It's easy to look for one hero, or one goat, or one pivotal play in a baseball game, but sometimes the sport provides us with a game that features more than one of all of those things. Friday night's match-up between the Rockies and Reds at Coors Field was such a contest, featuring numerous twists and turns, as well as heroics and gaffes from both sides.
The win expectancy chart last night looked like a particularly fun rollercoaster, with the Rockies' chances of victory falling below 20% in the fourth inning, before rising back to 60% after a rally, only to fall under 20% again in the eighth, before shooting up to almost 90% later that inning, and that wasn't even the end of the ride.
The game's ups and downs kept the crowd of 37,184 on edge and in the park until the very end, and they were rewarded with a bizarre walk-off win on a play that might not have even been the strangest of the night.
For the first three innings the game was largely uneventful, as Eddie Butler worked efficiently, looking as good as he had last Sunday in San Diego. Reds starter Anthony DeSclafani matched Butler, allowing two walks and no hits.
In the top of the fourth, Butler ran into trouble, giving up doubles to Brandon Phillips and Todd Frazier to make the score 1-0. Eddie still had a chance to get out of the inning that being the only damage, but he walked Marlon Byrd and an Ivan De Jesus Jr. double that was just out of the reach of a diving Charlie Blackmon scored both Byrd and Frazier to make it 3-0.
The Rockies struck back in the bottom of the fifth. Corey Dickerson, who had a great night at the plate in his first game back from the disabled list, led off with a single on a pitch that was just about face-high. Ben Paulsen grounded into a fielder's choice, replacing Dickerson at first base before he was driven in by a Nick Hundley triple that was nearly grabbed by Reds right fielder Billy Hamilton.
With the score now 3-1, the Reds decided to bet that the Rockies would attempt a suicide squeeze with the pitcher batting. Eddie Butler did lay down a bunt, but Hundley never broke for home and no one covered first, setting up runners on the corners for Charlie Blackmon, who delivered with a single that scored Hundley.
DJ LeMahieu was up next, and he hit a double the other way that seemed certain to score at least one run. That is, until Eddie Butler encountered a gremlin rounding third base and then another one halfway down the line, causing him to lose his balance twice and wind up out by about ten feet. It just wouldn't be a Rockies game without something like this happening. We should count our blessings that Charlie didn't continue down the line himself, resulting in a Carlton Fiske-esque double out.
Even after Butler's gaffe there were runners on second and third with Troy Tulowitzki coming to the plate, but Tulo hit a sky-high pop-up that ended the inning with the score still 3-2 Cincinnati.
Eddie Butler worked through the end of the sixth inning, in which DJ LeMahieu saved a run with this spectacular grab.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="und" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoDJ?src=hash">#GoDJ</a> <a href="http://t.co/CN9UOMBo6j">pic.twitter.com/CN9UOMBo6j</a></p>— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) <a href="https://twitter.com/Rockies/status/624770666814795777">July 25, 2015</a></blockquote>
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This is when the game became the Carlos Gonzalez show. First he led off the sixth with a solo home run to tie the game that he knew was gone from the moment it left his bat. After LaTroy Hawkins gave the lead back to the Reds in the top of the eighth, CarGo struck again, blasting a majestic shot into the bullpen that tied the game a second time.
The man has hit three game-tying home runs in the last two games, and his twelve homers since the beginning of June are tied for the most in the National League with his teammate Nolan Arenado (who hasn't even hit one since June 28th!). It's a shame that this kind of clutch hitting has been wasted on a team that's completely out of the playoff picture. I want CarGo to hit meaningful home runs again and, while I wish that could happen while he's wearing a Rockies uniform, I'm just not sure that it will.
The Rockies didn't stop rallying after that blast, as Nolan Arenado hit a triple off the auxiliary scoreboard in right that he (and Drew Goodman) initially seemed to think was a home run. Then Corey Dickerson hit a slow ground ball that went for an infield single, though Nolan was unable to score on it. It was nice to see Corey bust it up the line there, and he had a great night at the plate overall, with two hits, a walk, and a hard hit fly ball out. His outfield defense unfortunately proved a weakness again, as he let a game tying double fly over his head in the top of the inning.
With Corey at first and Nolan on third, Ben Paulsen hit a hard line drive to right that was caught by Jay Bruce, but it was deep enough to score Arenado and give the Rockies their first lead of the game. That would be all the offense for the inning, but the team had successfully completed a comeback and John Axford came on for the ninth looking to seal the deal.
Unfortunately, Joey Votto threw a wrench in the works with a one-out line drive to left that he appeared to think had hopped into the stands for a ground rule double. In fact, to Votto's surprise, it went over the wall on the fly and the Reds had tied the game.
This was another episode in what's been a rough stretch for the Rockies closer which, as was previously mentioned on this site, has come at the worst possible time for his trade value.
With extra innings looming after a lead-off ground out by Daniel Descalso in the bottom of the ninth, Charlie Blackmon decided to win the game by himself. No, he didn't knock one over the wall (though he claimed he was hoping to in a hilarious post-game interview with Ryan Spilborghs). Instead, he bunted with Todd Frazier playing back on him in a semi-shifted position.
Then, Charlie tried to steal second, only to be called out by umpire Hunter Wendelstedt. Another Rockies baserunning blunder. Or was it? Replay clearly showed that Blackmon completely evaded the tag of Brandon Phillips, and suddenly the Rockies had a runner in scoring position with one out.
DJ LeMahieu hit a ground ball to second base that resulted in the second out of the inning, but Blackmon advanced to third base, setting the stage for Troy Tulowitzki. Tulo would see only one pitch, and it would bounce in the dirt in front of him and skip to the backstop, allowing Charlie to score from third base to the delight of the crowd and his teammates (and, somewhat perplexingly, the vague disappointment of Tulowitzki.) The crazy game got a crazy finish, and the Rockies were victorious.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Sliding into your <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/walkoff?src=hash">#walkoff</a> hugs like: <a href="http://t.co/xM9t7Dfw0H">http://t.co/xM9t7Dfw0H</a> <a href="http://t.co/uLQOvKVH4v">pic.twitter.com/uLQOvKVH4v</a></p>— MLB (@MLB) <a href="https://twitter.com/MLB/status/624812620462206976">July 25, 2015</a></blockquote>
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Among the heroes for the Rockies tonight were CarGo, Blackmon, Corey Dickerson and Eddie Butler, who battled through six innings and kept the team in the game. Had the Rockies lost, the miscues of the latter two players would certainly have landed them among the game's goats along with John Axford, who ended up as the winning pitcher. Baseball is wonderful sometimes.
On a side-note, today marks the two year anniversary of the day I joined Purple Row, and I just want to thank everyone on this site who has helped make these 24 months of terrible baseball more bearable, as well as Bryan for making the huge mistake of giving me a job here. You won't be getting rid of me any time soon.