CHICAGO – Tony Wolters waited and waited as the NL wild-card game went deep into Tuesday night. He stretched a couple of times and tried to figure out when he might get a chance to play.
When that opportunity arrived, he was ready.
Wolters hit a tiebreaking single with two outs in the 13th inning and the Colorado Rockies outlasted the Chicago Cubs 2-1 at Wrigley Field in the longest win-or-go-home postseason game in major league history.
“Probably the biggest hit I’ve ever had, that’s for sure,” he said after the 4-hour, 55-minute marathon.
The 26-year-old Wolters, claimed off waivers from Cleveland in 2016, entered as part of a double switch in the bottom of the 12th. The reserve catcher came up with runners at the corners and drove in Trevor Story with a liner back up the middle off losing pitcher Kyle Hendricks, quieting the crowd of 40,151 on a crisp fall night.
After playing its third big game over three days in three different cities, Colorado now heads to Milwaukee to open a best-of-five Division Series against the NL Central champion Brewers on Thursday at Miller Park.
“We didn’t make it easy on ourselves, that’s for sure,” Story said, “but we’re going to enjoy this one tonight and we’re definitely not done.”
Scott Oberg, the sixth Colorado pitcher, fanned Kris Bryant for the final out of the 12th and then struck out the side in the 13th to end the longest postseason game at 104-year-old Wrigley Field. Terrance Gore tried to sell that he was hit by a pitch, but was sent back to the plate after a replay review confirmed the initial call.
After Albert Almora Jr. struck out swinging for the final out, Wolters ran out and grabbed Oberg. They were soon joined by the rest of the excited Rockies in a rollicking purple mob near the mound.
Wolters got his first hit since Sept. 10 in his playoff debut, and it was just the second postseason game for Oberg. Previously, the longest winner-take-all games in the postseason were 12-inning affairs in the 2014 AL wild-card round and Game 7 of the 1924 World Series.
This one had pretty much everything, too. Hendricks was the third starting pitcher used by the Cubs, after Jon Lester worked six solid innings and Cole Hamels was pressed into action after the teams were tied at 1 through nine. Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado exchanged a hug with Javier Baez after he tagged the Chicago star in the 11th.
Colorado moved on to the NLDS for the first time since 2009. The Rockies lost to Arizona in the NL wild-card game a year ago.
Chicago finished with six hits and left 10 runners on base after managing only three hits in Monday’s 3-1 home loss to the Brewers in the NL Central tiebreaker.
“Yeah, we played that game a lot,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Believe me, it was on my mind for a large part of it.”
This time, it was Kyle Freeland cruising through Maddon’s lineup.
Starting on three days’ rest for the first time in the pros, Freeland struck out six in 6⅔ scoreless innings. The Denver native looked quite comfortable in his first career playoff appearance, helping his hometown team bounce back from Monday’s NL West tiebreaker loss to the Dodgers in Los Angeles.
Lester helped Chicago stick around by matching a career playoff high with nine strikeouts in his 26th postseason appearance.