- Rivaling Tuesday night's thrilling action, the NL Wild Card Game featured similar pitching woes and hitting heroes.
Now in its sixth season, the winner-take-all Wild Card Game format has offered a host of memorable postseason moments: The blown infield fly rule call in Braves-Cardinals (2012), the Royals' astonishing comeback against the A's in one of the games of the decade (2014), and Edwin Encarnacion's walk-off home run to beat the Orioles (2016). This year, we got a relief pitcher with a career .098 average and no extra-base hits providing a moment that Arizona Diamondbacks fans will remember forever. Archie Bradley, Arizona's most trusted relief pitcher, stepped up with two outs to smash a two-run triple and give the Diamondbacks an 8–5 lead. Despite a late surge from the Rockies, Arizona held on for a 11–8 win on Wednesday night at Chase Field in Phoenix. The Diamondbacks will move onto face the Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLDS on Friday night in Los Angeles.
1. Archie Bradley hit a triple that will live in infamy ... and the Diamondbacks hit a few more
Arizona manager Torey Lovullo was set up to be the goat after a questionable managerial decision in the bottom of the seventh. Lovullo started defensive specialist Jeff Mathis instead of the more offensively-minded Chris Ianetta, and stuck with him (despite a .215/.277/.323 slash line) with runners on second and third and one out. Mathis struck out, and up came Bradley, who Lovullo never had any intention of replacing at that point in the game. Bradley faced Rockies sidewinder Pat Neshek, one of the most reliable relievers of the last decade and a guy who finished the season with a 1.59 ERA and 0.818 WHIP in 71 appearances. Neshek quickly got to two strikes on Bradley, but the reliever (somehow) got out in front of a Neshek pitch to smack a triple into the left-center gap and bring in both runs. Bradley's triple was one of four on the night for Arizona—Ketel Marte hit two and A.J. Pollock hit one in the bottom of the eighth to extend the lead to 10–7—and the Diamondbacks became the first team since 1903 to hit four triples in a playoff game.
Bradley wasn't great after the triple—he would allow solo home runs to Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story in the next inning—but the greatest hit of his baseball career was one that gave Arizona a lead it never surrendered.
2. The starting pitching was terrible ... again
The Rockies played behind the entire night thanks to starting pitcher Jon Gray, who surrendered seven hits and four runs in just 1 1/3 innings of work. After allowing singles to David Peralta and Ketel Marte to start the game, Gray floated a lazy curveball to Paul Goldschmidt, who clubbed the weak offering into the leftfield seats to give the Diamondbacks a 3–0 lead. He'd allow two more hits in that inning and two more in the second before being lifted for Scott Oberg—forcing the Rockies into a position it didn't want against one of the National League's most fearsome offenses. Unlike the Yankees, who were able to contain the Twins despite lifting their starter in the first inning, the Rockies' bullpen allowed 10 hits and seven earned runs in 7 2/3 innings of work. Manager Bud Black said Gray struggled with locating his fastball, which is what forced him to go to the bullpen early.
Zack Greinke looked like he'd have an easy night after his team gave him a 6–0 lead heading into the top of the fourth, but the former Cy Young Award winner scuffled his way into another bad start. Greinke failed to get out of the fifth inning in either of his last two outings, and he couldn't do it against the Rockies on Wednesday. After allowing just one hit in his first three innings, Greinke was touched up for five hits in the top of the fourth and eventually knocked out by an Alexi Amarista single. He's now allowed 14 earned runs over his last 11 2/3 innings.
3. What are the Diamondbacks going to do with their pitching staff?
Lovullo managed this game like his season was on the line because, well, it was. After Greinke was knocked out of the game in the fourth inning, Lovullo went to lefty Andrew Chafin for one out before bringing in Robbie Ray, originally the presumed Game 1 starter. Ray has been one of the best pitchers in baseball this year, finishing the regular season with a 15–5 record and 2.89 ERA, and Lovullo elected to go with his best pitcher on the roster while his team held a narrow 6–4 lead. Ray was effective, allowing just two hits and one earned run over 2 1/3 innings, but he'll likely be unavailable for Games 1 and 2 of the NLDS after throwing 34 pitches. Now, the Diamondbacks will likely go with third-year starter Zack Godley opposite Clayton Kershaw in Game 1 while either Taijuan Walker or Ray, on just two days rest, will start Game 2.
When playing in a winner-take-all game, there's no room to consider the next series. Now that Arizona has advanced, Lovullo will need to get creative with his starting rotation.