If the likely scenario holds and the Rockies' season ends Sunday, shortstop Trevor Story is giving some glowing final impressions.
With the bases loaded in the bottom of the 10th against the Giants on Thursday at Oracle Park, Story saved the game with a fielding play reminiscent of 1980s breakdancing, followed by a pinpoint throw to force out the Giants’ Alex Dickerson at the plate. The Rockies went on to win it, 5-4, in 11 innings, thanks to Raimel Tapia’s go-ahead sacrifice fly.
Manager Bud Black had gone to a five-man infield, which was drawn in with the bases loaded and one out. Evan Longoria’s hot shot was hit so hard that Story went to the ground to backhand it. He had to spin from the seat of his pants to make the throw to catcher Tony Wolters. Daniel Bard then escaped the 10th, and Jairo Díaz coaxed Austin Slater into a game-ending double play to seal the win in the 11th.
The Rockies (25-31) gained a split in the four-game set with the Giants (28-28), who are in much better position for a National League Wild Card spot that Colorado covets. Whether it’s part of a miracle finish or merely a strong ending to a disappointing team season, Story is making the final week of the regular season aesthetically pleasing. The Rockies finish with four at Arizona, starting with a doubleheader on Friday.
“It's definitely something that I pride myself on. I approach the game with gratitude, that you never know when when your last game is going to be played,” said Story, who has seen shoulder injuries end the season of three key teammates -- third baseman Nolan Arenado, pitcher Jon Gray and outfielder David Dahl -- in the recent days and weeks. “I try to never take for granted my time on the field or an opportunity to make a play.
“These guys make it easy now. … It's never hard going out there playing with these guys.”
If, as expected, the elimination “x” ends up next to Colorado in the standings, at least the team made an impression on possibly playoff-bound Giants manager Gabe Kapler, whose team took a 3-0 lead early in the second before Rox starter Chi Chi González rebounded and the team fought back.
“It wasn't a defeated team,” Kapler said. “They got the job done, and you have to kind of tip your cap to them. They did pull out all the stops. They put the five-man infield out there. They extended Bard, I'm guessing, probably beyond the most comfortable space. That was a good effort by their ballclub.
“I respect the way they went about playing that baseball game.”
During Wednesday night’s 7-2 loss, Story went deep into the hole to backhand Slater’s grounder before making a leaping across-the-body throw that was part Troy Tulowitzki (for Rockies fans who have been around) and part Patrick Mahomes (for the cool kids who, for whatever reason, watch football).
He outdid himself Thursday.
“I can’t imagine how hard it is to make that type of a play,” said Black, who added that third-base coach Stu Cole practices the five-man infield in Spring Training, though he most likely doesn’t hit the ball as hard as Longoria did on Thursday.
Bard thought the game was over when he heard the pop from Longoria’s bat. Statcast recorded a 104 mph exit velocity on the play. Then, Bard -- who enjoyed every second of his season-high 2 2/3 innings, the way he has cherished the whole strange comeback after being out of the Majors since 2012 -- loudly let Story know how entertained he was.
“You can yell something and actually hear it, whereas in a packed stadium, [with] 40,000 fans, you’ve got to be up close to hear anything,” Bard said. “So I'm trying to take advantage of that. I was just yelling at him, ‘Great job,’ or some form of that.”
Story said he looked at the scoreboard, but Oracle Park didn’t put up a replay. No matter. It’ll be all over phones, laptops, desktops and tablets. No doubt young shortstops will go out with their friends -- hopefully socially distanced -- and practice it.
So, how is it done?
“Me and Nolan long-toss -- try to do it at least once a week, build up arm strength and maintain that,” Story said. “I think you're still using your whole body, even though your legs are kind of out of it, but it’s having a strong core and just kind of flicking the wrist [toward] home.”
So there was plenty of preparation for what could come.
More importantly, though, Story believes it’s playing like the chance will never come again.