CHICAGO -- For the second straight night, the Cubs could only watch as another team sprayed champagne and celebrated at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs never had a chance to party. So, after losing, 2-1, to the Rockies in 13 innings in the National League Wild Card Game at Wrigley Field on Tuesday night, the Cubs gathered in their clubhouse, hugged and toasted each other. There weren't many dry eyes.
:: NL Wild Card Game schedule and results ::
"It was a great year," Kyle Schwarber said. "I want people to know that this team was special and we grinded our butts off, and that people maybe outside might think it's a disappointing year. If you look in this room, and you were in here every day, you'd have a lot of appreciation for what these guys went through day in and day out."
But the Cubs' season is over. Playing their third game in as many days in their third different time zone, the Rockies edged the Cubs in a drama-filled game -- which was the longest elimination game in history in terms of innings and time of game (four hours and 55 minutes). Next stop for the Rockies is Miller Park, just 90 miles north, where they'll face the Brewers in the NL Division Series, starting Thursday.
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"It's a very weird feeling, completely unexpected," Kyle Hendricks said. "That's why guys are hanging around. They don't know what to do. We definitely weren't ready to be done this early. We can remember this feeling, use it as fuel next year. It'll take some time to process this. We were planning on playing baseball."
With two outs in the 13th -- yes, the 13th -- Trevor Story singled off Hendricks and reached third on Gerardo Parra's single before scoring on Tony Wolters' single. Wolters, by the way, was the third catcher the Rockies used in the game.
The Cubs got a burst of speed from Terrance Gore, a miraculous recovery by Pedro Strop and a hug by Javier Baez to stay close, but it wasn't enough.
After 48 come-from-behind wins in the regular season, the lively crowd of 40,151 expected one more. It didn't happen.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon pulled starter Jonathan Lester after six impressive innings and called on nearly all of the pitchers on the roster, including starters Cole Hamels and Hendricks. Maddon said he didn't want to take Lester out, but it was what he called a "National League moment," lifting the pitcher for a pinch-hitter.
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"I don't see where he's going to get heat," Rizzo said. "I think he's managed his ass off this year with what we've been dealt, as far as losing Yu [Darvish], as far as losing [Brandon] Morrow, [Strop] going down. We lost so many guys, and we still figured out a way to win. That's all a credit to him.
"I think Joe's best year was this year as far as managing all the moving parts."
Said Baez: "They didn't say that when he made a good move and he wins the game. They didn't say that in '16 when we won [the World Series]. We love our manager."
The Cubs, denied a chance to three-peat as NL Central champs by the Brewers on Monday in Game 163, have to wonder what the heck happened to their offense. In the first half of the season, the Cubs led the NL with 476 runs; but they totaled 285 after the All-Star break, which ranked eighth in the league.
"We'd love to go out there and hit better with runners in scoring position, square the ball up more, and we just didn't do that," Kristopher Bryant said. "It's frustrating."
"Tonight was Kyle Freeland's fault," Daniel Murphy said about the offense's struggles. "He threw really well. Runs weren't exactly easy for them to come by either."
Freeland, who was working on short rest for the first time since college, got a nice assist from Story, who snared Murphy's line drive for the second out of the seventh when the Cubs had a runner at first.
The Cubs did load the bases in the seventh, taking advantage of a catcher's interference call against Andrew Butera, but Adam Ottavino struck out pinch-hitter Jason Heyward to end the inning.
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In the eighth, the Cubs called on their secret weapon, speedster Gore. With two outs, Rizzo singled and was lifted for Gore, who quickly stole second base. Baez then lined a double to center to drive in Gore and tie the game at 1.
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"I felt like we wouldn't lose that game after Javy got the base hit," Lester said. "For whatever reason, we did. Maybe in the long run, this will be good for us. You can only learn from losing. I feel this will be good for us moving forward. Unfortunately, we're on the wrong end of it tonight."
Rizzo lifted for a pinch-runner? He joined the crowd as a spectator and was leading the dugout as they clapped to the music.
"At that point, you go put your cheerleading pom poms on and cheer the boys on," Rizzo said. "The motto this year was 'Everybody In,' and we exemplified that throughout the year."
Strop, pitching for the first time since Sept. 13 after missing time with a strained left hamstring, struck out Ian Desmond to end the Rockies' ninth and strand a runner at second. The Rockies went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
This was the Cubs' second Wild Card Game since Maddon took over in 2015, but that year, Jacob Arrieta threw a shutout against the Pirates. That game proved to be a seminal point for the Cubs.
"We've really flipped this culture here with the Chicago Cubs organization," Rizzo said. "We fell short this year. We didn't go on a run at all this year. It's been a roller coaster for this team, it's been a roller coaster for the fans and the city of Chicago."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Home-field advantage: Lester walked Charlie Blackmon to start the game, and he reached third on DJ LeMahieu's double that bounced into the ivy covering the left-field wall.
Missed opportunity:Ian Happ, batting for Lester, drew a walk to lead off the sixth and advanced on Bryant's single, which right fielder David Dahl misjudged.
The Cubs couldn't take advantage, though, as Freeland got Rizzo to hit into a 4-6-3 double play. Rizzo was one of two lefties in the lineup against Freeland, who held left-handed hitters to a .185 average this season.
Curious hug: The Cubs had a chance in the 11th. Baez walked to lead off against Seunghwan Oh, and advanced on Albert Almora Jr.s sacrifice. Butera ran to third to thwart Baez from trying to advance. Murphy was then intentionally walked to set up Willson Contreras, who stopped play because of an apparent leg injury, then he reached on a fielder's choice, forcing Baez.
Third baseman Arenado and Baez hugged as they collided on the basepaths -- which Rockies manager Bud Black didn't seem to like. Chris Rusin took over and got Victor Caratini to ground out.
This was Lester's 12th career postseason start in which he gave up one run or fewer, and he's now tied with Andy Pettitte for second most all-time. Only Tom Glavine (14) has had more.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Bryant made 10 starts in left field during the regular season and had no assists, but he came up big in the Rockies' seventh. Desmond singled to lead off against Jesse Chavez, and Dahl flied out to left. Desmond tried to advance, but Bryant threw him out at second.
HE SAID IT
"This is four years in a row in the playoffs, this is something we really believe we can sustain. We just got a little bit challenged offensively at the end of the year, obviously that hurt us. But as a group, and talented, and the way they interact, I could not ask for more." -- Maddon
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Well, the ball hit someone. Unfortunately, for home-plate umpire Chris Guccione, it wasn't Gore, who led off the 13th inning.
A Scott Oberg inside pitch eluded catcher Butera and hit Guccione flush on his left arm. Gore, however, took first base as if the ball had grazed him. The umpires ruled otherwise. The Cubs challenged, but the original call of no hit-by-pitch was confirmed. Gore was sent back to the batter's box -- where he struck out swinging.
Benjamin Zobrist singled to lead off the Cubs' first, and two outs later the Rockies thought they had picked him off at first on a throw from Freeland. The Cubs challenged the ruling, and after a review, the call was overturned.
The Rockies had a runner at first and one out in the eighth when Steve Cishek got LeMahieu to hit a grounder to Murphy, who started a 4-6-3 double play. The Rockies challenged the call at second, and after a review, the call stood.