DENVER — After 159 games, the Rockies have a motto. Take a load off for this one.
“That’s what (catcher Jonathan) Lucroy told me,” ace starter Jon Gray said Wednesday evening after the Rockies dropped the Marlins 15-9 inside the early winter wonderland of Coors Field.
Pretty good message, if you ask me. Flush it. Flush all of it. Take the final series of the regular season, starting Friday against the Dodgers, and flush the past seven years of postseason-less baseball down the commode. Flush away the nationally held notion they don’t play real baseball ’round these hills.
“Until it fails, I’m going to use it,” Gray said.
If it sounds like the Rox lost their marbles somewhere along the road of a long season, here’s what Jon Gray was talking about, in front of his locker, not in the potty room: Soon as Gray reached the dugout after letting A.J. Ellis smack one deep into the left-field bleachers, Lucroy, the new catcher the club should re-sign after this season, approached the 25-year-old ace with a word of relief.
It’s over, dude. Move on. Flush it.
Yes, I had to ask: Did you?
“I actually did,” Gray said, unable to wipe a smile from his face. “It was a piece of gum wrapper, I believe. Threw it in the toilet and flushed it down.”
It’s all swirled down to this: After rolling through the Marlins, the Rockies held a two-game lead on Milwaukee for the final Wild Card spot in the National League. The Rox have three games left; the Brewers had four.
“I think we’ve been controlling our own destiny for the last month, really,” said All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado, who would do the baseball world a solid by showing off his talents in the playoffs.
It was cold enough Wednesday at Coors Field the fan who jumped from his seat to sprint across the outfield wore clothes. (And since he was clothed, whether he was streaking or just trespassing is your call.) Cold enough that when closer du jour Jeff Hoffman allowed three runs in the ninth, the home crowd of 27,497 groaned and collectively rolled its eyes — not because the Rockies’ lopsided win ever was in danger; but because come on guys, it’s flipping cold out here and the kids are getting antsy. Cold enough that MVP candidate Charlie Blackmon raked in his 100th RBI — a jarring number, tied for the most by a leadoff man in MLB history, especially for a guy batting in front of the bottom half of a lineup that’s been subpar for most of the season — and didn’t notice that team jokester Gerardo Parra had feigned tossing the commemorative baseball into the stands.
"This is a really good year for a really good player," manager Bud Black said.
“I didn’t feel any different,” Blackmon added with his usual dry wit.
This whole thing, though? Different. It was cold enough it felt like October. Felt like something the Rox could get used to, all the way up oft-criticized team owner Dick Monfort, who grinned as he handed a foul ball to a tiny girl in a pink beanie behind home plate. Felt like a staff ace, Gray, has matured exponentially the past month, to the point he can allow a moonshot of a home run, flush it away and return to the mound to throw a pair of scoreless innings.
“Sometimes you’ve got to — both metaphorically (and literally) speaking — flush the toilet, man,” Lucroy told me. “Forget about it.”
Lucroy rocks a thick beard and tells good stories. He told one Wednesday that showed why the Rox should close this out ASAP. It was 2011, and Lucroy and veteran Mark Kotsay were teammates with the Brewers: “He said, ‘Guys, this doesn’t happen often. I’ve been playing 15 years and I’ve been to the playoffs a couple times. It’s very rare. It’s very hard to get to the playoffs,’” Lucroy said. “’Any time you get a chance to do it, you’ve got to take advantage.’”
The Dodgers are on deck.
"Arguably the best team in baseball," Black said.