And then there were 10.
The Colorado Rockies wrapped up the tenth and final spot in the postseason on Saturday, clinching the National League’s second wild card thanks to the St. Louis Cardinals 7-6 win against the Milwaukee Brewers.
The Rockies will now take on current division and former postseason rival the Arizona Diamondbacks in a do-or-die wild-card game on Oct. 4. That game will be played at Chase Field in Arizona.
For the Rockies, this represents their first postseason berth since 2009. Overall, it’s Colorado’s fourth postseason appearance, with each coming as a wild-card team. The Rockies were the NL’s first wild-card winner in 1995. In 2007, they earned the wild card in a memorable tiebreaker game against the San Diego Padres, which launched them to the World Series where they were ultimately swept by the Boston Red Sox.
That 2007 season was memorable because the Rockies had to win 13 of their last 14 games just to force a wild-card tiebreaker. That wasn’t necessary this season, however, as Colorado held at least a piece of the NL West lead or a wild card spot every single day of the season. In fact, they actually led the NL West as late as June 20.
But it obviously wasn’t without drama. The Rockies have gone through rough patches that allowed both Milwaukee and St. Louis to get within striking distance. The Brewers were only a game back as recently as Sept. 23, but the Rockies were able to stand their ground.
The Rockies clinch means the national spotlight will finally be shined on many of their overlooked players. Just about everyone knows about Carlos Gonzalez or has seen Nolan Arenado’s endless stream of highlights, but the Rockies excellence goes far beyond them. Outfielder Charlie Blackmon is a legitimate MVP candidate. Second baseman D.J. Lemahieu is a former batting champion and Gold Glove winner. Shortstop Trevor Story can change a game with his glove or bat. And that’s just to name a few.
Colorado’s youthful starting rotation is why many people were hesitant to predict success this season. Jon Gray, German Marquez, Tyler Anderson, Antonio Senzatala and Kyle Freeland have all proven to be ready for their close up, and at times have shined brightly. Veterans Tyler Chatwood and Chad Bettis have done their part as well. Bettis, who was diagnosed with testicular cancer during the offseason, has been one of the season’s most inspirational stories.
Colorado’s biggest improvement though has come in the bullpen, where veteran closer Greg Holland has locked down the ninth inning, while veterans Pat Neshak, Mike Dunn, Jake McGee and Chris Rusin have set the table for manager Bud Black.
Like Arizona, the Rockies are a sneaky good team that will not be an easy out. That means the Los Angeles Dodgers better be ready to go come Game 1 of the NLDS.
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