Kyle Freeland narrowly outdueled Jon Lester in a pitcher’s duel, but it was a battle of bullpens that ultimately decided the fate of the Rockies and Cubs on Tuesday night (and early Wednesday morning here). Freeland tossed 6 2/3 shutout innings, yielding four hits and a walk while striking out six. He got into a couple of dicey situations but managed his way out of trouble each time. Jon Lester was a bit shaky to start the game but quickly settled down, giving up just the one first-inning run over six innings on four hits and a walk with nine punch-outs.
The Rockies’ first run came in the first inning after Charlie Blackmon walked, DJ LeMahieu hit a ground-rule double into the ivy in left-center, and Nolan Arenado lifted a sacrifice fly to right-center.
The Cubs didn’t get on the board until the bottom of the eighth, when Anthony Rizzo hit a two-out single. Terrance Gore pinch-ran for him and promptly stole second base, then came around to score on a Javier Báez double to left field against Adam Ottavino.
Both teams remained knotted at one run apiece until the 13th inning. For the Cubs, Jesse Chavez, Randy Rosario, Steve Cishek, Pedro Strop, Cole Hamels, and Justin Wilson combined for six scoreless innings of relief. On the Rockies’ side, after Adam Ottavino yielded his run in the eighth, Wade Davis, Seung Hwan Oh, Chris Rusin, and Scott Oberg combined for 3 1/3 scoreless frames to bring the game into the 13th.
The Rockies didn’t seem likely to build a rally after two quick outs to begin the top of the 13th frame. But Trevor Story was able to sneak a single between Kris Bryant and Báez into left field. Gerardo Parra moved Story all the way to third on a single to right field. Tony Wolters then played the role of hero, grounding a single up the middle to plate Story and break the 1-1 tie.
Oberg remained in the game for the bottom of the 13th. Drama immediately inserted itself as Oberg and Wolters got crossed up with what ended up being a fastball for ball three against Gore. The pitch ended up hitting home plate umpire Chris Guccione and appeared to nick Gore’s uniform. Gore was initially awarded first base, but replay review showed he was not hit and he came back to finish the at-bat. Oberg threw a slider low and away, and Gore swung for some ridiculous reason, striking out. Oberg then struck out Báez and Albert Almora, Jr. to defeat the Cubs 2-1 and advance to the NLDS.
Tuesday’s game set a record for the longest elimination game in baseball history. The Cubs fail to make it to the NLDS — actually the NLCS, if we’re being super-specific — for the first time since 2014. The Rockies are back in the NLDS for the first time since 2009. They will open Game 1 against the Brewers on Thursday at 5:07 PM ET. That game will be broadcast on FS1. The Brewers have to be happy the Rockies had to exhaust themselves just to get past the Cubs and they now have to travel once again.