Rockies blow chances, lose to Marlins as wild-card race tightens

After Monday night’s game at chilly Coors Field, several Rockies, including manager Bud Black, referred to baseball as “a game of inches.”

And those inches added up to a huge 5-4 loss to Miami, putting more pressure on the Rockies’ quest for their first playoff appearance in eight years. The Rockies have now lost six of their last eight games, and have lost four consecutive times to the Marlins.

The Chicago Cubs, at least, came to the Rockies’ wild-card aid, routing St. Louis 10-2 on Monday, keeping the Cardinals 2½ games behind Colorado. Milwaukee, off on Monday, moved to within 1½ games for the National League’s second wild card.

Baseball’s cruel inch game cost the Rockies dearly in the Marlins’ four-run fourth. That’s when the Miami solved starter Tyler Chatwood and took full advantage of Ian Desmond’s misplay of a scorching line drive to left field.

A hit off a swinging bunt by Marcell Ozuna began the onslaught, and it gained momentum when Justin Bour lashed a single to right. J.T. Realmuto’s chopper found daylight up the middle and chased home the first run. After the game, Chatwood said he thought he had induced a double play out of Realmuto’s grounder. It was not to be.

Miam’s rally continued when Derek Dietrich packed the bases full with another single. Up stepped Miguel Rojas, whose screaming liner sailed over Desmond’s head and fell at the base of the left-field wall. By the time Desmond recovered, Rojas had a three-run double and the Rockies were in deep trouble. Rojas’ four RBIs on the night were a career high.

“I jumped up and when I came down I thought the ball was in my glove,” Desmond said. “I looked in my glove and saw it wasn’t there, so I turned around and picked it up.”

According to Statcast, the ball came off Dietrich’s bat 105 mph before it glanced off Desmond’s glove.

“A game of inches, isn’t it?” Black said. “That ball was smoked. I haven’t seen the reply, but it looked like it hit (Desmond’s) glove and maybe beat him, but from my vantage point I couldn’t tell. But it was a bullet, and he made a nice, valiant effort by jumping, but it just tipped off his glove.”

Make no mistake about it, this was a big game that got away a number of times. Fittingly, it ended with Charlie Blackmon lining into a double play to first baseman Tyler Moore in the ninth.

After the Rockies dramatically escaped a no-out, based-loaded jam in the top of the eighth, it seemed poised for a late-game comeback, but Marlins rookie reliever Drew Steckenrider whiffed Gerardo Parra, Desmond and Trevor Story with ease in the bottom of the frame.

The Rockies had crept to within a run with a two-run seventh, the fuse lit by Jonathan Lucroy’s one-out, solo homer. A single by pinch-hitter Raimel Tapia and back-to-back walks by Blackmon and DJ LeMahieu brought Nolan Arenado to the plate with the bases full. The fans screamed for a grand slam, or at least a two-run single from the MVP candidate, but Arenado had to settle for a sacrifice fly to center for his 127th RBI of the season. The rally died one run short when Mark Reynolds popped out.

The Rockies finished the night 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

“They got the key hit and we were unable to,” Black said, repeating a refrain he’s spoken many times during the second half of the season.

Relievers Chris Rusin and Carlos Estevez kept the Rockies’ chances afloat in a dramatic eighth. The Marlins loaded the bases on a single and two walks off reliever Scott Oberg, but Rusin induced two forceouts at home on grounders by Moore and Dee Gordon. Estevez got slugger Giancarlo Stanton — he of 57 home runs — to chop the ball back to the mound.

“That was clutch pitching,” Black said.