The Rockies’ magic number is down to 1

Nolan Arenado points to the crowd after blasting his 37th home run of the season. (Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports)
Nolan Arenado points to the crowd after blasting his 37th home run of the season. (Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports)
Nolan Arenado points to the crowd after blasting his 37th home run of the season. (Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports)

Nolan Arenado wasted little time in making a mark on what was probably the most important game of his big-league career to date. In the first inning of Friday’s series opener against the Dodgers, Arenado blasted Hyun-Jin Ryu’s 84 mph changeup 430 feet over the fence in center. After trotting the bases, Arenado pointed to the crowd behind home plate in an effort to raise the decibel level.

Arenado’s homer opened the flood gates. The Rockies tagged Ryu for five runs in two innings, and they went on to win 9-1.

“I was pointing first to my mom and dad,” Arenado said. “Then I pointed to the fans. Then I pointed to my boys. I just wanted to let them know, to get them fired up. These are big games. I want them to get going.”

The wellspring of offense moved the Rockies one step closer to a postseason appearance. Their magic number is down to one, meaning all they need to do to qualify for the Wild Card Game is win one more or for the Brewers to lose one of their remaining games. Milwaukee defeated St. Louis 4-1 on Friday to stay in the hunt.

Mark Reynolds and Charlie Blackmon each hit two-run shots. Reynolds’ homer, his 30th of the season, came in the first inning two batters after Arenado. Blackmon’s jack, a 454-foot shot to right in the second, helped him pass Darin Erstad for the most RBI by a leadoff hitter in a single season. Blackmon’s driven in 103 runs, 102 of which have come as the first hitter in the order.

The Rockies relied on the long ball all night. They hit four out of the park — all four of which occurred in full counts.

Trevor Story smacked Colorado’s final homer of the game in the fourth inning, a two-run blast that landed in the bullpen. The 23-year-old shortstop has had his struggles at the plate this year, but he’s heated up in the last month and is now up to 24 home runs and 82 RBI with two games to go. He finished a double shy of the cycle.

“He’s much more calm at the plate,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “The harder movements at the plate have gone away. He’s taking good swings. I think he’s seeing the ball better. He’s a very talented young player.”

On the mound, Chad Bettis cruised with a big cushion. He allowed one run and four hits in seven innings. Bettis retired the final 14 batters he faced.

“That was great for all of us,” Black said. “Fans of the Rockies who’ve followed Chad’s year. To see this, one of the biggest games he’s ever pitched in, to respond like this was really special.”

It’s possible the Rockies know if they’ve clinched a playoff berth before Saturday’s first pitch. The Brewers and Cardinals play at 2:15 p.m. MT. The Rockies don’t begin their second-to-last game of the season until 6:10 p.m.

“We know what we have to do,” Black said.

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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.