2017 National League Wild Card Game
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|2017 National League Wild Card Game|
93 - 69 in the NL
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87 - 75 in the NL
The 2017 National League Wild Card Game was an all-NL West affair, featuring the Arizona Diamondbacks hosting the Colorado Rockies, after finishing second and third respectively in the division. The two teams had got off to a good start and had held on with the favored Los Angeles Dodgers until the Californians had begun to win games at an unprecedented rate starting in late May to eventually build a huge lead. Arizona had never been threatened by anyone, but the Rockies had to fight hard to hold on to their wild card spot, with both the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals nipping at their heels until the last days of the season. the two teams had met only once before in the postseason, when the Rockies had swept the 2007 NLCS in four games, but they knew each other very well from playing in the same division and sharing a spring training complex in Arizona.
The Diamondbacks had come back from a terribly disappointing season in 2016 by getting off to a fast start in 2017 and never looking back. They were a well-balanced team, with strengths on the mound, at the bat, and in the field under first-year manager Torey Lovullo. Only the bullpen was a bit of a concern.
The D-Backs were led by 1B Paul Goldschmidt, who was having an MVP-type season until derailed by a September slump. He still finished at .297 with 36 homers and 120 RBIs. Taking over as the offensive leader for the team in September was OF J.D. Martinez, probably the most impactful mid-year acquisition in the majors in 2017: in 62 games, he had hit .302 with 29 homers and 65 RBIs, a pace that would have given him otherworldly numbers had it been sustained over a full season. Other solid contributors were 3B Jake Lamb, with 30 homers and 105 RBIs, RF David Peralta (.293, 82 R), CF A.J. Pollock (.266, 14, 49) and utility player Chris Owings (.268, 12, 51). The Diamondbacks had been able to withstand a season-ending injury by SS Nick Ahmed, who was having the best year of his career, with 23-year-old Ketel Marte stepping into the breach and hitting .263 with good defence. However, both he and Owings had suffered injuries as well, potentially leaving the spot up to career back-up Daniel Descalso. Lovullo's big decision was at catcher, and whether to favor offense, in the person of Chris Iannetta, or defence, in which case Jeff Mathis would be the one.
On the mound, the D-Backs were led by perennial Cy Young Award contender Zack Greinke, who was coming off a typical season at 17-7, 3.20. Fellow All-Star Robbie Ray (15-5, 2.89) was the number 2 starter and available in long relief for this game in case something went wrong for Greinke. The bullpen was more of an issue: not that 40-year-old Fernando Rodney had not been effective - he had saved 39 games after all - but his 4.23 ERA was high for a supposed shut-down reliever, and he often gave the impression taht he was tottering on the edge of a cliff, although never tumbling down - so far. Archie Bradley, a former top starting prospect, had emerged as an outstanding set-up man, however, at 3-3, 1.73, but the rest of the bullpen was merely serviceable. Lovullo was hoping that Greinke would have a good enough start to be able to bypass that group entirely.
The Rockies had surprised everyone by leading the NL West until hitting a bump in late June, at which point the Dodgers had passed them and never looked back. They were also led by a first-year manager, but in their case Bud Black had lots of major league experience, having led the San Diego Padres for 9 seasons before taking the job in Colorado. One thing he had not done yet was reach the postseason, though, and it had not been easy, as the Rockies' big lead in the wild card standings got slowly ground down, until the Milwaukee Brewers eventually moved to within one game in late September, but could never completely close the gap, as in the end, the Rockies won the spot by that one game.
As usual, the Rockies had a great offence, with everyone's numbers being a bit inflated by the fact they played their home games at Coors Field. CF Charlie Blackmon, a legitimate MVP candidate, had put up tremendous numbers at the lead-off hitter, with 35 doubles, 14 triples, 37 homers, 134 runs and a record 104 RBIs from the lead-off slot. His .331 average also made him the league's batting champion. 3B Nolan Arenado also had his customary great season, with 37 homers and 130 RBIs to go along with a .309 average; 2B D.J. LeMahieu had hit .310 with 95 runs, 1B Matt Reynolds took advantage of a spring training injury to prospective starter Ian Desmond by hitting 30 homers and driving in 97 runs, while LF Gerardo Parra hat hit .309. Catcher had been a sore spot until the mid-year acquisition of Jonathan Lucroy, who had hit .310 in 46 games. One of the few hitters not having a good season was veteran RF Carlos Gonzalez, who had had a terrible first half before finding his stroke in September and finishing at .262 with 14 homers and 57 RBIs, almost half of his home run production coming over the final month.
As usual, things were more problematic on the mound, but just as hitters were helped by their home park, consideration had to be given to the fact the Rockies' pitchers spent half of the time in a very unfavorable environment. Thus, at 10-4, 3.67, Jon Gray seemed to have solid but not spectacular numbers, but his ERA+ was an excellent 136. He was logically the one picked to start this game, his ERA being a half-run better than the next-best starter. The bullpen had been a big part of the team's early success, especially closer Greg Holland, signed to a bargain contract after an injury, but responsible for 41 saves. Lefties Jake McGee, at 0-2, 3.61 with 3 saves, and Chris Rusin (5-1, 2.65) had both been very good in middle relief, while Mike Dunn and Scott Oberg were more solid than their Coors Field-inflated numbers showed. Mid-season acquisition Pat Neshek was another good arm in relief. Thus, if the game was tight going into the late innings, the Rockies would have the advantage.
|1||Colorado Rockies 8 Arizona Diamondbacks 11||October 4||Jon Gray (0-1) Zack Greinke (0-0)||8:00 pm|
Game 1 @ Chase Field
|WP: Andrew Chafin (1-0); LP: Jon Gray (0-1)|
|Home Runs: ARI - Paul Goldschmidt (1), Daniel Descalso (1); COL - Nolan Arenado (1), Trevor Story (1)|
- Attendance: 48,803
The 2017 National league Wild Card Game lived up to its name as it was indeed a wild affair. It started mildly enough, with Zack Greinke setting down the Rockies in order in the top of the 1st, but things got interesting in the bottom of that frame. David Peralta led off with a single off Jon Gray, Ketel Marte followed with another single, with Peralta advancing to third, and then Paul Goldschmidt erased his September woes by jumping on Gray's first pitch, a hanging curve ball, and slamming it into the left field seats. The D-Backs were up, 3-0, before an out had been recorded. After J.D. Martinez flied out, Jake Lamb also singled and A.J. Pollock doubled, placing Lamb on third. This was exactly the situation New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi had faced the previous day in the American League Wild Card Game; he had boldly decided to change his beleaguered starter, a move that had paid off, but Bud Black stuck with Gray. He rewarded Black's patience by striking out Daniel Descalso and Jeff Mathis, but after Greinke had thrown another perfect inning in the top of the 2nd, he quickly was in trouble again. Peralta singled with one out and Marte tripled, and it was now 4-0. This was it for Gray, who was replaced by Scott Oberg, although the change may have come a couple of batters too late, as Gray obviously had nothing working that evening.
In the 3rd, Greinke walked number 8 hitter Jonathan Lucroy to allow a first baserunner, then Raimel Tapia, pinch-hitting for Oberg, singled to right, allowing Lucroy to move to third. But Charlie Blackmon wasted a golden opportunity by swinging at the first pitch and hitting a weak fly ball to left on which the runners could not advance, then D.J. LeMahieu grounded out to end the inning. Tyler Anderson, normally a starter, came on to pitch for Colorado, but he allowed a lead-off single to Lamb, and after one out, a two-run homer to Descalso. It was now 6-0 for Arizona, and they seemed to be cruising to an easy win. But Greinke suddenly lost it in the 4th. Carlos Gonzalez led off with a seeing-eye single to right, but he was erased on a force-out by Nolan Arenado. Trevor Story then singled to center and Arenado scored the Rockies' first run from second base when Gerardo Parra followed with another single, with Story taking third. Story scored on a grounder to first by Mark Reynolds, then Jonathan Lucroy doubled for another run and he too scored on pinch-hitter Alexi Amarista's single. It was now 6-4, and Torey Lovullo had no choice but to replace Greinke. He brought in lefty Andrew Chafin to face Charlie Blackmon. The National League batting champ lifted a soft fly ball to shallow center, but A.J. Pollock made a great play, sliding on the ground to catch it just before it could hit the turf. The inning was finally over, but Colorado was back in the game.
Following this offensive outburst, Colorado brought in Chris Rusin to pitch in the bottom of the 4th; he allowed another triple to Marte (his second of the game) after one out, but stranded him there, and also pitched a scoreless 5th. Meanwhile, Lovullo asked his number 2 starter, Robbie Ray, to come in to pitch, and he also delivered a couple of scoreless innings. In the bottom of the 6th, Pat Neshek relieved Rusin with one out and one on, but got the last two outs. It was thus still 6-4 in favor of Arizona when the 7th inning started. Lucroy led off the frame with his second double of the game off Ray, then advanced to third on a wild pitch. Ray struck out Ian Desmond for the first out, then gave way to Jorge De La Rosa to face Blackmon. The big-bearded slugger surprised the D-Backs by laying down a bunt down the first base line; Lucroy scored easily and Blackmon was barely out as Descalso's throw almost pulled Goldschmidt off the first base bag. It was now 6-5. In the bottom of the 7th, Neshek gave up a lead-off single to Lamb, then walked Descalso with one out. He struck out Jeff Mathis for the second out, and then Lovullo decided to send his pitcher, Archie Bradley, who had taken over for De La Rosa in the top of the inning and recorded the final out, to face Neshek. On paper, it was a mismatch, but Neshek missed with his first two pitches, and on a 2-2 count he allowed Bradley to lift a ball to left field. Colorado's outfielders were playing shallow and the ball flew over their heads, rolling almost to the fence for a two-run triple that was the key hit of the game. A winded but overjoyed Bradley stood on third base, unable to believe what he had just done, he who had never managed an extra-base hit in his career, let alone a triple. In fact, no relief pitcher had ever hit one in the postseason, and no pitcher had done so since Dontrelle Willis back in Game 4 of the 2003 Division Series.
Now a hero to Arizona fans, Bradley almost immediately coughed up his newly-padded lead. He got Gonzalez to ground out, but was then lit up by back-to-back solo homers by Arenado and Story. It was now back to a one-run game at 8-7. Bradley gave up a double to pinch-hitter Pat Valaika later in the inning, but managed to retire Lucroy to end it with the lead still standing. The Rockies were now using their 7th pitcher in Carlos Estevez, but he gave up a one-out hit to Goldschmidt, sending closer Greg Holland to the mound. He had been a major reason why Colorado had been able to get off to a great start back in April and May, but he did not have it that evening. After J.D. Martinez had forced Goldschmidt, Holland allowed another single to Lamb, his fourth hit of the game, then threw a wild pitch before Pollock hit Arizona's fourth triple to add two runs to its lead. After an intentional walk to Descalso, Mathis surprised the Rockies by laying down a bunt and beating it out, allowing Pollock to score from third. It was now 11-7. Even with the shaky Fernando Rodney on the mound to close the game, it was too much ground to make up. Desmond opened the top of the 9th with a single, but Blackmon and LeMahieu both struck out. Desmond advanced to second on defensive indifference and scored on a single by Gonzalez, but Arenado hit a grounder to second to end the game with a final score of 11-8 in Arizona's favor.
The game set records for most runs (19) and hits (30) in a wild card game. The Diamondbacks were the first team to hit four triples in a postseason game since the Boston Americans had hit five in two games of the 1903 World Series; but even that previous record needed a footnote, as there were a bunch of triples hit in that series because the huge crowds (for the times) meant that spectators were positioned in cordoned-off portions of the outfield, with balls hit there being automatic triples. In addition to Archie Bradley's triple being a huge rarity, his two RBIs by a relief pitcher were too: only three other relief pitchers had done so in postseason history, Mike Jackson being the last in Game 3 of the 1995 Division Series.
- Steve Gilbert and Thomas Harding: "Triple W for D-backs! On to LA for NLDS", mlb.com, October 5, 2017. 
- Greg Moore: "Archie Bradley gets through emotional roller coaster to help win wild-card game", "AZCentral Sports", The Arizona Republic, October 4, 2017. 
- Jorge L. Ortiz: "Diamondbacks defeat Rockies in NL wild card, advance to play Dodgers in Division Series", USA Today Sports, October 5, 2017. 
- Mike Petriello: "NL Wild Card: Position-by-position breakdown", mlb.com, October 4, 2017. 
- Nick Piecoro: "Diamondbacks ready for do-or-die postseason action", "AZ Central Sports", The Arizona Republic, October 1, 2017. 
- Andrew Simon and Matt Kelly: "DYK? D-backs trip out to win 'Wild' thriller: Arizona's 4 triples a first in postseason game since 1903", mlb.com, October 5, 2017. 
|Major League Baseball Wild Card Game|