LOS ANGELES -- German Marquez's third strike to Player Page for Max Muncy in the fourth inning bounced around the mitt of crossed-up catcher Tony Wolters, then popped high and to the backstop, allowing Muncy to reach first to lead off the frame.That passed ball began a progression that led
LOS ANGELES -- German Marquez's third strike to Player Page for Max Muncy in the fourth inning bounced around the mitt of crossed-up catcher Tony Wolters, then popped high and to the backstop, allowing Muncy to reach first to lead off the frame.
That passed ball began a progression that led to Cody Bellinger -- who shouldn't have even come up in the fourth, as Marquez struck out the next two -- swatting a two-run homer that gave the Dodgers momentum toward their 5-2 victory in the tiebreaking game to determine the National League West crown on Monday at Dodger Stadium.
But the Rockies -- who didn't manage a hit off Dodgers starter Walker Buehler until Charlie Blackmon singled in the sixth and finished with just four, including Nolan Arenado's NL-leading 38th HR followed by Trevor Story's 37th in the ninth -- don't have time to lament seeing the chance at their first division crown slip through their fingers.
They will now travel to meet the Cubs at Wrigley Field in the do-or-die NL Wild Card Game on Tuesday night. It marks the first time in the Rockies' 26-year history that they have made consecutive postseason appearances, but the club is still seeking its first division title.
• NL Wild Card Game presented by Hankook Tire: Tonight., 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
"Gotta move on -- the playoffs start tomorrow, and we're in it," Arenado said. "It's going to be fun. It's going to be in Chicago. It's going to be a great atmosphere. We're going to be ready for it."
With Monday counting as the 163rd regular-season game, the Rockies finished 91-72 -- their second-most regular-season wins, behind the 2009 season. Now they'll send Kyle Freeland on three days' rest against the Cubs' Jonathan Lester in a battle of lefties. The Cubs fell to the Brewers, 3-1, in a tiebreaker for the NL Central crown on Monday but will host the Wild Card Game because of their better record (95-68).
"Any time you get to the postseason, it's an achievement," manager Bud Black said. "I'm proud of our group. Our guys have had a great year. To take the division race down to an extra game is good stuff, and the Dodgers would probably say the same thing. Our guys will put it in the rearview, for sure."
Before winning nine of 10, briefly taking the NL West lead and finally forcing the tiebreaker, the Rockies were swept in a three-game series at Dodger Stadium Sept. 17-19. Monday felt a bit like a reprise of that series, when the Rockies were held to two runs in each game. In one of those games, Buehler struck out 12 in six innings of a 5-2 Dodgers win.
On Monday, Buehler (8-5), displaying his hottest fastball of the season and a barely touchable slider, struck out three and walked three while throwing 93 pitches in 6 2/3 innings. The Rockies had a slight chance in the third, when walks gave the Rockies two men on with two out, but Buehler induced DJ LeMahieu's grounder to short.
"I thought he was better last time, but we didn't get a whole lot of hits today, so he was pretty good both times," Blackmon said.
That left the weight of the game on Marquez (14-11), who struck out nine but was hurt by two homers -- Bellinger's 24th of the season in the fourth and Muncy's 35th in the fifth, both coming with a man on base.
On the passed ball, Wolters set a low target and spread, as if expecting a low, possibly off-speed pitch, and even went to his right knee as the pitch was thrown. Marquez delivered a 97.7-mph fastball that Wolters could not handle.
"I crossed him up," Marquez said. "It just happens."
Wolters commended Marquez.
"Even the [home run pitch] to Muncy was a very good pitch; he wanted to take back the one to Bellinger, which was middle-middle," Wolters said. "Other than that, Marquez did a great job."
Black, needing offense, lifted Marquez after 4 2/3 innings and 84 pitches.
The offense didn't ignite, even with Buehler gone, until the ninth. In the seventh, Pedro Baez walked the first two batters he faced before Matthew Holliday swung just under a 98.1-mph first-pitch fastball and popped to short. Blackmon singled off Scott Alexander in the eighth and was stranded at second when Kenta Maeda fanned David Dahl to end the inning.
But in the ninth, the Rockies made some noise off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen. Arenado's blast erased the shutout, and Story immediately followed with his 37th of the season, but that's as close as Colorado would get.
Arenado has reached base in his last nine games, during which he has slashed .375/.412/.781. Of more relevance going into the Wild Card Game, he has a .256 batting average in 20 games at Wrigley, but the power showed up in the last two games there this season -- May 1-2, when he had three home runs, a double and six RBIs over 10 at-bats.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
The limits of the playing area were no limit for Dahl.
After Manny Machado singled to lead off the second, Yasmani Grandal skied a foul ball to left field. Dahl made a long run, reached over the waist-high wall and made a tumbling catch. He then made a competitive throw to second base, but Machado tagged up safely.
HE SAID IT
"It's cool. I'll look back on it more in the offseason. It's a great accomplishment to hit a ball hard off Kenley Jansen. I feel like I haven't done that my whole career. But at the end of the day, it doesn't mean a whole lot." -- Arenado, on finishing tops in the NL in homers
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
With one out and a runner at second in the bottom of the second, first baseman Ian Desmond knocked down Bellinger's hard smash, then flipped to Marquez covering first. First-base umpire Brian Gorman ruled that Marquez stepped on the bag in time for the out. After a Dodgers challenge, the call stood.
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002.