Rockies speak highly of D-backs in losing effort, optimistic for future

Oct 4, 2017, 11:47 PM | Updated: Oct 5, 2017, 11:30 am
Colorado Rockies center fielder Charlie Blackmon, left, watches the Arizona Diamondbacks celebrate ...

Colorado Rockies center fielder Charlie Blackmon, left, watches the Arizona Diamondbacks celebrate after the National League wild-card playoff baseball, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017, in Phoenix. The Diamondbacks won 11-8 to advance to an NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. (AP Photo/Matt York)

(AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX — A one-and-done, single elimination NL Wild Card Game between two division rivals spanned nearly four full hours and produced 19 runs. On the one hand, it sounds absurd. Then again, can we really be that shocked that Wednesday’s contest between the Diamondbacks and Rockies went the way it did?

There were so many twists and turns that it felt like a movie at times. And the four hours went by in a flash. In the end, it’s Arizona that’s moving on, while Colorado is done after an 11-8 loss — the club on the wrong end of the cruel one-game-to-decide-everything-after-playing-162-games-just-to-get-here phenomenon.

That has to be a tough way to see an 87-win season instantly evaporate. Especially when it comes at the hands of a division rival who happens to share the same spring training facility as you.

But, for their part, the Rockies had nothing but good things to say about the D-backs in the moments after being eliminated.

“For me, I just know I was ready to go today,” Nolan Arenado pointed out. “I think, at the end of the day, their pitchers made some good pitches against me. Obviously, I took care of one but, you know, it’s a good team. I think we got beat by a better team today.”

Colorado manager Bud Black seconded the notion that this Arizona team is a dangerous group when he gave the media a preview of the next round in his postgame press conference.

“You look at the National League statistics and team pitching, they’re right there,” he noted. “I think the Nationals are right there as well. But Greinke, Ray, Corbin, Walker, solid. Kershaw, Hill, Wood, Darvish … I mean that’s good starting pitching. Both teams have good closers. Both teams are formidable with the lineup, so it’s going to be a great series.”

As for the Rockies, they head into the offseason after a 2017 campaign that saw them raise their win total by 12 games. In fact, it’s the third straight year in which they’ve improved in that regard. And even as they were hugging and shaking hands in the locker room moments after their season had ended, there was optimism they’ll be back soon.

“I mean yeah, I think so — in a way. I mean, not entirely, but partially,” Arenado answered when asked if the season was a success. “We’ve got a lot of young guys here, man, and this is their first go-round in a big league season and, obviously the playoffs. Especially me, this is my first playoff run too. I think we’re young, the experience is good for us. Now I think a lot of these young guys know how long a Major League season is, how tough it is. And I think it’s only going to make us better.”

Arenado wasn’t the only one in the Colorado clubhouse who saw this experience as a stepping stone for the Rockies.

“We learned a lot from this year,” Carlos Gonzalez explained. “You know, all these young guys learned. So that’s the most important — that they got the taste, they see how hard it is to get to this point and how quick you can go home.

“They learned that they’ve got to keep their heads up, we hugged each other after the game and we move forward.”

Granted, it’s entirely possible that Gonzalez, a free agent this winter, may land somewhere else in 2018. But the idea that Colorado is on the rise is still a very relevant one. Particularly because it could mean the NL West is even that much more challenging next season.

“This was a good year for our group,” Black mentioned afterward. “A lot of things transpired that I think will help us in the future. The position players and the pitchers, I think there were some boxes that were checked off for some guys that will hopefully help us moving forward, but our guys should be very proud of how they played.”

Fortunately for the D-backs, next season means nothing right now. All that matters is the NL Division Series, which starts Friday night. Against another division rival, of course.

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