Three observations from Gazette columnist Paul Klee in Phoenix:
Jon Gray will have better days. He’s never had worse. The Rockies’ No. 1 starter chased after 1 1/3 innings, the shortest outing of his young career? No team in baseball wins a playoff road game when the moment proves too big for the starter. The first pitch of Wednesday’s game arrived at 5:08 local time. MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt — aka “Goldy,” aka “M-V-P! M-V-P” here in the Valley of the Sun — uncorked a three-run homer at 5:20. Buddy Black took the ball from Gray at 5:51. (Yes, I thought the skipper could have moved on earlier.) No, Arizona ace Zack Greinke wasn’t much better. But if the Rox are to take the next leap, Jon Gray must be.
The Rockies needed this game at home. With more corporate signage than Castle Rock, Chase Field proved to be the loudest outlet mall in baseball. And homefield advantage was the difference. Every time the Rockies cut the deficit — first, from 6-0 to 6-4; next, from 8-4 to 8-7 — the D-Backs seemed to feed off a crowd of 48,803. When closer Fernando Rodney took the mound to shut off the water faucet with three outs in the ninth, Chase Field sounded like a Vegas club, complete with piped-in techn. The D-Backs finished six games ahead of the Rockies in the Wild Card standings. That's why Arizona is moving on to face the Dodgers in a National League Division Series that opens with Game 1 on Friday.
The bats that carried the Rockies to the playoffs went quiet. Charlie Blackmon, D.J. LeMahieu and Nolan Arenado — this year's batting champ, last year's batting champ and a blossoming superstar — combined to go 1-for-13 at the plate. That doesn't happen often; it just happened at the wrong time, on the wrong stage, for the Rockies. Arizona's approach was clear from the first inning: make the bottom half of the Rockies' lineup beat you (and it almost did). Led by deadline acquisition Jonathan Lucroy — hey, Rox, bring him back next season — the Other Guys helped keep the Rockies in striking distance. In what was most likely the final game for Carlos Gonzalez in a Rockies uniform, the man who will have his jersey retired went 2-for-5.