Past & Present: The Rockies' first playoff game

Otto Greule Jr

Taking a look back to when the Rockies faced the Braves in the 1995 NLDS and a Game 1 that featured a Cy Young winner, a rookie hitting a pair of home runs and a pitcher pinch-hitting for the final out of the game.

The year was 1995, baseball had an abbreviated 144-game season coming off a nasty players' strike, but in Colorado, the Rockies had a new team and an even newer ballpark and fans packed Coors Field to see the first iteration of the Blake Street Bombers, with the Rockies leading the NL in attendance with more than 47,000 per game.

The Rockies rewarded their fan base with a good season, riding a strong September to a 77-67 record and a Wild Card berth into the playoffs thanks in large part to a 44-28 record in their new ballpark.

Meanwhile in Atlanta, a Braves team that had been to the World Series in 1991 and 1992 rode the strong pitching of Cy Young winner Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz to their fourth straight division title, posting a 90-54 record and the top seed in the NL and a matchup with the Rockies.

In 1995, the Division Series did not use the 2-2-1 format that is used today, instead using a 2-3 format, meaning the first two games of the series were played in Denver.

Thanks to the magic of the internet, you can watch Game 1 of the series right here. The Rockies had no easy task in the series opener against Maddux, who went 19-2 in the 1995 regular season with a 1.63 ERA, he struck out 181 and walked just 23 in 209 2/3 innings. He faced Kevin Ritz, who was 11-11 with a 4.21 ERA in the regular season pitching half his games in a park with a park factor of 128.

Both pitchers got through the first two innings without allowing a run, but the Braves got on the board first against Ritz in the top of the third when center fielder Marquis Grissom hit a solo home run to straight-away center to give Atlanta a 1-0 lead.

The Rockies struck back in the bottom of the fourth as Maddux issued a one-out walk to Larry Walker followed by a single off the bat of Andres Galarraga that put runners on the corners. Ellis Burks then took Maddux's first pitch to right field for a sacrifice fly that scored walker and tied the game at one. The next hitter, Vinny Castilla, took Maddux deep for a two-run home run to give the Rockies a 3-1 lead.

The Braves got another run in the sixth when their rookie third baseman, Chipper Jones, led off the inning with another solo home run against Ritz. A walk issued to David Justice and a single by Ryan Klesko with one out chased Ritz for the game in favor of Steve Reed, who got Luis Polonia to ground into a fielder's choice that scored Justice, tying the game at three before the end of the inning. Ritz allowed three runs, two earned, on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings, walking a pair and striking out four.

The parade of Rockies substitutions began in the seventh, when manager Don Baylor used Trent Hubbard to pinch run after a Vinny Castilla double, Jason Bates pinch hit for reliever Bruce Ruffin and John Vander Wal hit for catcher Joe Girardi. Despite the changes, the Rockies failed to score in the seventh, leaving the game a 3-3 tie. Girardi's removal also necessitated a fourth bench player, backup catcher Jayhawk Owens, entering the game in the top of the eighth.

The Braves did score in the top of the eighth as pinch hitter Dwight Smith singled home Klesko against Darren Holmes to give Atlanta a 4-3 lead. The Rockies, however, answered in the bottom of the inning with an RBI double from Burks against Braves reliever Alejandro Pena that scored Dante Bichette to tie the game.

With the game tied at four headed to the ninth, Baylor made a double switch, inserting Mike Kingery, his last position player on the bench, in center field and Curtis Leskanic on the mound. Leskanic did not do his job, serving up Jones' second homer of the game with two outs, giving the Braves a 5-4 lead.

The Rockies did rally against Braves closer Mark Wohlers in the bottom of the ninth, with Kingery and Bichette getting back-to-back singles with one out. Wohlers then walked Walker to load the bases. Wohlers then struck out Galarraga to bring up the pitcher's spot. Having used all of his position players, Baylor turned to his probable Game 2 starter, Lance Painter, to pinch hit for Leskanic. Painter did as most pitchers would do at the plate against a closer and struck out to end the game, with Rockies losing, 5-4, as they would go on to lose the series, 3-1.

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