Nolan wants, mer­its play­off at-bats

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - MARK KISZLA Den­ver Post Colum­nist


, we can check a three-homer game off the list. With Rock­ies third base­man Nolan Are­nado, it’s not a ques­tion of if he will make some­thing amaz­ing hap­pen, but when. For a ballplayer only 26 years old, it’s al­ready a long, tro­phy-case-stuff­ing list of amaz­ing: four Gold Gloves, three trips to the All-Star Game …

“But,” said Are­nado, “I’ve got no play­off ex­pe­ri­ence.”

And there’s the most com­pelling rea­son the Rock­ies need to do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to make the play­offs this year. Are­nado wants Oc­to­ber. He wants it real bad.

“I want to get there. I want to play in the play­offs. That’s what it’s all about,” Are­nado told me Wednes­day, af­ter he slugged three tow­er­ing, to­tal-eclipse-ofthe-sun home runs dur­ing three straight at-bats in three con­sec­u­tive in­nings of Colorado’s 18-4 trounc­ing of San Diego.

“Play­off base­ball is where every­body gets no­ticed. Big Papi (David Or­tiz) is fa­mous be­cause of Oc­to­ber. Derek Jeter is fa­mous be­cause of Oc­to­ber. I’m not say­ing I want to be fa­mous, but I want be known as be­ing a good ballplayer dur­ing Oc­to­ber.”

While the Rock­ies bat­tle for a wild-card berth in the Na­tional League on the field, there’s also a bat­tle be­ing waged for tal­ent on cell­phones, and Colorado gen­eral man­ager Jeff Bridich is off to a slow start. The Cubs ven­tured to the South Side of Chicago and picked up start­ing pitcher Jose Quin­tana in a trade. The Di­a­mond­backs for­ti­fied the mid­dle of their bat­ting or­der by cut­ting a deal to rent slug­ger J.D. Martinez, who had hit 16 homers in 200 at-bats for Detroit. The Na­tion­als put their messy bullpen in or­der by ac­quir­ing two reliev­ers from a fire sale in Oak­land.

It’s your move, Mr. Bridich. Let’s add some tal­ent to the Colorado club­house. Show us you want the play­offs as badly as Are­nado does.

Maybe I’m naive to think the Rock­ies owe any­thing to the 37,128 pay­ing cus­tomers who sat at Coors Field on a sum­mer af­ter­noon that brought the heat more in­tensely than start­ing pitcher Jon Gray’s 95 mph fast­ball.

Yes, with the Los An­ge­les Dodgers so far ahead in the NL West that the Rock­ies are barely within shout­ing dis­tance, they are play­ing for a wild-card berth and a Game No. 163, where their first play­off ap­pear­ance since

2009 could be over and done in nine scant in­nings. There’s no way this Colorado team is bet­ter than a 50-1 long­shot to win the World Se­ries.

So I’m down with the idea it would be fool­ish to give away the farm for the Rock­ies to ac­quire ei­ther an arm or a bat be­fore the July 31 trade dead­line. But this Colorado team does have a lit­tle magic that won’t last for­ever. The win­dow of op­por­tu­nity for the Rock­ies as con­structed is maybe three sea­sons, and a mid­mar­ket team can­not af­ford to waste a year.

Closer Greg Hol­land and his 30 saves could move on down the road prior to next sea­son for a big pay­day. There’s no con­trac­tual guar­an­tee ei­ther cen­ter fielder Char­lie Black­mon or sec­ond base­man DJ LaMahieu will be star­ring for the Rock­ies be­yond 2018. If Are­nado keeps fill­ing his glove with web gems while driv­ing in buck­ets of runs at his cur­rent pace, some ma­jor-league fran­chise with deep pock­ets could make him an of­fer in the very ritzy neigh­bor­hood of a half­bil­lion dol­lars af­ter the 2019 sea­son.

It doesn’t seem too much to ask the Rock­ies to make a trade for a right-han­der re­liever who is com­fort­able in high-lever­age sit­u­a­tions and can serve as a bridge be­tween a tir­ing Colorado start­ing pitcher and the beau­ti­ful noise Hol­land brings in the ninth in­ning. Pos­si­ble can­di­dates in­clude Pat Neshek of Phil­a­del­phia, A.J. Ramos of Mi­ami and Ad­di­son Reed of the New York Mets.

“We’re play­ing mean­ing­ful base­ball games,” said Are­nado, af­ter the Rock­ies ex­tended their win­ning streak to four games, putting the tough­est stretch of their sea­son in the rearview mir­ror. “That’s what it’s all about. That’s all you want. That’s all you ask for.”

Hit­ting three home runs in a game for the first time in his young ca­reer was awe­some, so good the crowd gave Are­nado a stand­ing ova­tion af­ter he flied out in the eighth in­ning. This is about as sweet as base­ball in July can get for a player.

“But one game-win­ning hit in Oc­to­ber would put it way over the top,” Are­nado said.

How much big­ger is the goose-bump fac­tor for Oc­to­ber base­ball?

“One hun­dred per­cent,” Are­nado said.

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