Colorado Rockies fans had hit the aisles and were streaming out the stadium to try and beat the post-game traffic. The team held a more than comfortable 11-5 lead going into the ninth inning.
The game was over... until it wasn’t.
Hit after hit, run after run, the San Diego Padres began to claw their way back and the remaining Rockies fans witnessed first-hand an agonizing and historic collapse that ended in a 16-12 Padres victory over 12 innings of play.
“This was a tough one because it looked like we had it, but then again, you never know. That's why you keep playing,” said Rockies manager Bud Black.
At the center of agonizing loss was horrendous pitching from the Rockies bullpen.
Veteran left-handed reliever Mike Dunn entered the game to start off the ninth inning for Colorado. It was his first appearance after missing nearly two weeks with AC-joint inflammation in his left shoulder.
The job at-hand was straightforward, and he had a six-run cushion to fall back on. Entering the 9th inning the Rockies had a 99.6% percent of winning according to fangraphs.
Fernando Tatis got things rolling for San Diego hitting a quick single. Dunn recovered to strikeout Josh Taylor before it all went downhill. Manny Machado hit a single, followed by a Dunn wild pitch that advanced both runners.
The turning point came during the next at-bat when Eric Hosmer hit a single that squeaked into centerfield, enabling Tatis and Machado to score. Dunn had Hosmer 0-2 in the count, before giving up the single on the 10th pitch of the at-bat.
“I think the pitches were up, that was pretty evident,” Black said. “The tough one was he had Hosmer 0-2 and couldn't get him. (The) ground ball found the middle.”
It only got worse from there.
Black chose to leave Dunn in the game in an effort to try and save his already drained bullpen. He immediately paid the price for this decision when Hunter Renfroe blasted a 434-foot two-run homer that brought the game within two.
Mercifully, Black finally put an end to Dunn’s night after he gave up four runs in ⅓ of an inning.
Dunn lacked command and threw too high into the strike zone. He owned up to this and didn’t mince words.
“I was just trying to do my job and get three outs. (The) team played a great game and I blew it,” Dunn said.
At this point, the game no longer seemed like a foregone conclusion, but the Rockies were still positioned to win. The atmosphere at Coors Field was tense, but the Rockies still had closer Wade Davis in their pocket.
Unfortunately for Colorado, It wasn’t Davis’s night either.
He got Colorado out of the inning, but not before giving up three hits and the two runs that the Padres needed to pull even.
Scott Oberg was next on the mound and seemingly halted the offensive momentum San Diego had built over the past few innings. He provided the best pitching from the entirety of the Rockies bullpen. Oberg pitched two innings and surrendered only one hit, and recorded a team-leading three strikeouts.
The Rockies however, were unable to capitalize on the opportunities Oberg provided them. They lost all hope of victory in the 12h inning, when Jairo Diaz, the last remaining pitcher in the bullpen got exposed for a nightmarish five-run inning. Hunter Renfroe’s third home run of the evening helped seal the deal for the Padres.
The game ended an astounding 16-12 after 12 innings and five hours and four minutes of play. Never in the Rockies 26 and a half seasons of existence had the team blown a six-run ninth-inning lead until Friday. In addition, San Diego survived a Rockies five-run sixth inning that included an inside the park home run.
Though they played smaller roles in the collapse, Chad Bettis, Carlos Estevez and Jake Mcgee all had less than perfect outings. The trio gave up a combined four runs between the three of them in appearances all prior to the ninth inning.
All season long Black has lauded his bullpen for their solid play. They have come up big at times and bailed at inconsistent starting pitching.
Following Friday’s game that was far from anybody's mind. After giving up 15 of 16 runs scored it was painfully clear that bullpen cost the Rockies the game.
If the result wasn't already frustrating enough, Rockies starting pitcher Jeff Hoffman had arguably his best performance of the season. The 26-year-old lasted five innings and only surrendering one run. Hoffman has been a weak point in the starting rotation all season long and wasn’t able to come away with a win that he deserved. However, If he can capitalize on Friday's performance in the coming weeks he may be able to solidify himself as a solid starter in the rotation.
Part of the absurdity that Friday’s game generated can be attributed to hitter-friendly Coors Field. Both teams combined for 39 hits and 16 pitchers used.
“It's frustrating but you have to deal with it," Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado said. “I feel like we haven’t had too many games where it’s like, ‘wow, it’s a Coors Field game.’ The last few years, we’ve cut down on those… (it’s) just a really bad loss.”
Arenado and Ian Desmond agreed upon one silver lining in the otherwise crushing defeat. Trevor Story, who took a ground ball to the face in the eighth inning seems to be okay and likely won’t miss considerable time. Story’s health and availability are far more important than any singular game on the Rockies schedule.
"I think the biggest win and probably the most important thing that happened was to find out that Trevor's okay,” Desmond said. “For him to be okay, It was absolutely huge for us. Take that as a victory and move on.”
In addition, many Rockies players shined brightly for the team. Story had four hits, Dahl and Blackmon had home runs and Desmond hit an electrifying inside the park home run. In the end all of that will get lost within the story of the collapse.
Offense did their job; the bullpen pitching did not.
On Friday the Rockies dealt with history -- a history they never wanted nor expected. It is cliche, but valuable nonetheless. A game isn’t over until the very last out. The Rockies were given a rude and memorable reminder of this on Friday.