The 13-inning marathon between the Rockies and Cubs last night for a spot in the NLDS is proof why the Wild Card games were the best addition to October by Major League Baseball.
The single, win or go home game gives the best baseball has to offer: strategy, drama, pressure with post season dreams on the line, and unforeseen heroes.
No one can, and I certainly will never, forget the 2014 wild card game between the Oakland Athletics and the Kansas City Royals. Until Tuesday night, that game was the longest wild card game ever played. The Royals found themselves down four runs in the bottom of the 7th after a five run top of the inning by the A’s. Miraculously, the never quit Royals slowly came back and tied the game in the bottom of the 9th, 7-7 a piece. Flash forward to the bottom of 12th and the Royals again find themselves down two runs with the game on the line. Salvador Perez hit a walk-off single to score Christian Colon and win the game. That year the Royals made it to the World Series and lost to the NL wild card winner, the San Francisco Giants.
Tuesday night’s demonstration was no different. After getting off to a quick 1-0 start against the Cubs in the 1st inning, the game was all tied up in the bottom of the 8th by a RBI double by Javier Baez. The night tensely continued all the way into the 13th when Tony Walters, the third string catcher for the Rockies, hit a two-out single to bring the go-ahead run home. Ultimately winning the game for the Rockies.
Notably missing from the Rockies lineup since the 8th inning was Charlie Blackmon, who was replaced in the 8th in order to get relief pitcher Wade Davis into the game. An added strategic factor to National League games as there is no designated hitter and the pitcher must bat. The Cubs took out a strong Jon Lester after six innings not because he was pitching himself into a jam but because he was the lead off batter going into the bottom of the 7th and the Cubs were down a run.
So the game went late into the evening, with all of Wrigley Field on their feet, and ended with a the third back up catcher hitting the game winning single to advance the Rockies to the NLDS.
The wild card games are the best games on dirt. If Tuesday night’s game didn’t prove to you how exciting baseball in October can get then you just weren’t paying attention.