Scottsdale, Ariz.: On the night of Oct. 2, 2018, Wrigley Field in Chicago was cool literally and figuratively — 60 degrees with low overhanging clouds and a 7-mile-an-hour wind, and the Rockies and the Cubs were tied at 1 in an epic marathon extra-inning wild card, winner-go-on playoff game.
Ah, baseball at its paramount.
With two outs in the bottom of the 12th, Rox reliever Scott Oberg was waved in to confront stellar star Kris Bryant.
The Cubs’ third baseman, who was National League MVP in 2016 when the Cubs won the World Series, struck out looking.
The Rockies had scored in the first on a Charlie Blackmon single, DJ LeMahieu’s ivy-wall double and Nolan Arenado’s sacrifice fly. Pitcher Kyle Freeland held the Cubs scoreless for 6 2/3 innings before tiring and departing. The Cubs tied the Rox in the eighth.
Bring on the 13th in the longest wild-card game and the longest postseason game in Wrigley. Trevor Story and Gerardo Parra singled, and third-string catcher Tony Wolters, the 42nd player in the game, stroked a change-up that would drive in Story.
Oberg, “Scotty” to his teammates, returned for the last half of the 13th as the clock approached midnight and the game was close to five hours.
In succession Oberg struck out swinging Terrance Gore, Javier Baez and Albert Almora Jr.
Rockies win, Rockies win, Rockies win.
Oberg got the win. Beam ‘em up, Scotty.
That was the first postseason victory for the Rockies since 2009 and their last postseason victory since.
Oberg, who underwent Tommy John surgery in his senior year at the University of Connecticut, was selected on speculation by the Rockies in the 15th round of the 2012 draft.
He would become one of the Rox's best picks and pitchers ever. No reliever in baseball was better in 2018-19 as the right-hander, who masterfully managed earned-run averages of 2.45 and 2.25. Since rising in 2015 to the majors, Oberg has the most game appearances (259) for a current Rockies pitcher. Oberg has served as a closer, an eighth inning set-up specialist, a middle reliever and a man called on in the tightest situations — witness the wildest of wild cards.
Then, though, in the same season as his postseason performance, Oberg began to experience numbness and circulation problems in both arms. On Aug. 19, 2019, he was shut down for the season with blood clots. As Scott worked out last summer, he had a recurrence of the clots, and doctors ordered surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome.
However, the prognosis for this year was excellent. I was told the blood clots had vanished and probably wouldn’t flare up again.
The Rockies’ trainers, coaches and medical staff prepared him cautiously to begin spring training, and everyone in camp was optimistic that he would open the regular season in an eighth-inning role and actually could become the Rockies’ closer again sometime in ’21. Manager Bud Black said Oberg would be utilized in limited action in eight exhibitions, and his recovery would be evaluated after each.
On his 31st birthday, March 13, Oberg made his spring debut, after being out for 19 months, in the fifth inning against the Giants and allowed only a two-out single and recorded a strikeout.
Scott pitched three more times in nearly perfect one-inning efforts — permitting only one hit without a walk. His ERA was 0.00. There were no signs of a physical setback, and his arm was becoming stronger.
Oberg pitched in a “B’’ game Wednesday at Salt River Fields, but felt soreness in his pitching arm at Thursday morning’s workout. Longtime trainer Keith Dugger alerted doctors. Scott was taken to the nearby nationally renowned Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, was hospitalized and endured a third surgery for the clots that have continue to jeopardize his career and his life.
Oberg was released from the hospital Saturday and intended to visit the Rockies’ clubhouse and facility in the afternoon. “We will support Scotty and put our arms around him when we see him,’’ Black said Saturday morning.
Not only the Rockies’ most proficient reliever for years, Oberg truly is one of the real good guys, a team leader, mentor to younger pitchers and the club rep to the players’ union.
“Obviously, we’re all devastated,’’ Black said. “We are crushed by the news.’’ So are all Rockies fans.
Pitch on, Scott.