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Rockies ride roller coaster of an 8th inning

MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

PHOENIX -- In the eighth inning of Wednesday's National League Wild Card Game, one inning after D-backs reliever Archie Bradley gave his team a three-run lead with a two-run triple, and with the Rockies' season on the line, Colorado sluggers Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story repaid Bradley, belting back-to-back homers off him to cut the deficit to one run.

Then, for a crazy second or two, it appeared as though pinch-hitter Pat Valaika had made it a trifecta, but his drive to left curved just foul.

Full Game Coverage

PHOENIX -- In the eighth inning of Wednesday's National League Wild Card Game, one inning after D-backs reliever Archie Bradley gave his team a three-run lead with a two-run triple, and with the Rockies' season on the line, Colorado sluggers Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story repaid Bradley, belting back-to-back homers off him to cut the deficit to one run.

Then, for a crazy second or two, it appeared as though pinch-hitter Pat Valaika had made it a trifecta, but his drive to left curved just foul.

Full Game Coverage

:: NL Wild Card Game coverage ::

The Rockies could have used that run. In the bottom of the eighth, closer Greg Holland hung a slider that A.J. Pollock crushed for a backbreaking two-run double in a three-run frame that ultimately led to an 11-8 loss.

"We felt we were in the game the whole time," said Arenado, who homered 37 times during the regular season. "We were good. They were just the better team today."

Colorado had already shrunk a deficit in the seventh on Charlie Blackmon's bunt, which scored Jonathan Lucroy from third to make it 6-5. And after Bradley's unlikely triple off reliever Pat Neshek, the Rockies refused to collapse after what appeared to be a gut-punch.

"That was an interesting inning, for sure," Story said. "It's definitely tough being down early. We knew it wasn't going to be easy at all. We knew it was going to be a dogfight. We definitely weren't going to back down at all."

It looked as though Bradley expended energy running out his triple when Arenado and Story sent his pitches over the wall. Arenado launched an 83.2-mph knuckle-curve to center, and Story connected on a 96.7-mph fastball, going the opposite way to right field.

"Hindsight, maybe I wish I would have jogged a little bit [on the triple] and I wouldn't have been as tired," Bradley said. "But I view the game in a very simple way, and I made two really bad pitches to two really good hitters."

And Valaika has been quite good off the bench all season; his 16 pinch-hit RBIs were the most for a Major League rookie since 1958. With two out and two strikes, he crushed Bradley's 83.5-mph knuckle-curve and put a scare into Arizona.

"I knew off the bat it was foul," Valaika said. "It would have been cool if it was fair, but I had to move on and find a way on base."

And he did, lining a double to the gap in right-center.

Bradley escaped the inning by inducing a lineout to right from Lucroy, who had doubled twice -- with one of the doubles plating a run -- and walked in his previous plate appearances.

Video: NL WC: Lucroy belts an RBI double to right in the 4th

With two out in the bottom of the inning, Holland -- who earned 41 saves during the regular season -- didn't put his slider where he wanted to Pollock, and Colorado paid for it. Though Jeff Mathis extended the D-backs' lead with an RBI sacrifice bunt, Holland felt it was the 1-2 hanging slider to Pollock that robbed the Rockies of a chance to win it.

"I felt like I threw 16 high-quality pitches and one bad one," Holland said.

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.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Colorado Rockies, Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story