SUMMER PREP FOR ROCKTOBER

Tight games now could pay off if Colorado gets play­off berth

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Nick Groke Nick Groke: ngroke@den­verpost.com or @nick­groke

CLEVE­LAND» In the min­utes af­ter a gut-punch loss Tues­day night, af­ter the de­fend­ing Amer­i­can League cham­pi­ons cel­e­brated a walk-off vic­tory and the Rock­ies filed de­ject­edly into their club­house, out­fielder Car­los Gon­za­lez broke the si­lence.

CarGo is the only player still on the team from the last time the Rock­ies played in the post­sea­son, in 2009. And he knows how help­ful a sting­ing loss can be.

“I told the guys, it’s al­ways nice to play teams like this,” Gon­za­lez said af­ter Cleve­land’s Yan Gomes hit a win­ning, three-run homer off Colorado’s all-star closer, Greg Hol­land. “The en­ergy was amaz­ing. They were down by one in the ninth in­ning and the fans were re­ally loud.

“That’s what you get when you get to the post­sea­son. It felt good. That was fun. Even though we ended up los­ing a tough game, it was good for us.”

The Rock­ies pulled off a late rally of their own Wed­nes­day, ty­ing the game in the ninth then win­ning when Char­lie Black­mon smacked a solo home run in the 12th in­ning of a 3-2 vic­tory. As the Rock­ies trav­eled to Mi­ami late Wed­nes­day, Arizona lost to the vis­it­ing Los An­ge­les Dodgers.

That left the Dodgers 15½ games ahead of the sec­ond-place Rock­ies in the Na­tional League West. Colorado was a half game ahead of Arizona, which played the Dodgers late Thurs­day, in the race for the first wild-card play­off spot and seven games ahead of the next-near­est wild-card con­tenders, the Car­di­nals and Brew­ers.

Bar­ring a colos­sal col­lapse, the Rock­ies al­most cer­tainly will face the Di­a­mond­backs in a one-game play­off Oct. 4, three days af­ter the fi­nal game of the reg­u­lar sea­son. The team that has the best reg­u­lar-sea­son record will have home­field ad­van­tage that day. While the Rock­ies con­tinue to tout a mantra about the need to keep win­ning se­ries, they also are pre­par­ing for a sprint to get to the one-game play­off.

“This is great for us,” first-year Colorado man­ager Bud Black said. “They’re dig­ging this. And our young pitch­ers, for them this is awe­some. I know what that’s like. They can’t wait to get to the park. They’re like kids go­ing to Lit­tle League games.”

Black ac­knowl­edged his en­joy­ment, even in de­feat, of Tues­day night’s game, which had the feel of a play­off matchup.

“These are great ex­pe­ri­ences. And they should be bet­ter for it in the long run, pitch­ing in these games and go­ing through this,” Black said. “Be­lieve me, when you win ’em, you say, ‘That was a (heck) of a game. That was great. What a win.’ Then when you lose, you say the same thing, but it’s not as good. But in the game, you know it’s a good game.”

If the Rock­ies and Di­a­mond­backs meet in a one-game, wild­card matchup, the win­ner prob­a­bly would face Los An­ge­les in a Na­tional League di­vi­sion se­ries. Both teams are 5-7 against the Dodgers this sea­son.

“We’re in first place, so we don’t re­ally care who we play,” Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig told re­porters Wed­nes­day night. “If it’s the Di­a­mond­backs, that’s fine. Or if it’s Colorado, even bet­ter. I just know through­out the sea­son, the Di­a­mond­backs seem to play us bet­ter. But it doesn’t mat­ter.”

Those po­ten­tial play­off matchups are be­yond the hori­zon. For now, the Rock­ies are en­joy­ing the ride.

“It’s cool that we’re go­ing through this,” Black said. “We know we have to keep go­ing.”

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