The longest sudden-death playoff game in MLB history was also one of the most bizarre postseason contests in recent memory. One strange play or occurrence after another characterized a classic battle between the Rockies and Cubs in the National League Wild Card Game on Tuesday night, with Colorado prevailing, 2-1, in 13 innings.
:: NL Wild Card Game schedule and results ::
1. First inning: Lost in the ivy
It all began with the second batter of the game, as DJ LeMahieu scorched a double to left-center field.
The ball came off the bat with an exit velocity of 112.8 mph, per Statcast™, and was hit so hard it lodged into the ivy covering the Wrigley Field outfield wall. Charlie Blackmon would have scored from first if not for the ground-rule double but eventually scored anyway on a sacrifice fly by Nolan Arenado.
2. Sixth inning: Dahl loses it
With one on and one out in the sixth, Kristopher Bryant hit a routine fly ball down the right-field line. David Dahl, who has played mostly in left field for Colorado this season, overran the ball, then reached back to try to catch it as it fell in for a single. Despite the misplay, Rockies starter Kyle Freeland was able to escape the jam.
"Dahl had that hiccup out in the outfield to put two runners on, but at the same time what we've been doing all year is picking each other up and doing the job," Freeland said. "It's what we were able to do."
3. Seventh inning: Catcher's interference
In the bottom of the seventh, the Cubs had runners at first and second with two outs, and pinch-hitter Thomas La Stella at the plate. What initially appeared to be a La Stella groundout was ruled catcher's interference when Andrew Butera's glove was knocked off by La Stella's swing. Chicago had the bases loaded but couldn't cash in, as reliever Adam Ottavino struck out Jason Heyward to end the threat.
"The slider came back over the plate. I wanted to go get it," Butera said. "It was kind of down and I wanted to try to reach it and bring it back up. Unfortunately, my glove kind of ran into his bat path. Fortunately for us we were able to get out of the inning."
4. Eighth inning: Baez's clutch double
With the Rockies clinging to a 1-0 lead in the eighth inning, Ottavino faced Javier Baez with speedy pinch-runner Terrance Gore at second base. Ottavino jumped out in front, 0-2, a count in which hitters had been 0-for-36 with 31 strikeouts against him this season. He then threw Baez a slider away that didn't break enough, and Baez lined a game-tying double to left-center field.
"Obviously, it makes it all worth it. I want that pitch back, for sure," Ottavino said. "We won the game, so that's all that matters.
"I was kind of in between on what to throw. My gut actually told me to throw a fastball, but then I second-guessed it because I'd just thrown it to Bryant with two strikes and I thought maybe he'd realize that. So then my thought process was to get it way off the plate or in the dirt, but obviously I didn't quite get it there."
5. 11th inning: Butera's heads-up play, timeout/hug it out
With the game tied at 1 in the 11th, Baez walked and moved to second on an Albert Almora Jr. sacrifice bunt. Arenado fielded the bunt and threw to first base, but no one was covering third, and Baez appeared poised to sprint the extra 90 feet. But Butera ran from his catcher's position to cover the bag and received the throw across the diamond from Ian Desmond to keep Baez at second base.
The Rockies intentionally walked the next batter, Daniel Murphy. Willson Contreras then hit a chopper to third base that Arenado fielded. As Baez tried to avoid Arenado's tag, the two caught each other in a bear hug, making for a moment of levity in an otherwise tense and stressful contest.
Another oddity in the same Contreras at-bat came when a pitch that he swung through for a strike was waved off because home-plate umpire Chris Guccione said time was called prior to Rockies reliever Seunghwan Oh's pitch.
6. 13th inning: Umpire HBP, but not Gore
In the bottom of the 13th, Gore led off seeking to reach base and use his speed to get into scoring position with the Cubs down, 2-1. Scott Oberg threw a 2-2 fastball at 96.2 mph up and in, and with catcher Tony Wolters apparently being crossed-up on the pitch, the ball hit Guccione square on the left shoulder.
At first, Gore was awarded first base, as it was ruled on the field that the pitch grazed him before hitting the umpire. But upon replay review, that was overturned. Gore struck out on the next pitch, and the Cubs went down in order in the 13th as Colorado secured the Wild Card Game victory in what was a wild contest in more ways than one.