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Rockies take step forward in year that finishes on sour note

October 8, 2018
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Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story heads down the stairs to the clubhouse after Game 3 of a baseball National League Division Series against the Milwaukee Brewers Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018, in Denver. The Brewers won 6-0 to sweep the series in three games and move on to the National League Championship Series. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

DENVER (AP) — The immediate picture for the Colorado Rockies looks grim: a slumping offense that couldn’t support solid pitching led to a quick end of Rocktober .

The larger view, now that’s one third baseman Nolan Arenado prefers to take with him into the offseason.

Although the season ended with a three-game sweep by Milwaukee in the NL Division Series, the Rockies took a step forward in 2018. A year ago, they were eliminated in the NL wild-card game. This season, they beat Chicago in the wild-card contest to make it to the division series, only to run into the Brewers and their dominant arms.

Colorado (91-72) won the second-most games in franchise history and came one victory short of its first NL West title. The bats simply went silent at the wrong time.

“It’s on the offense,” said Arenado, whose team hit a franchise-worst .256 in the regular season. “We couldn’t get anything going. But it was a solid year. We played really well.”

On a gloomy Sunday at Coors Field, the Rockies were eliminated when they were held to four hits in a 6-0 loss. Fans booed.

Arenado gets it. The Rockies hit .146 against Milwaukee and scored in one of 28 innings.

“It’s October. You’ve got to do something,” said Arenado, who was kept in the park after hitting an NL-leading 38 homers in the regular season. “I wasn’t able to.”

Big decisions loom for general manager Jeff Bridich: Possibly a long-term deal with Arenado, eligible to become a free agent after the 2019 season. Second baseman DJ LeMahieu, outfielder Carlos Gonzalez and 38-year-old Matt Holliday, who was recalled by the team on Aug. 23 and hit .283 down the stretch, all can go free in a few weeks.

“I’ve left every season knowing I’m probably going to come back and probably going to play a lot,” LeMahieu said. “The thought it might be my last game as a Rockie, obviously, it’s a little bit more emotional.”

The Rockies were eight games out of the NL West lead on June 28. The team went 52-29 the rest of the way, including 9-1 down the stretch, to force a one-game tiebreaker for the division title. It was the start of quite an arduous trip — to LA, where the Rockies lost 5-2, and on to Chicago for a 2-1 win in 13 innings to advance. Then, off Milwaukee and finally back home.

That was a lot of miles.

“Rough on everybody,” Gonzalez said. “But we grind all year and everybody should feel proud.”

Along the way, Colorado developed a young rotation that featured hard-throwing German Marquez and Denver native Kyle Freeland, whose 2.40 ERA at Coors Field was the lowest for a Rockies starting pitcher.

“Last year we got a little taste of the postseason with the wild card and this year we got into the NLDS and kind of showed the world what this team is capable of,” Freeland said. “It’s very exciting to see what can come.”

Things to know after the Rockies made back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time in franchise history:

STANDINGS RECAP: The Rockies spent 29 days either leading or tied for the top spot in the NL West. They were all over the standings, including in fourth place for a total of 22 days. “Our guys played their butts off, man,” manager Bud Black said. “They really did.”

HOME GROWN: The Rockies became the first team since the 2011 Tampa Bay Rays to exclusively use starting pitchers who never played for another major league team, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The starters went 59-43 with 883 strikeouts and logged 84 quality starts. “They pitched great,” Arenado said. “They gave us a chance to win.”

ALL-STARS: Shortstop Trevor Story, outfielder Charlie Blackmon and Arenado made the All-Star team this season. They struggled in four games during the postseason, going a combined 10 for 49 with three RBIs.

SEE YOU NEXT SPRING?: LeMahieu hopes to be back next season. Arenado vows to be back — possibly with a new deal. “This is a business. I know things can get a little weird with that side of stuff,” Arenado said. “I expect to be here.”

THE NUMBERS: Marquez set a franchise-record with 230 strikeouts. ... Story led the NL in extra-base hits with 85. ... Closer Wade Davis led the NL with 43 saves. ... Adam Ottavino had 112 Ks, the most by a reliever in team history. ... The Rockies batted .225 on the road, their lowest mark in franchise history.

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