CHICAGO – With sincere apologies to the Chicago Cubs, the visitors locker room at Wrigley Field is going to need a makeover in the coming days.
One day after the Milwaukee Brewers celebrated winning the National League Central with a victory inside the Friendly Confines, the Colorado Rockies put the demons of last year’s Wild Card game loss in Arizona behind them. Another night in Chicago and another celebration inside what many consider one of baseball’s cathedrals.
But the Rockies don’t seem to care about history and what has happened in the past. This is a team that has been bent on making its own mark since spring training … and that continued on a Tuesday that felt every bit like fall on Chicago’s north side.
Tony Wolters played the unlikeliest of heroes, coming off the bench as Colorado’s third catcher of the night, yet plating the game-winning run in a 2-1, 13-inning decision that ended Chicago’s season and pushed the Rockies on to a date with the top-seeded Brewers.
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Wolters had been hitless in his last nine games of the regular season, going 0-for-15, and had committed a key mistake in Colorado’s loss in Los Angeles on Monday. However, that was all in the past when Wolters sent a Kyle Hendricks pitch back up the middle to plate Trevor Story and eventually give the Rockies their first trip to the National League Division Series since 2009.
There were plenty of heroes on the night. Kyle Freeland, throwing a magnificent game on one day less of rest. Story, going 3-for-6 to pace a Rockies offense that looked like it might squander an opportunity to eliminate the Cubs. And then there was Scott Oberg, who punched out the final batter of the night, Albert Almora Jr., to end the longest postseason game in Wrigley Field history.
Oberg, who had his rise this season chronicled in this excellent piece, talked to me in the locker room after the win. Drenched in champagne and beer and sporting ski goggles, Oberg was coming off a performance where he struck out all four batters he faced to get the win. He was the sixth Colorado pitcher of the night and squelched any hope Cubs fans had for a 13th-inning rally.
“That was great, to be able to get the last out, a strikeout, in this atmosphere? Nothing better,” Oberg smiled.
Baseball is a funny game. A little more than 24 hours before, many were wondering how Colorado could shake off a loss to the Dodgers that cost them the NL West. Now, inside the depths of Wrigley Field, many are wondering just how far this LoDo Magic can keep going for the Boys of Rocktober.
One thing is for sure … it will take them to Milwaukee. After a night of celebrating, a bus ride north to Wisconsin may just what the doctor ordered for a team that hasn’t had a day off since September 20.