DENVER -- The Rockies inspired their fans and tugged at their heartstrings during a solid 2017 season, which ended with a trip to the National League Wild Card Game.The year ended with an 11-8 loss to the D-backs, but that won't be the lasting memory. Here are five moments from
DENVER -- The Rockies inspired their fans and tugged at their heartstrings during a solid 2017 season, which ended with a trip to the National League Wild Card Game.
The year ended with an 11-8 loss to the D-backs, but that won't be the lasting memory. Here are five moments from 2017 that fans are sure to remember for years to come.
1. Charlie Blackmon rounds the bases
Blackmon, the Rockies' leadoff man and center fielder, has had a knack for making each year better than the one before, and 2017 was no different. He led the National League with a .331 batting average, hit 37 homers and drove in 104 runs -- including a Major League-record 103 from the leadoff position. On April 21, he had his most exciting hit, home run and RBI, all rolled into one.
During the bottom of the fourth inning of an eventual 6-5 victory over the Giants, Blackmon lined a Johnny Cueto pitch to right field, where Hunter Pence slid and protected his face in a self-defense move -- the universal sign that the ball was lost in the stadium lights. Blackmon would speed around the bags for a two-run, inside-the-park homer.
Officially, Blackmon had two of those -- but not really. Against the Mets in a 16-4 Rockies victory on July 16, his liner to right-center cleared the Citi Field wall before rebounding onto the outfield grass as Blackmon rounded the bases. Umpires ruled that the ball didn't clear the wall, and the call stood unchallenged since he scored on the play anyways. TV replays showed that it was a homer.
2. Happy Mother's Day
Antonio Senzatela went into 2016 considered one of the Rockies' top prospects. However, he was placed on the Double-A Hartford disabled list with right shoulder inflammation. Quietly, the Rockies gave him time off to return home to Venezuela to spend time with his mother, Nidya, who would pass away from cancer.
Of course, Senzatela would start on Mother's Day 2017 against the Dodgers.
It wasn't easy emotionally, nor was the outing easy. Senzatela gave up two homers and four total runs on seven hits in five innings. But with two on and two out in the fifth, he forced a Chris Taylor fly ball and escaped with a 6-5 lead. The Rockies would hold on for a special 9-6 victory.
3. Historic (but bloody) Father's Day
Superstar third baseman Nolan Arenado homered on that Mother's Day, but he saved his best for Father's Day.
Arenado had carried the Rockies in a wild game against the Giants, with a first-inning triple, a fourth-inning single and a sixth-inning double, all off starting pitcher Ty Blach. But in the ninth, Pence would knock a two-run homer off Jake McGee, and Brandon Crawford's double made for a 5-3 Giants lead going into the bottom half of the frame. DJ LeMahieu's RBI single would cut the difference to 5-4 and set up Arenado, who lashed Mark Melancon's first-pitch fastball over the left-field wall for a cycle, and the game winner.
In the euphoric celebration, Arenado emerged bleeding, after Blackmon's batting helmet clipped him above the left eye. A little blood is a small price to pay for providing the Esurance Awards Best Moment of 2017.
4. Hurray for Homeboy
Left-hander Kyle Freeland was born in Denver on May 14, 1993, so making the Rockies' starting rotation was doubly special. He pitched the team to a 2-1 victory over the Dodgers in the home opener. But he nearly pitched his way into history on July 9 against the White Sox in the final game before the All-Star break.
Freeland overpowered and baffled the White Sox with a career-high nine strikeouts and eight hitless innings. With one out in the ninth, however, Melky Cabrera fought off an inside fastball for a soft single to left field. Freeland exited, and the Rockies finished off a 10-0 victory.
5. Back in a big way
Right-hander Chad Bettis was diagnosed with testicular cancer in November 2016, on his anniversary, and he seemed on his way back during Spring Training. However, doctors discovered the disease had spread to his lymph nodes. It meant nine weeks of chemotherapy, in a year in which he and his wife, Kristina, welcomed their first child, Brittany Rae.
But Bettis insisted on the stint that delivered the medicine being placed under his left collarbone, so he could throw between treatments. He stayed strong, pitched in Minor League games when cleared and returned on Aug. 14 at Coors Field against the Braves.
The reaction of the fans, who cheered Bettis' walk from the bullpen to the dugout and gave him a standing ovation before first pitch, said it all. Folks were happy he was back, regardless of how the night would go.
But all Bettis did was throw seven scoreless innings in an eventual 3-0 Rockies victory. Yes, Bettis was back.
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and** like his Facebook page**.