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Rockies defeat Cubs 2-1 in NL Wild Card Game, advance to NLDS

Two teams entered one team left as a winner. The other team has to go home because they lost. It’s very efficient, really.

MLB: NL Wild Card-Colorado Rockies at Chicago Cubs Jim Young-USA TODAY Sports

The Cubs had made the National League Championship Series in each of the last three seasons, but after losing their division lead and then the NL Central to the Brewers in September and then in Monday’s Game 163, they were forced to face the Rockies in the NL Wild Card Game.

The Rockies fought back against the odds that had them not making the postseason to get here, turning this into a battle between two teams heading in different directions. And the results played out that way, too, with Colorado winning 2-1 to advance to the NLDS against Milwaukee.

This was the longest sudden-death game in MLB postseason history by the time it ended, and if you want to know how it all went down, well, you’re in the right place. Below is the live blog we produced during the game, for those seeking a full-on, play-by-play recap of the Cubs’ elimination and the Rockies’ victory.

Rockies vs. Cubs NL Wild Card Game Live Results

Want to read the live blog from the beginning? Scroll down to the “1st inning” marker and work your way back up!

13th inning: It’s still tied. The game is still going. The Cubs have Hendricks on the mound, and three more pitchers in their pen, with no bench players left. The Rockies have one player left on their bench, and four pitchers remaining after Oberg.

DJ LeMahieu leads off the top of the frame, in what is now the longest sudden-death game in MLB postseason history. Jeff Passan even tweeted as much!

LeMahieu pops up, and Arenado follows with an out, but Trevor Story gets on with a single that gets past Báez and his positioning. Now the Cubs’ pitching coach is out to talk to Hendricks, because Nietzsche was right and God is dead.

Listen, I know that he meant the idea of God is dead because the scientific discoveries of the Enlightenment killed God, and not that like, God got old and died or whatever. But it’s 12:46 in the morning and I’m going to bend quotes to my will if I feel like it.

Plus if God wasn’t killed by the Enlightenment then watching Joe Maddon manage definitely finished the deity off.

The Rockies have a real chance to go ahead here, with runners at the corners and Tony Wolters up. And they do! Wolters hits one up the middle, and it’s suddenly 2-1 Rockies after 12 innings of silence from their bats.

You will be shocked but there is another pitching change being made by the Cubs. Here comes Jorge De La Rosa. De La Rosa, of course, spent nine years with the Rockies and gave them over 1,100 innings, and now here he is, trying to keep them from advancing any further in the postseason.

De La Rosa stops the mini-rally, and now the Rockies have a chance to send the Cubs home for the rest of 2018 while advancing to the NLDS for the first time since 2009, to take on the Brewers.

It’ll be Terrance Gore, Javier Báez, and Albert Almora up for the Cubs in the bottom of the 13th, and they’ll be facing Scott Oberg, who closed out the bottom of the 12th.

Terrance Gore tried to hit like he was hit by a pitch, but he forgot to act as if he got hit for a little too long, when he stood there with no reaction. The umpires are reviewing it now, and Gore is going back to the plate. It’s a 3-2 count, though, so he might be back on first soon.

Maybe throw strikes to Terrance Gore, Scott.

Gore strikes out, and A-Rod criticizes him for even bothering to swing considering how a walk is basically a double for him. Rodriguez is not wrong. Here’s Báez, whose RBI double is why we’re still here.

Báez strikes out, and now Albert Almora is up — they have one out left in their season as things stand.

And... Almora strikes out! The Rockies advance to the National League Division Series to face the Brewers with a 2-1 victory, while the Cubs go home and have to watch the NLCS at home instead of playing in it for the first time since 2014.

12th inning: It’s Carlos González, who you might remember from his struggles last year and his mostly turning it around this year, leads off the top of the 12th against new pitcher Justin Wilson. CarGo grounds out to second, and Wilson, who pitched in Game 163 on Monday, gets his first out.

Oh come on Joe Maddon it’s almost 12:30 in the morning. The Cubs are making another pitching change after that first out, bringing out another starter, Kyle Hendricks.

Hendricks gets out with no drama, and here come the Cubs in the bottom of the 12th with another chance to walk off.

Chris Rusin is pitching for the Rockies, and he gets Heyward to start the inning. Now it’s up to Zobrist and the top of the order — Zobrist pops up in what could have been a disaster that landed between González and LeMahieu after they crashed into each other, but DJ makes a great grab and avoids said disaster for the second out.

Oh, good, another pitching change. Sure, why not? Scott Oberg vs. Kris Bryant is the matchup. Bryant strikes out looking, and I can’t tell if Cubs fans are booing the call because they forgot about all the pitches in their favor in that spot earlier on, or are just booing at the concept of this game continuing to be instead of already having been.

11th inning: It’s still Cole Hamels for the Cubs, as it will be for the foreseeable future. LeMahieu kicks things off with a grounder to third — Hamels has used just 13 pitches to retire four batters. The Rockies are going to have to make him work harder than that.

Arenado laces a single up the unprotected middle, giving the Rockies a baserunner and Trevor Story an opportunity to drive in a run. Instead, he swings at the first pitch and makes an out. Y’all should listen to me about making Hamels work.

Parra is at least trying — he’s in a 1-2 count. He ends up working a walk, though, if you listened to the Cubs’ fans in attendance, you’d think he struck out three times. Here’s Ian Desmond, who was disappointing to me before he even signed with the Rockies, and then did nothing to dissuade me from my initial premise.

Here, though, excitement! Parra beats out a pretty routine-looking play at second, and the bases are loaded after what should have been a ground out to end the inning and the Colorado threat.

Here’s David Dahl, following a combination defensive miscue by Bryant and Daniel Murphy. Dahl swings and grounds out on the first pitch with the bases loaded, though, ending the threat. Good job, impatience.

Javier Báez, who drove in Terrance Gore to help this thing along to extras in the first place, leads off the bottom of the 11th inning against Oh. Báez walked and the Rockies can’t even take a goddamn pitch, I hope you’re pleased with yourselves, Colorado.

Almora grounds out on a bunt, and Butera had the environmental awareness to head to third in case Báez had any thoughts about heading there — which he did. Báez stays at second, and the Cubs now have him at second with one out. The Rockies now intentionally walk Daniel Murphy with first base open, and it’s Willson Contreras of the celebratory walks up with a chance to walk this game off.

Contreras is being checked on for a possible injury after a swing. He might just be cramping, though, given how the trainer is reacting. Contreras is staying in, and now it’s a 2-2 count. A super late timeout is called, but the Rockies might have gotten a break there, because that would have been ball three otherwise.

Contreras hits a grounder that gets Báez tagged, except then Báez HUGS Arenado, which keeps him from moving on to make it a double play. Arenado didn’t help by just partaking in the hug, but he was also stuck in it, so. The umps are talking it over with Bud Black, who wants to know why hugs are legal all of a sudden.


Seriously, how is that not interference? Contreras wasn’t at first yet, Báez’s hug disarmed Arenado. If the Cubs win the game after this, it’s entirely on that play and the lack of a call on it.

They do not win the game after this non-call, as Victor Caratini pinch-hits for Cole Hamels, and grounds out to first. Time for the 12th inning, and it’s still 1-1.

10th inning: Here comes Cole Hamels, with his first-ever relief appearance in the postseason. Hamels pitched very well for the Cubs down the stretch after they acquired him before the trade deadline: he posted a 2.36 ERA over 76-1/3 innings and 12 starts, while shaving more than a homer per nine off of his rate after leaving Texas.

He’s not impervious to base hits altogether, though, as Carlos González just reminded in his first at-bat of the Wild Card Game. He’s on first with one out for Drew Butera. Butera pops up, so here comes Charlie Blackmon’s spot in the lineup, which no longer has Charlie Blackmon in it. That’s the end of Wade Davis’ night, as Pat Valaika pinch-hits for him.

You will be shocked, but Hamels escaped the situation presented to him that involved Drew Butera and Pat Valaika.

With Davis out, Seunghwan Oh comes in to pitch for the Rockies. He’ll face Zobrist, Bryant, and Terrance Gore (!) this inning.

Oh gets Zobrist to ground out for the first out, and the broadcast graces us with the knowledge that the home team has won the previous two extra inning Wild Card Games.

Man, Nolan Arenado is so good at third. If the postseason didn’t make it so sharing nifty plays with you was near impossible, I’d even embed it for you to see. But just know, Arenado just made it so that there are two Cubs down, and Terrance Gore up at the plate.

Gore has played in nine postseason games — this is his first postseason plate appearance. You will be shocked, but he makes the third out. It’s okay Gore, you did your thing already. It’s why the game is still being played in the first place! It’s still 1-1, and we’re headed to the 11th.

9th inning: Here. We. Go. Pedro Strop is back from injury and now on the mound for the Cubs, and he’ll be facing Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, and Matt Holliday in his first outing in weeks. The Cubs also changed up their defense: Rizzo is out of the game, so Murphy moves to first, Zobrist to second, and Gore to right.

Arenado strikes out on a nasty slider that makes him look nothing like the Arenado you always hear about. Story follows with a single, and the Cubs’ pen is double barreling it. Gerardo Parra pinch-hits for Holliday, to give the Rockies a platoon advantage Holliday did not present.

Murphy scoops a grounder at first and takes it himself, getting Parra for the second out — Story moves to second, though, and Ian Desmond is up with a runner in scoring position. Strop gets a called strike three, and that’s that for the Rockies in the ninth. The Cubs have a chance to win it in the bottom of the frame, and send Colorado back home.

This is probably a good time to remind you that the Rockies gave Ian Desmond a significant contract to be their first baseman, and he has been very bad for two years, and the deal was questionable as hell before those two bad years.

Anyway, here’s Wade Davis against Daniel Murphy, with Kyle Schwarber now looming to bat in the pitcher’s spot later in the inning. Murphy strikes out on a curve, and the Cubs have two more outs before this thing goes to extra innings... and apparently to Cole Hamels, who is warming up in the pen.

Davis gets Contreras to a full count on his 17th pitch. Contreras walks, and he’s got a celebration for it.

Here comes Kyle Schwarber, maybe a couple of innings after he should have been used, but if he drives in a run now to win it, you won’t hear many Cubs’ fans complaining.

Schwarber, in his career including the postseason, is 3-for-35 as a pinch-hitter. That might also be forgotten if he picks up a big knock here.

Make that 3-for-36. All that stands between the Rockies and extra innings is Jason Heyward. Heyward basically steps out of the way of Davis, grounding out to send it to extras. It’s 1-1.

8th inning: Drew Butera tries to make up for his catcher interference with a leadoff walk against new Cubs’ pitcher Randy Rosario. Rosario gets Blackmon for the first out, but that’ll be it for him after just nine pitches: here comes Steve Cishek to face DJ LeMahieu.

Daniel Murphy is a garbage defensive player, but he did just make a surprising double play happen. Well, maybe: the Rockies are challenging the call.

The call stands! It did not look like it would, given the replays ESPN’s broadcast showed us, but the umps, in theory, have the more complete and better looks. On to the bottom of the eighth we go — the Cubs have six outs left to catch up to the Rockies.

Ottavino is back out here for the Rox, and he’ll face Zobrist, Bryant, and Rizzo. No pressure! He gets Zobrist to lead things off with a grounder to second. Five outs left for the Cubs. Bryant strikes out on a wicked fastball, and that’s four outs left for Chicago.

Anthony Rizzo makes the best of what very well could have been his final plate appearance of the season, and hits a single into center. Terrance Gore, pinch-runner extraordinaire, enters the game for Rizzo. Gore, as the broadcast notes, has more career stolen bases (27) than plate appearances (19). He’s been in the majors for five years, and basically just so he can do this with a postseason team most of the time.

Javier Báez has a chance to drive in Gore — it won’t take much, not with his wheels. Two outs in the inning, Rockies up 1-0... and there it is! Báez hits a double, and it drives in Gore. We’re tied 1-1, and that out count does not matter so much anymore.

Bud black goes for a double switch to bring in Wade Davis, and it switches Charlie Blackmon out of the game. Is there an NL manager who won’t make me shake my head with their decisions? Carlos González is now in the game as well, with David Dahl switching to center. For what it’s worth, Blackmon’s spot in the lineup wasn’t due up for some time, and the Rockies are aiming to win sooner than later.

Báez is now on third, but he’s stranded: Davis does his job, and we’re headed to the ninth tied 1-1.

7th inning: A-Rod wonders if the Rockies will also lift their pitcher with him coming up to the plate this inning — the Rockies don’t have a life-changing pen, and Freeland is dealing despite David Dahl’s defense, so I will also say to not do this. Let’s see if Bud Black listens.

You might be wondering why Ian Desmond ran to second on that play, when Kris Bryant could definitely throw him out. It’s because he didn’t want Kyle Freeland to be lifted from the game. Your sacrifice will be remembered, Ian.

Iannetta pops out, guaranteeing us at least one more inning. Good work by Jesse Chavez and his 90s hacker in a coffee shop-ass facial hair.

Kyle Freeland opens up the bottom of the seventh with a pop out to second. He’s on short rest, but he’s also only at 76 pitches through 6-1/3 frames. The Rockies aren’t planning on pushing him too far, though: there are two up in the Colorado pen, so the plan is likely to lift Freeland in the eighth when his spot in the order comes up. That’s pretty agreeable, even more so if he can escape this inning without giving up a run.

Almora would like Freeland to give up a run, thank you very much, and he hits a single to center to give the Cubs a runner with one out.

Here’s Daniel Murphy, and the announcers talking up Murphy’s postseason past. Freeland is throwing to first, likely to give Adam Ottavino more time to warm up in the pen. Freeland is here to face Murphy, however, and he throws strike one for his 80th pitch.

What a grab by Trevor Story! It looped off the end of Murphy’s bat, hard-hit, but Story snagged it in midair to keep Almora at first and give the Cubs their second out. That’s the night for Freeland: 6-2/3 scoreless innings with six strikeouts and just one walk, and five total baserunners. Or, as Eric put it on Twitter:

Here’s Adam Ottavino to try to keep it 1-0 Rockies. He starts things off with a wild pitch that advances Almora to second base and scoring position. Ottavino walks Willson Contreras, and here’s a pinch-hitter: Tommy La Stella.

The broadcast notes that all the lefties the Cubs sat because of Freeland are now available as pinch-hitters. I disagree with the description of Jason Heyward as a “big, fearsome left-handed hitter.” Most of the words in that sentence are true, except for the one they want you to believe.

Catcher’s interference! That should have been the third out of the inning, but no, Drew Butera, after just entering the game, logs a catcher’s interference. Here’s Heyward: I would like to take this opportunity to say I wasn’t saying Heyward is incapable of driving in a run, just that describing him as “fearsome” is some truth-stretching.

That was just the 15th catcher interference in postseason history, by the way.

Ottavino has Heyward at a 2-1 count with the bases loaded, and he seems to have faith in nothing but his slider. This might not be good news for the Rockies. 2-2 count now.

It was a RUSE, Ottavino goes 97 on the outside low corner, and Heyward whiffs to end the threat. It’s still, somehow, 1-0 Rockies.

6th inning: Are you getting nervous, Cubs’ fans? Here, maybe this will help:

sorry sorry i’m trying to delete it hey don’t worry the Cubs are at home and they still have four times up to try to score more than one or zero. Totally doable, even with Freeland dealing.

Lester is due up next inning, so the broadcasters are wondering if he’ll be pinch-hit for. The bullpen looks pretty dead, though, so it doesn’t look like the Cubs are planning on this yet. However, Trevor Story did just hit a double to give the Rockies a runner in scoring position, so we’ll see if that changes the pen’s lack of activity.

Matt Holliday gets a chance to add on a run here, but right now he’s busy pushing up Lester’s pitch count, which is now at 83 after a few foul balls. Now 85, and it’s a full count with two outs. Lester gets the strikeout and ends the threat with his ninth K, but that might also get Joe Maddon thinking about taking out his starter for the sake of the offense. It’s decision time in the bottom of the sixth!

Lester is getting pulled. Let this live here for the record:

I’ll wear this if I’m wrong, but it feels early in the game, just a 1-0 game, to be hitting the desperation switches that take someone throwing like Lester out of the game with pitches to spare. Ian Happ is pinch-hitting for Lester, by the way. He draws a walk, the first of the night against Freeland, and the Cubs have the top of the order coming up with a runner on.

A short but painful list, now that Lester has been pulled:

The Cubs can still win, of course, even if Lester doesn’t. But he’s put himself on a short list regardless.

Zobrist strikes out on Freeland’s 70th pitch of the night. That’s six punch outs for the Colorado lefty. He’s not out of the Happ-shaped woods yet, but he’s one step closer, out of three. And he nearly gets step two, but David Dahl dropped a very catchable ball in shallow right, so instead it’s first and second with one out for Anthony Rizzo.

And Rizzo hits into a double play! Exhalations for a number of reasons for the Rockies there, as they’re still up 1-0, and now Lester can no longer harm them.

5th inning: Chris Iannetta kicks off the fifth inning with a strikeout, Lester’s seventh of the night. The lefty has himself a great pace, too, as he’s thrown just 61 pitches through 4-1/3. He just might have the gas to keep this going for a few more innings.

Lester finally gets Blackmon out, and that’s another 1-2-3 inning. Lester has 69 pitches through five.

This was a disturbing image to see on the broadcast, thank you, ESPN.

Kyle Freeland retires Daniel Murphy to open up the bottom of the fifth, and he’s at just 52 pitches so far. First-pitch strikes have been Freeland’s friend so far tonight, and helped keep the Cubs’ hitters off-balance and feeling like they need to swing early. There’s another first-pitch strike, to 14 of 17 batters Freeland has faced. And Bote sits down on strikes, so that’s five innings down in just 58 pitches for Freeland. 1-0, Rockies.

4th inning: Rockies’ manager Bud Black has joined the commentary team, and when asked about if Matt Holliday has admitted to Black yet that he didn’t touch home plate in the 2007 Game 163 between Black’s then-Padres and Holliday’s Rockies, Black responded that Matt knows “deep down” that the plate wasn’t touched. Bonus? Holliday was up at the plate during this exchange. Black is a legend.

Really, though, he didn’t touch it. Did you think I was just going to pick on the Cubs in this space? That would be unfair.

Poor Matt Holliday, though. That play that will forever define his career, fair or no. The moth flying into his ear. Getting hit in the beans at a horrible time in a very high-profile spot. Mercury poisoning. So many bad things happen to Holliday that I completely forgot about mercury poisoning until the announcers just mentioned it.

The Rockies failed to score, by the way.

Here’s Javier Báez, who the announcers believe is a good opponent for Freeland given his tendency to chase combined with Freeland’s tendency to work the edges of the zone. The strategy works here, this time with contact, with Báez flying out to right field on a pitch that was on the outer portion of the plate.

This is known, especially by Rockies’ fans and followers of NL West teams, but Nolan Arenado is so smooth out there at third. He makes an easy play look even easier to end the fourth. It’s still — still! — 1-0 Rockies.

3rd inning: Lester gets Kyle Freeland out — the first pitcher at-bat of the NL Wild Card Game — but then gives up a hit to Blackmon, who has now been on base twice in two chances tonight.

Lester strikes out LeMahieu — that’s five punch outs through 2-2/3 innings for Lester, who is (mostly) looking like the stud the announcers are saying he still is at 33. I say “mostly” because Lester has given up some hard contact, and also mowing down hitters at this rate for six innings is a lot different than not-quite-three.

No offense, Jon, you know I’ve got faith in your October skills. And maybe with good reason, as he escapes the third without giving up anything besides the Blackmon single.

Now it’s Jon Lester’s turn to hit, which is less embarrassing than it used to be before he got all that National League experience. Did you know he’s hit .107/.153/.158 with two homers since joining the Cubs in 2015? I know that sounds terrible, but please remember Lester hit .000/.026/.000 in 43 career plate appearances before that signing.

Lester is out, by the way. Top of the order for the Cubs. Freeland snags a comebacker from Zobrist, two down.

We’re through three, and it’s 1-0 Rockies. This game is taking its sweet time, considering just the one run has been scored. That’s postseason baseball, though!

2nd inning: The Rockies are afraid people don’t know much about them, so they took care of that with some Twitter posting:

Ian Desmond was real bad in 2018, but less bad than in 2017, so he had that going for him. He just flew out to center before I could describe to you the breadth and depth of his badness, but don’t worry, he’ll be at the plate a couple more times tonight.

David Dahl swings early and nearly sends the ball out of the park to put the Rockies up 2-0, but nope, a leaping catch at the ivy by Albert Almora registers the second out. Backstop Chris Iannetta put up a little more of a fight, but Lester gets out of the second inning unscathed, 1-2-3.

Almora kicks off the bottom of the second with a hard-hit single, but Daniel Murphy grounds to Desmond, who gets the lead runner. No one covered at first so Murphy is charged with a Fielder’s Choice, with the Cubs avoiding what should have been a double play.

Charlie Blackmon just made a real good catch! That easily could have landed in right-center and become a double, but instead, Blackmon juuuust gets there in time thanks to positioning and his route. Murphy is still at first, and Freeland has one more Cub to get through, David Bote.

Bote strikes out, because he’s not facing the Nationals. It’s still 1-0 Rockies after two at Wrigley.

1st inning: Hello baseball fans, and welcome to the official kickoff of the 2018 MLB postseason. Please disregard the thing where MLB’s website was saying that the Game 163s on Monday were part of the postseason: those wins counted as regular season wins, the stats as regular season stats, and MLB was just lying to you for attention. The nerve.

Tonight, though, we’ve got the losers of Monday’s Game 163s, with the Cubs hosting the Rockies in Chicago. The Rockies lost last season’s NL Wild Card Game to the Diamondbacks, whereas the Cubs were, once again, in the National League Championship Series. So if you’re looking to root for the team with the least recent success, it’s the Rockies.

Hey, it’s been almost two years since the Cubs won the World Series, you’ve had time to get used to your new reality. You know, the one in which the Rockies have never won the World Series — they’ll take their first step toward changing that on Tuesday. Or, you know, maintain the status quo and force more Cubs’ postseason baseball on the rest of us. Whichever.

This is Marc now, by the way, Eric wrote the stuff about the Cubs that isn’t making Cubs fans annoyed right now. Don’t yell at him for my beliefs. Even though he probably shares them.

Jon Lester is on the mound for the Cubs — he pitched that nightmare Wild Card Game in 2014 for the A’s. In a related story, here’s a walk to open the game, to Charlie Blackmon. That brings up D.J LeMahieu, who shows bunt when up in the count 3-1 for some reason. A graphic just showed up saying Lester had the most full counts in MLB this season — that is probably not a positive! Despite that cycle of potential self-owns, though, Lester had a great season, with a 129 ERA+, the sixth-best in his 13-year career.

We’ve already got some Wrigley-specific drama, as LeMahieu hit a ball to the outfield that got stuck in the ivy, so the runners had to hold at second and third. Nolan Arenado hits a sacrifice fly right away to drive Blackmon in, so it’s 1-0 Rockies, with LeMahieu now at third.

Trevor Story looked pretty bad on a curve way outside, and Lester gets his second out. The Cubs’ lefty is nearly out with minimal-ish damage. He’ll have to get past Matt Holliday, Rockies legend and midseason pickup, before we can say that for sure, though. And another K! See, I told you Lester worked through the potential self-owns.

And here’s Lester’s counterpart, Rockies’ lefty Kyle Freeland. He’s a big fastball guy, as this graphic and Jessica Mendoza explanation tell us, who also utilizes a slider about one-third of the time, and a changeup for a third offering. Freeland had a 164 ERA+ this year, in just over 200 innings — neither of those are figures you see very often from Rockies’ starters.

Zobrist rewards Freeland for those accomplishments by opening the bottom of the first with a single, bringing up Kris Bryant. Bryant had a ho-hum season for him, one that still saw him be well, well above-average, but you can blame injuries for that. Down goes Bryant on a swinging strikeout.

Oh wow! Zobrist got caught at first base on a pickoff. It’s “wow” in part because Freeland hasn’t had a pickoff all season long, despite his left-handedness. The call is being challenged by the Cubs, and they might have a point. The umps agree! Call overturned, Zobrist remains at first, but there are still two outs (Anthony Rizzo flew out) and Javier Báez at the plate.

Báez strikes out on a pitch that was low low low, and the first inning ends with the Rockies still up, 1-0.