DENVER - The idyllic Storybook season of a Most Valuable Player could have a happy ending, after all.
In a day and night of twists and turns and tumult, the Rockies didn't lose Trevor Story, but they did lose to the Dodgers in a classic extra-inning, walk-off home run affair, 3-2. The Rockies are behind by a game and a half in the division and in the wild-card races to the finish. It's not over, though.
The initial media report was bad Tuesday afternoon, and the tremor in Los Angeles could be felt from Chavez Ravine to the top of the Rocky Mountains. The update later before the critical Rox game with the Dodgers was very positive – and caused an enormous, game-changing sigh of relief for everyone who plays for or cares about the Rockies.
Shortstop Story will return to the Rockies lineup “in a few days,’’ Bud Black proclaimed, after an MRI revealed that the Rockies’ most influential position player the past three months had not suffered “structural damage’’ to his injured right elbow ligament, which, Black said, “is intact.’’
The elbow is inflamed, but, despite the hue, and the cry and speculation of possible potential “Tommy John surgery,” Trevor should be good to go before the final, vital week of Rocktember and The Chase to the Championship.
Speaking before the MRI tests were released, Story said he wasn’t as sore when he awakened Tuesday, and he was optimistic about his throwing arm’s condition.
The other Rockies actually could relax and play ball. Their guy will be back soon.
The Dodgers weren’t so fortunate in May when their All-Star shortstop, Corey Seager, was badly hurt and had to endure major season-concluding Tommy John operation.
The fear and anxiety began Tuesday afternoon when veteran baseball writer Ken Rosenthal tweeted that Story, injured on Monday night when he made a diving grab and awkwardly landed on his right elbow, is “facing potential UCL damage,’’ according to sources.
Ulnar collateral ligament tears have become rather routine for pitchers.
In July 2016, Story suffered a torn UCL in his left thumb and didn’t play again in an exceptional rookie season.
This year has been a fairy tale for Story, who just became the first National League shortstop with 30-plus home runs, 40 doubles and 25-plus stolen bases. His batting average is .288 and his career WAR 10.5. Last week he slammed the longest homer of the season and in Coors Field history (505 feet). Trevor has lifted his game in the second half of the season to be the best in the league at his position, and he has moved into MVP discussions.
The Rockies turned Tuesday night to promising rookie Garrett Hampson, appearing in only his 16th major league game.
During Story’s absence, third baseman Nolan Arenado has to raise his play back to the level he performed at before struggling lately, and everyone else must rally.
The defeat to the Dodgers Monday night dropped the Rockies into second in the division and in an assiduous clash with the remaining wild-card challengers — the Brewers, or the Cubs, and the Cardinals.
The Rockies are thisclose to their first NL West regular-season championship or their first back-to-back playoff spots.
With an epic payroll and a wealth and depth of talent, the Dodgers have the inside position because, after the Rox series, six of their last nine are vs. losing teams. The Rockies’ final 10 will be against winning teams (DBacks, Phillies and Nationals).
The path already is difficult enough, but the Rockies are facing three former Cy Young Award winners — Clayton Kershaw Tuesday night, Zack Greinke and Jake Arrieta. They are blessed to avoid the Gnats’ Max Scherzer (17-7) and Philadelphia’s Aaron Nola (16-5). However, they confront three pitchers named Zack or Zach (Greinke, Zack Godley and Zach Elfin), Patrick Corbin and, in the finale, Stephen Strasburg.
Although he probably will wind up fifth in the balloting, Kyle Freeland, who has two more starts, definitely is Cy Young worthy with a 15-7 record and a 2.96 ERA. The Rockies won 13 of his 14 previous starts, and he has lost once since June 27. German Marquez and Antonio Senzatela are more than holding their own. Jon Gray and Tyler Anderson aren’t.
Anderson is supposed to pitch Sunday, Sept. 30, when the Rockies’ postseason prospects probably will be decided. Surely he won’t.
The Rox must win seven more, or more.
But Trevor Story will be back to facilitate that tough task.