ATLANTA — Seasons go to die in the strangest places. And under the most unusual circumstances.
In a season that has alternated between promising and frustrating, the Rockies rallied, competed and buried their hands in their faces, falling 9-8 in 10 innings Monday night to the Atlanta Braves in one of the season's most entertaining and disappointing games.
This was 2013, the trailer.
"You can't look at it like the season is over," said Rockies left fielder Carlos Gonzalez, who went 5-for-5 at the plate, tying a career high for hits in a game. "Baseball is already hard enough without thinking like that. We have to keep playing hard. We haven't gone on a run. Hopefully when we do, it's not too late."
Colorado ditched its Michael Bolton offense — no more soft rock, please — by scoring five runs in three innings. They played terrific defense, sprinkling web gems throughout. But in the biggest moments, they failed miserably.
Edgmer Escalona, who has been impossible to trust since returning from an elbow injury, walked leadoff hitter Dan Uggla in the 10th. Rather than bunt, as the Rockies did multiple times, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez gave shortstop Andrelton Simmons the green light. Simmons lined an 0-2 fastball to the left-center gap, scoring Uggla as the Braves' dugout emptied in delight.
The Rockies' resilience in the ninth forced the Braves to provide drama. Colorado tied the game with Carlos Gonzalez's single. CarGo also stole two bases, becoming the first Rockie with four consecutive 20-home run, 20-steal seasons. But Todd Helton couldn't capitalize against lefty Scott Downs, who came from the tarmac to Turner Field, arriving by trade from the Los Angeles Angels before the game. With bases loaded, Helton lined out to Downs on the first pitch.
This matchup would not have mattered if not for the inexplicable meltdown earlier.
In an unspeakably bad third inning, third baseman Nolan Arenado booted a routine groundball, sprinkling lighter fluid on the charcoals of the Braves' grilling.
This wasn't so much as a game as a reality show. It was impossible to turn away because someone might say something, or do something that was odd or unexpected. The Rockies, who were down to room service as the highlight of the evening, didn't go away easily.
The Rockies want to believe they are in the playoff race, but that's really just unicorns and rainbows as long as they aspire to mediocrity. Until they reach .500 again — they are 51-56 — it's hard to take them seriously as contenders. The math is blunt and sobering.
They fell a season-high 6½ games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are so hot they won Sunday despite striking out 20 times. Let's do the math, to paint the picture that has developed over the last month.
Since June 22, the Dodgers are 26-6. The Rockies rank second in the National League West during that stretch with a 14-18 record. To reach 88 wins, the likely minimum threshold to claim the division, the Rockies would have to go 37-18 over their last 55 games. To post their first winning record since 2010, a 31-24 mark is required.
Jorge De La Rosa picked a bad time to have his worst game in two months. Arenado's error only pushed him more deeply into the quicksand. De La Rosa was missing high frequently, and was punished. The Braves racked him for six runs (three earned) on five hits, sending 11 hitters to the plate in the third. The inning spun out of control when Arenado couldn't handle Evan Gattis' one-out, bases-loaded groundball.
"I have no excuses," De La Rosa said. "I left the ball up, and they have a lot of good hitters."