Having just returned from the fourth (and unfortunately final) game of the NLDS, I feel...numb, empty, like I've been kicked in the stomach and, well, I don't know. It just sucks. Sorry that I can't put it more eloquently than that. The Rockies had a great year and I enjoyed the experience thoroughly, but the way it ended is going to leave a sour taste in my mouth for a long while.
I could write for quite some time about the actual events of the game and what went wrong in my opinion, but that would be too emotionally traumatic and draining. Instead I'll comment on the playoff atmosphere that I encountered. You see, these two games were my first ever taste of playoff baseball. Despite the results, I enjoyed the experience very much.
Sunday was a very busy sports day in Colorado, what with the Broncos taking on the hated (by me anyway) Patriots. As soon as victory was secured my father, sister, and I headed down to Denver, where we met up with my other sister, and somehow found $10 parking at 22nd and Broadway. Those of you who had warned about this were sure right! There were numerous $40 lots even a long ways from the field. In any case, we managed to make it to Coors Field by about 7:45. Unfortunately, the lines to get in were kind of a zoo, as you can see below, and we waited 25 minutes to get in using the Rockpile gate.
As a result, by the time we got to our seats Chase Utley had just hit his home run. We were located in section 158 in the pavilion--better known as the place where the Rally Todd sign lives--and we were only three rows beneath that sign. In fact, it was later verified that we were in the shot when TBS showed the sign (sweet, I was on national TV!). But I digress.
As Poseidon's Fist noted in his recap, there weren't very many Phillies fans visible for this game and my section was remarkably well-behaved, if a little underinformed. There was a bunch of heckling the umpire about balls and strikes--which was probably pretty commonplace throughout these games--despite those complaining being 450 feet or more from home plate. When the Rockies did something well, the crowd was very enthusiastic, loud, and demonstrative:
This was taken right after Garrett Atkins' double to drive in the Rockies' third run. It was certainly cold at the game, especially as it wore on, but everyone in my group (and my section for that matter) was well-prepared for it. However, by the ninth inning the noise volume of the crowd and the frenetic towel waving had decreased a little bit as the combination of a one-run deficit and four-plus hours of chilly temperatures took its toll. Our section was still on its feet, but the enthusiasm for the moment seemed to be on a lower level at the four hour mark of the game.
On the whole though, the atmosphere for this game was absolutely electric, with more than 50,000 voices (and towels) making it very clear that this game meant something. The Rockies definitely seemed to be feeding off of the crowd in the early parts of the game, though they weren't able to secure the victory.
- I called the Feliz 1-2-3 double play and CarGo's home run...immediately before they occurred
- I was also horribly wrong about a number of other predictions, so don't read too much into the previous bullet point.
- Bad puns my sister made up about the Rockies' center fielder: "that ball needed to be Fowler", and "he's not ambidextrous, he's ambidexterous.
- The loudest the stadium got in my opinion was when Helton batted in the seventh with runners on first and third. They played the Star Wars theme and everyone went crazy. Second place goes to the Tulo chants that immediately followed the Helton at-bat, with the Betancourt strike out to end the top of the eighth coming in a close third.
- Despite being 450 feet away from home plate, it sure looked like the strike zone was inconsistent. I didn't see the Utley play clearly, but it didn't look right to me in the pavilion.
- The between-inning entertainment was a little weak. I was hoping for some special stuff but it was basically the same material as a regular season game.
- Dinger is a stupid mascot.
- Waving towels is fun. Doing it with 50,000 of your closest friends is better.
In any case, when Tulo popped out to end the game it was a pretty somber, silent, overcrowded march back to our car...and due to the late game time we didn't get back until 2 am. I barely had time to sleep, go to my classes, and be ready to return to Coors for another shot at the Phillies. Game 4 notes after the jump.
While the game ended up similarly, the way I experienced it was a little different (unfortunately I forgot my camera for this game). The biggest difference was undoubtedly the afternoon start time (and the improved weather that went with it). This time I was going with three of my buddies and we made sure to get there earlier--we were in our seats by 3:20. This was largely due to the fact that getting in was a breeze for those arriving early. This time we paid $20 for parking because my friends were impatient, but we enjoyed the ambience of thousands of Rockies fans arriving and buzzing with anticipation.
A few things were just a little off about the Game 4 crowd though. Maybe it was the earlier start time, the warmer weather, or whatever, but the atmosphere of this game (at least until the later innings) did not match the energy and excitement that the crowd of game 3 had exhibited. There were also a few more visible Phillies fans, though they were not in my section (same spot as Game 3 but two rows forward).
I think that the Rockies' failure to put a run on the board in the first inning really took the crowd out of the game--and they weren't really into it at all until Tulo's double made it 2-1 in the sixth. There just seemed to be a negative sense that the game was going to end poorly...that is, until the bottom of the eighth. Then things went crazy.
Dexter Fowler's hurdle of Chase Utley was one of the most amazing things that I've ever seen live--and well, the crowd just came alive, with a power and vigor that matched or even eclipsed Game 3. Jason Giambi's single sent everyone into overdrive and Yorvit Torrealba's double took it up to a level that I didn't believe was possible. It was loud, it was joyful, it was one of the greatest feelings I've ever had as a Rockies fan--to have gone from the low of the previous seven innings to this remarkable level of joy so quickly was disorienting.
The pessimist/realist in me, who had been resigned to a loss, who had been holding back on my fandom and the joy of watching fall baseball, stepped aside and let down its guard, allowing me to feel euphoric. How cruel life and baseball can be.
As high as the crowd was in the bottom of the eighth and all the way through the ninth until Ryan Howard launched his double down the right-field line, that was how low it sunk. I was, to put it simply, devastated. I had felt that the lead was completely secure with Huston Street coming on to close. I was too emotionally spent to react much physically, but even as the Rockies mounted a semblance of a comeback in the bottom of the ninth myself and the crowd seemed to be in shock at what had just occurred and at the same time resigned to the fact that the season would end like that.
The egress from the game was similar to that of the previous night, but if anything it was even more silent, more somber than the previous night's. Nobody likes to lose, but the feeling I (and, I'm sure, many of those in attendance) got from this loss is one of the worst that I've even had as a sports fan. I'm so emotionally spent by it that I'm not sure how much of the playoffs that I'll be able to watch. It's going to be a LONG winter.
- There was a LOT of booing in this game. Loud, sustained, echoing boos--mostly directed at the umpires. In fact, that was probably the loudest Coors got until Dexter got all Olympic on Utley.
- Booing, even when you know that the call was correct or if you didn't have a good angle, sure makes you feel better.
- I didn't buy any food, but my buddies got a foot-long dog, some kettle corn, and some burritos for the exorbitant stadium prices. I always bring my own food, though Coors does offer some tempting options.
- Some guy in the next section over tried to start the wave while the Rockies were hitting in the seventh inning. I shouted him down.
- Many snide comments were heard about Clint Barmes' lack of hitting prowess (0-14).
- The weather wasn't bad at all, especially because the sun was shining on the pavilion for the first several innings. At the later stages of the game it became more of an annoyance, but it certainly didn't detract from the fans' exuberance as it did the previous night.
- Waving the towels was still fun.