MILWAUKEE • Back at All City Stadium on the south side of Denver, back in the old ‘hood, they didn’t have space heaters in the dugout. Warming up in Colorado’s moody spring weather was something you figured out on your own.
As the ace of Thomas Jefferson High, Kyle Freeland pitched “so many times” in the whipping cold he lost count. “It would have been nice,” Freeland told me while scrolling through the Denver weather forecast on his phone on Friday night, to have the comforts a major-league existence affords. But if you know much about Freeland, you know he’s going to pitch in a sideways blizzard wearing only a “Catch The Fever” T-shirt if there’s a season on the line.
”When we get to (Game 4),” Freeland said, “I’ll be ready.”
Note the “when.” It matters. After the beefy Brewers tightened the vice in a 4-0 Game 2 win at Miller Park, the only guarantee of a Game 4 is in the Rockies’ ever-confident psyche. Before 44,547 crazies on Friday, the Rockies were nudged to the edge of elimination by getting shut out for the first time in their postseason history.
So let’s check the forecast for Coors Field when the Rockies will host playoff game(s) for the first time since 2009: 50s and rain Sunday, 40s and drier Monday. The Rockies and Brewers “shouldn’t” see snow, Weather Nation’s Chris Bianchi said, but the fact he emphasized “shouldn’t” has me thinking long johns and hand warmers. It’s probably got Freeland thinking, “Let’s play two.”
That’s the first step in shoving the Rockies back into this National League Division Series after spotting the Brewers a 2-0 series lead. While Bud Black said German Marquez will start Game 3 with Freeland in Game 4, the Rockies should think long and hard about swapping the pair of studly starters. I can’t be the only one who thinks it would be a crying shame if Freeland doesn’t throw a pitch in this series after he set the Coors Field ERA record. Ain’t nobody got time for second-guessing, and leaving the ace in the dugout would summon a ton.
”It feels like we’re just one or two hits away from busting open,” said Trevor Story, the one-time MVP candidate who’s suddenly lead conductor on the struggle bus.
OK, OK. It doesn’t matter if you, me or Buddy Black tosses out the first pitch if the Rockies don’t start hitting. And that’s a fact. The Rox played 32 postseason innings in the Midwest and scored in three of them. As a point of reference, pick 32 cars off Interstate 25 and more than three would have Wisconsin plates.
Rocktober has turned into Rockkkkktober.
”It’s tough to pinpoint exactly,” said Story, who went hitless over Games 1 and 2.
”Frustration, for sure,” said Nolan Arenado, who had two of their six hits on Friday.
”No,” catcher Chris Iannetta said when I asked if it hurts to break a bat over your leg.
And that brings us to the second step of this playoff revival. The Rockies saved the bat that Iannetta snapped over his burly thigh in the seventh. It’s in two pieces of roughly identical length. Now they should make sure the broken bat finds its way into the Coors Field dugout for Game 3. These Rockies are wound tighter than the baseball they’re trying and failing to hit. Loosen ‘em up. Who wouldn’t chuckle at the sight of the bat that wild man Iannetta snapped over his leg like a toothpick snapped between your fingers?
“We have another game to play,” Iannetta said.
Bring the broken bat!
“We’re looking forward to getting back to Denver,” Story said.
And there’s No. 3. Enough with the Midwest. The two menu items here are meat and meat-cheese. Go home already. Plus, the Rox OPS rises from .665 on the road to .852 at Coors Field. Their team batting average jumps from .225 to .287. And the home crowd that included over 3 million fans this season has been waiting almost a decade for what it will see on Sunday.
”I’ve always said playing a playoff game at Coors Field would be unbelievable,” D.J. LeMahieu said.
There you have it. Three steps to scaring the meat sweats into the Brew Crew and forcing a Game 5.
One, switch Freeland to Sunday, Marquez to Monday. To prepare for what could be their last game, the Rockies should remember back to their first home game: snow flurries and a native Coloradan, Cheyenne Mountain’s Brandon McCarthy, pitching the Braves to an 8-3 win against Marquez and the Rockies.
Two, bring the broken bat! Watch for splinters and pass it around. Share a chuckle about that time Iannetta had Miller Park “oooohing” all the way to happy hour at Milwaukee Brat House. Call it the Rally Bat.
”It’s not over,” Carlos Gonzalez said. “I know we’re down 0-2. It’s not like no one has done it before in baseball.”
Three, tick off all the haters by getting hot in the one place teams go to get hot: Coors.
“We’re going to hit,” Freeland said.
You know they’re going to hit.
Contact Gazette sports columnist Paul Klee at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @bypaulklee.