SUMMER PREP FOR ROCKTOBER
Tight games now could pay off if Colorado gets playoff berth
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.”