In many respects, the final game of the regular season for the Colorado Rockies was a microcosm of the 2021 campaign.
Colorado built a sizable lead midway through the contest, only to see the Rockies bullpen allow an opponent to rally to tie the game entering the final inning. After the Rox offense failed to capitalize on a scoring opportunity in the top of the ninth to regain the lead, the opponent tallies a run in its last time at bat to mosey off with a victory.
Sound familiar, Rockies fans?
On Sunday, in Game 161 of the season (scheduled September 16 game at Atlanta that was postponed due to inclement weather will not be made up), it was the 110-loss Arizona Diamondbacks who rallied from a 4-0 deficit to win, literally, in their last at bat.
Final pitch of the year results in walkoff loss for the Colorado Rockies
Josh Van Meter’s two-out homer in the bottom of the ninth inning off Rockies closer Carlos Estevez snapped a 4-4 tie and gave Arizona a 5-4 walkoff win before a crowd of 12,565 at Chase Field in Phoenix.
The victory allowed the D-backs, whose 110 losses were the most in the Majors entering the final day of the regular season (Baltimore had 109 going into play Sunday), to take the three-game, season-ending series 2-1 and conclude the Rox year with a thud with a 74-87 mark.
Colorado opened the game with several of its regular starters in the field — Charlie Blackmon, C.J. Cron, Elias Diaz, and Trevor Story — on the bench as manager Bud Black went with several younger players in the starting lineup.
Meanwhile, in his 11th appearance since coming to the Rox via trade in late July, Ashton Goudeau made his first start for the purple on the mound.
Even with the youthful look, the Rockies jumped to a 4-0 lead heading into the bottom of the fifth.
Dom Nunez, who had a home run in each of the first two games against Arizona, put an exclamation point on his play in the final series of the season by opening the scoring Sunday afternoon with a two-run double as part of a three-run second inning for Colorado.
The catcher would add the final run of the inning as he came around to score on a single by Raimel Tapia.
In the interim, Goudeau breezed through the first three innings by blanking the Diamondbacks on just one hit while issuing a pair of walks.
“Goudeau gave us what we thought he could give us,” Black said after the game. “We thought maybe if he got four innings that would be a big plus.
The Rox would make it 4-0 in the fifth when Daniel Bard, who hit for himself as part of a two-inning relief stint, reached base on a single. He would score three batters later on a triple from Brendan Rodgers, one of his two hits on the day.
Bard permitted one run, without allowing a hit, in his appearance and, after Lucas Gilbreath tossed a scoreless sixth inning despite surrendering a pair of hits, the Rockies led 4-1.
But, as has often been the case this season, trying to get those final outs — nine in this case — proved to be too much for members of the Rox relief corps. They fell one out short.
“We were not going to pitch a number of guys today even though it was the last game of the year,” Black said. “We felt we had the right guys out there at the right time.”
Jordan Sheffield allowed a run in the seventh inning and Tyler Kinley gave up two more in the eighth as Arizona clawed from behind to even the contest at 4-4 entering the ninth.
Nunez drew a one-out walk and a pinch-hit single from Blackmon, who capped the season by reaching base in 15 consecutive games, put runners on first and second bases for the Rox in the final inning. But Colorado could not convert on the scoring opportunity, going 2-for-10 in the game with runners in scoring position.
Tapia bounced into a force play with Nunez moving to third and Garrett Hampson grounded out to shortstop to end the Rockies scoring threat.
Estevez then retired the first two D-back hitters he faced in the bottom of the ninth inning before Van Meter stepped to the plate and blasted a 3-2 offering from the Colorado right-hander over the right field fence to end the game and the Rockies season.
The home run permitted by Estevez was the 98th of the year allowed on the road by Rockies hurlers to rank second all-time for a season in franchise history (126 allowed in 2019 is the most).
Rox pitchers netted four strikeouts on Sunday to finish the season with 1,269, narrowly missing the 1,270 total of the 2017 team for second-most in franchise history.
Black said the team’s cadre of pitchers will enter the off-season in good shape.
“I the the entire pitching staff is leaving the season healthy, in a great frame of mind as far as the physical part of that,” he said. “So I think, all in all, the overall health of the staff is in a good spot going into the offseason, which is what all players want.”
Despite the losing the final two games of the series to the Diamondbacks, Colorado finished 2021 with a 40-40 mark since July 1, a 49-46 record since June 14, and a 55-53 mark since May 30.