season record for most RBI by a leadoff hitter, looks ready now. His wrists are taped. His eyes are trained toward the ground.

“YEAH, CHUCKKKKK!” yells a man who’s standing in a group of Rockies fans behind the visitor’s dugout.

Blackmon looks up and gives a slight nod before focusing his eyes downward once again. Over in the cage, Gerardo Parra is warming up. Rockies bench coach Mike Redmond grooves pitches to him. A tuft of purple hair, which Parra dyed after Colorado clinched a Wild Card spot, pokes out from under his cap.

5:21 p.m. Paul Goldschmidt steps into the batter’s box with runners on the corners and no outs. It’s the bottom of the first. Jon Gray has already worked himself into a jam. Goldschmidt settles in and on his very first pitch sees something good: a hanging curveball. He launches it 384 feet into the seats in left to put the Diamondbacks up 3-0. 

5:51 p.m. Bud Black walks out to the mound as Chase Field rumbles. Gray’s given up four runs and only gotten four outs. He won’t face another batter after Ketel Marte triples in another run. Gray takes off his glove and slogs back to the dugout as Scott Oberg emerges from the ‘pen.

6:17 p.m. Tyler Anderson, who appeared on Colorado’s 25-man Wild Card roster as an insurance policy, has come on in the third. He hasn’t done much to stop the bleeding. A.J. Pollock singles. Then Daniel Descalso, the ex-Rockie who’s hitting .233 this year, steps up. Descalso hits one deep to right. Carlos Gonzalez can only watch as it sails over the fence. 6-0, Arizona.

6:37 p.m. Just when it looked like Zach Greinke would grunt his way to a quality start, Colorado gets to him. Gonzalez, Trevor Story and Parra single. Jonathan Lucroy doubles. 6-4. Greinke is pulled. No more grunting.

7:19 p.m. Randy Johnson is here. In the sixth, Arizona gives him a shoutout on the big board. The Big Unit, who’s dressed in a gray flannel and jeans, still looks like a man who’s hosting a garage sale.

7:42 pm. Ian Desmond has taken over for Mark Reynolds at first base. He’s got a golden chance to whittle the lead to one with no outs and Lucroy standing on third. Desmond strikes out on a fastball about neck level. Lucroy eventually scores on Blackmon’s sacrifice bunt. The lead is down to one. 

8:04 p.m. “Sandstorm.” “Sandstorm” is what the Diamondbacks P.A. people go with after Archie Bradley delivers the most improbable hit of the game. With two on and two out in the seventh, Bradley, Arizona’s best reliever, comes through with a triple off of Pat Neshek, who’s arguably Colorado’s best reliever. A one-run lead becomes a three-run lead. They chant “Archie” and pump “Sandstorm” through the speakers.

8:15 p.m. The Rockies will not go quietly. Arenado hits a solo shot to center. Story hits a solo shot to right. The back-to-back jacks travel a respective 424 and 377 feet. The lead is down to one once again heading into the ninth.

Trevor Story celebrates after his solo shot in the eighth. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)
Trevor Story celebrates after his solo shot in the eighth. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

8:44 p.m. It’s over. It’s not, but it is. Greg Holland, so good for the first half of the season then shaky for the last half of it, gifts A.J. Pollock a hanging slider. Pollock hammers it for a triple — the Diamondbacks’ fourth of the game — and two runs score. The lead is back to four. There’s no coming back from this.

9:14 p.m. Rockies players and coaches mill about in the visitor’s locker room. It’s quiet but not in a somber way. Hugs are exchanged. Handshakes, too. It’s been a good season even if it didn’t end the way Colorado wanted it to.

“We knew we could battle with the best of them,” Arenado says. “We just ran out.”

9:17 p.m. There’s a swarm surrounding Gray. The 25-year-old righty played so well during the stretch run. But in the one-game, do-or-die he struggled, and he knows it.

“I got outside myself,” Gray says. “It sucks when it happens that fast.” 

9:27 p.m. Gonzalez switches effortlessly from Spanish to English. He might have just played his last game as a Rockie, and everyone wants to know what the Venezuelan star is thinking.

“It’s too bad, because our offense put some runs on the board,” Gonzalez says. “Our pitching, they had a bad game. But in the end, we got in this position because of them. So I’m not going to point fingers.”

Gonzalez has been a Rockie since 2009 — the last time Colorado made the playoffs. Eight seasons have come and gone since then. This might be it for him here. His contract is up. A glut of young outfielders are waiting their for chance behind him. Gonzalez says he’s enjoyed his time here. He’s gotten to watch Arenado, Blackmon, Gray and D.J. LeMahieu grow up.

“You feel bad that you only play one game, and that’s it,” Gonzalez says.

Now all he can do is wait and see. There is no baseball left for the Rockies to play. No more games to try to win. No one-way flights to L.A. to board.

Carlos Gonzalez watches Arizona celebrate after an 11-8 win. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)
Carlos Gonzalez watches Arizona celebrate after an 11-8 win. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

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Christian Clark

Author: Christian Clark

Christian Clark covers sports. He's worked for outlets that include the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Oklahoman, Columbia Missourian and Dave Campbell's Texas Football magazine. He likes music and Mexican food. Lots and lots of Mexican food. Got questions? Tips? You can reach him at cclark@denverite.com.