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DENVER – It didn’t take long to realize on Sunday that Colorado would need to travel to Los Angeles for game 163. After two runs in the first inning against San Francisco and another seven in the third, it was clear that neither the Giants nor the Nationals would decide the fate of the National League West.
While San Francisco may be one of the largest westernmost points in our nation, Los Angeles – winners of the last five division titles – is the most West city in the National League.
It’s only right for the Rockies to win one more to prove their ownership of this year’s NL West pennant.
After Sunday’s 12-0 drubbing of Washington, all eyes were on the squad from Chavez Ravine.
Manager Bud Black discussed the electricity of a game with this much importance riding it:
“Every player, across the landscape of professional sports – even amateur sports, when you’re going for a championship… it’s the same sort of feeling. It’s great. I love it. This is what we play for, right? Nothing beats being a player in a big game when you’re in the fire.”
Players were asked about the abilities of the opposing pitcher, rookie Walker Buehler, who has faced the Rockies five times this year and has thrown thirty-one innings to a 2.61 earned run average.
Arenado gave praise to the 24-year-old, but thinks there’s another factor being overlooked when it comes to the discussion of starting pitching on Monday.
“(Buehler’s) a good pitcher. There’s no doubt. He’s having a good year. It’s going to be tough, we understand that, obviously. It’s going to be a tough battle, but we’re a good team. Last time we were in LA, we didn’t play very good baseball. We expect to play better. It’ll be tough, but they’ve got Marquez (to deal with) and he’s really tough, also. It’s going to be a good game.”
Black also had kinds words from the former 1st rounder out of Vanderbilt University and turned the focus to his own young starter.
“He’s got a big arm. We’re going to see this kid for a while, as long as he stays healthy. This kid is a really good pitcher… He’s a number one pick, college pitcher, built the right way. I’ve seen him do some good things on the mound. It’s legit. We’re going to have to be ready. But hey, they’re going to have to be ready for our guy. He’s good, too. They’re going to see him for a long time as well. So it’s two of the best young starting pitchers in the big leagues pitching (Monday) in this type of game. It’s great.”
Matt Holliday, a man who’s no stranger to a tie-breaker game, responded to questions of the Dodgers on-field swagger and braggadocio.
“I think that rubs the other team the wrong way and it would be little more sweet to beat a team that’s a little more flamboyant, like they are. But that’s their style and this team has a little bit different style. Every year, I think teams take on different personalities and they’ve got plenty of that.”
If the players on the field aren’t frustrating enough, it’s the sound of Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.” punctuating a victory throughout Dodgers Stadium.
Clubhouse leader and longest tenured Rockies player, Carlos Gonzalez, got the final word on the ire that players and fans alike have toward the Los Angeles Dodgers when that song is played.
“I try to avoid it. I try to run really fast into the clubhouse when they play that stupid song. I don’t want to hear. Nobody wants to hear. Whenever they beat you at home, they have that song going on. It’s tradition and as an opponent, you don’t want to lose there.”
At 2:09 MST, it won’t matter what the pundits think or what the contents of the scouting report show. It will come down to which team can execute best.
To the winners go the spoils. If the Colorado Rockies have their way, they’ll be spoiling Los Angeles’ reign atop the NL West.