Spring Training games begin in one week. This means the 2019 season is upon us.
The struggle of spring training games is that they’re most enjoyable when you’re actually in attendance (I would argue they are the only preseason games worth watching across the four major sports). But not everyone can go to Arizona every March. You can soak up the the sun vicariously by watching on TV and scratch that itch for baseball, but Spring Training games don’t end up on TV that much. As exciting as it is when teams start playing real fake games, it’s ultimately a bit of a tease.
AT&T SportsNet and 850 KOA radio have announced their broadcast schedules for 2019 Spring Training. In keeping with recent history, there are very few Rockies games that will make it on TV in Denver. If you have an MLB.tv account, you can snag a few more games that Rockies’ opponents are putting on TV, but it will still be a paltry sampling.
Or, better yet, you can use that MLB.tv account to relive some of the best Rockies games from 2018. I asked around about the 10 best games from last year, but we couldn’t narrow it down past 20, which is okay because there are more then 20 dates between now and Opening Day in Miami where the Rockies won’t be on TV in the Denver area.
For those of you who like to maintain a little suspense, here are the 20 games presented with as little info as possible. This should help you find the game on MLB.tv and plan out how much time to give to watching it. Enjoy the surprise. After the table, we’ll provide a little more context for why each game made the list.
20 Best Rockies Games of 2018
Here’s another spoiler, in case it wasn’t obvious: all but one of these are Rockies wins. If you’re interested in the games that were most exciting, regardless of outcome, here’s a Google Doc of games sorted by average leverage index (aLI), a measure of how “on the line” a game is at a particular moment. There’s plenty of overlap on that list with ours, but we chose to focus on the good and memorable times.
Without further ado, here’s why these 20 were our favorite games of 2018.
You’d be forgiven if you forgot this was in 2018, but it was. Overall, it wasn’t a bad game, but it’s still worth watching again just for these luscious locks.
Oh, and German Marquez pitched great (until he was asked to leave) and the Rockies scored enough runs in a back-and-forth match-up to win. But seriously, there was a fight between the Rockies and Padres and it happened in 2018. Who knew!
April 15 — Ian Desmond’s 9th-Inning homer sinks the Nats
Early in the season it was easy to dream that Ian Desmond would turn things around from his injury riddled 2017 season. He came up in a 5-5 game against Nationals closer Sean Doolittle, who was unable to accomplish much against the first baseman, who gave the Rockies the lead and the eventual series win.
April 23 — Jenny Cavnar fires up the fountains
I’ll be honest: this game left a lot to be desired from an on-the-field perspective. But history was made in the booth as Jenny Cavnar became the first woman in over 25 years to do play-by-play on a TV broadcast. Hopefully she’ll get more opportunities in 2019 but no matter what, we’ll always have this:
Get used to seeing Ryan McMahon on this list. This time, he stepped to the plate as a pinch hitter in a game the Rockies trailed 8-6 in the fifth and knocked his second career home run to put the Rockies up for good. The pitching left something to be desired but hopefully now that you know they will win it you’ll push through the pain and watch it anyway.
June 28 — DJ LeMahieu’s 9th-inning homer turns the whole season around
The Rockies were sitting at four games below .500 tied for their low point of the season, after losing four straight and were staring a fifth straight in the face. A rare AT&T Park slugfest had broken out and the Rockies were on the wrong end of it. Then: David John LeMahieu.
After this win, the Rockies were a National League best 52-30 so, in hindsight, it’s pretty easy to point to this as being a special game.
July 14 — Jon Gray returns from the minors and kicks [redacted]
File this under “Feel Good.” Jon Gray took a two-week sabbatical to Triple-ABQ to fix what was ailing him and made his return against the Mariners. All he did was go 7 1⁄3 innings, allowing five hits, one walk, one run, and striking out six. He didn’t allow a runner to reach second base until the eighth inning. Oh, and some dude got lit up after trying to run on the field.
July 15 — Trevor Story’s walk-off in the final game before the All-Star Break
The Mariners, despite dropping the first two games of the series, came into this game 20 games above .500. Again, one of the most exciting games of the season resulted in a one-run Rockies victory, thanks to Trevor. Oh, and there was a run of the mill 2-3-6-2-4-6-5 put out in there, too, so check that out.
July 20 — Raimel Tapia’s grand slam makes the difference
The first game after the All-Star Break was a back-and-forth slugfest in Phoenix, making it very worthy of a rewatch. Down 8-5 entering the seventh inning, the Rockies had hung two on noted nemesis Archie Bradley when noted Swagger Enthusiast Raimel Tapia came to bat with the bases loaded.
Turns out they needed each of those runs, as Arizona nearly came back in the ninth.
Take it from someone who was there: this was one of the most intense games, start to finish, of the season. After losing in extras the night before, the Rockies traded blows with the Astros for eight innings and it was 2-2 in the ninth when Chuck Nazty said, “No free baseball for you.”
August 5 — Awesome start by Gray and 11th-inning homer by Nolan Arenado
Suffice it to say the time the Rockies spent in Milwaukee in 2018 was not great. But the lone bright spot was a legitimate one, as eight innings of dominance from Jon Gray was capped first by a rare Adam Ottavino implosion and then some heroics from Nolan.
One of the reasons I like aLI is it gives a number on what you’re feeling during the game. That this was one of the tensest Rockies games of the season without accounting for the fact that the Rockies were 2 1⁄2 back of the Dodgers in the division speaks volumes. That the hero wasn’t even supposed to be playing in this game speaks even more.
August 11 — Holy crap, McMahon did it again
The game the next night was even better. Kyle Freeland struck out 10 Dodgers over seven but was still on the hook for the loss. When Ryan McMahon stepped to the plate with two out and two on and the Rockies down two, the Rockies had an expected win probability of about 11%. They won anyway, and RyMac had the third largest possible win probability added in a single swing.
August 16 — The unbelievable 9th-inning rally in Atlanta
It was tough to choose which late-inning comeback in Atlanta to put on this list, but the one that had a 1.89 aLI (making it the most exciting Rockies win of the season) and a clutch performance from David Dahl takes the title. But you would be forgiven if you wanted to watch the August 18th game as well.
August 23 — Desmond walks off the Padres
It wasn’t the best year for Ian Desmond in a Rockies uniform, but he still deserves both his places on this list. The division race was getting tight and the Rockies were one out away from dropping a home series to the Padres, but Ian came through.
August 25 — Matt Holliday’s first homer of 2018
When the Rockies signed Matt Holliday to a minor league contract, we were all cautiously optimistic about what he would bring to a Rockies stretch run. Three days after making his season debut, he broke a scoreless tie in the seventh with a pinch-hit home run that, were it not for the Players Weekend uniforms, could’ve easily been from 11 years prior. Marquez had a great night as well, so it’s definitely worth watching beginning to end.
September 5 — Story’s 3-homer game
You could watch the whole game and you’d be rewarded with a tense, exciting 5-3 win over the Giants. But we all know what’s really worth watching in this one. Here’s the longest of the three.
September 12 — LeMahieu walks off the D-Backs
It’s the bottom of the ninth, no outs, Gerardo Parra on first base and Charlie Blackmon steps to the plate. The Rockies are down 1 to the D-backs and a loss would put them just 1 1⁄2 games ahead in the NL West race. And...Chuck lays down a sac bunt. The Rockies faithful had only two pitches to be angsty about the strategy, since DJ LeMahieu hit his first ever walk-off home run to give the Rockies the win. According to average leverage index, this was the third most exciting game of the season.
September 26 — German Márquez starts the game with 8 strikeouts
The final week of the season the Rockies went into every game in must-win mode. Fortunately, German Marquez took the mound and not only did he set the Rockies single-season strikeout record, but he also struck out the first eight batters he faced. It also helped the offense lit up the Phillies to the tune of a 14-0 win.
September 30 — Blackmon’s cycle clinches NL West tie
With the Rockies and Dodgers tied for the NL West lead going into the day, we knew Game 162 was going to be special, we just didn’t know in what way. Between the 14-run offensive outburst, the Tyler Anderson gem, and the chorus of “BEAT LA” from the crowd for the last three innings, it’s almost easy to forget that Chuck Nazty hit the first Game 162 cycle in history. It was a good day and a good way to end the home slate.
October 2 — The Wild Card Game
Fair warning: this game takes a while. But it’s worth it to see the first Rockies playoff victory in nine years. From Kyle Freeland’s masterful performance to Tony Wolters’ heroics to Scott Oberg using the cheat codes to shut down the game: it’s worth it to relive it all (but we won’t judge if you skip through some parts).
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That’s our list! Which ones did we miss? What were some of the best games that the Rockies ended up losing? Have a story to share about one of these games? Let us know in the comments.