Another week, another look into the Denver sports scene by yours truly. I must admit that it had been a somewhat somber week here in Denver. Two days ago, the 1st, was a huge day in the Denver sports scene. #Game163 took place in Los Angeles early that day against the hated Dodgers. The day was concluded with a matchup at Mile High Stadium with another hated rival: the Kansas City Chiefs. We here in Colorado entered October 1st with much hope and high expectations. I cannot say we ended that day with the same attitude; however, last night happened. We’ll come back to that shortly. We’ll also continue to prepare for the Nuggets’ upcoming season as we profile another player. Strap in, this one may be rough and raw with recent emotion, heartbreak, and pure joy.
As stated above, the city of Denver (I daresay the whole state of Colorado) was electric on Monday. #Rocktober was finally here! Technically, I live about 45 minutes from the Northern outskirts of Denver, but the excitement in the city was still palpable from Greeley. The Rockies had already clinched their spot in the playoffs, but still had a meeting with the Dodgers to determine the winner of the NL West. I can neither overstate the excitement here in Denver nor can I overstate the disappointment that followed that game.
The Rockies would lose 5-2 to the Dodgers, which would allow the LA Dodgers to claim their sixth straight NL West title. What made it so disappointing this time was that it was so close that we (us in Denver) could taste it. In a past Mile High Review, I stated that the Rockies have taken us fans through varying degrees of both versions of disappointment. To be taken to the edge of elation and then to see them fall flat on their faces was nothing short of pure agony. To make matters worse, the Rockies had to turn right around and travel to Chicago for the Wild Card game. While we all had faith in our team, to say there wasn’t a change in the air from optimism to pessimism would be an understatement. Then, last night happened.
In a winner-take-all game for the ages, the Colorado Rockies defeated the Chicago Cubs 2-1 after 13 innings of just beautiful pitching. If you’re not a fan of pitching duels, this was not the game for you. While I do enjoy a good home run derby in a game, the postseason is about pitching, timely hitting, and great managerial moves. We had all that last night. Kyle Freeland of the Rockies pitched out of his mind. Freeland pitched 6 and 2/3 innings on short rest, allowing only four hits while striking out six with one walk and no runs allowed. Jon Lester was no slouch either. He went six innings himself; also allowing four hits but striking out nine while also giving up a run. It came down to the bullpens and both were exceptional.
The Cubs manager, in the 8th, brought on Gore as a pinch runner. Gore would easily steal second and then score on a Javier Baez RBI double. Both bullpens would get into a little trouble but the game-winning moments for the Rockies would happen in the top of the 13th. Trevor Story (what a season he’s had) and Geraldo Parra would both single with two outs. Tony Wolters, who had recently been swapped into the game the previous inning, would then single to drive in Story. The Rockies would have another opportunity to increase the lead, but it would stand at 2-1 going into the bottom half of the inning.
Because there always seems to be controversy in the postseason, Gore (the previous hero) appeared to be hit by a pitch and was awarded first. Upon further review, it was shown that he was not hit and had to go back to the plate with a full count. He would strike out on the next pitch. As an aside, much respect to the umpire, who actually did get hit on the pitch, and stayed in the game. Colorado would go onto strike out the last batter and celebrate a well-deserved win. The Rockies will now travel to Milwaukee to face the Brewers in their first NLDS trip since 2009. It’s a tall task but the Rockies are no strangers to hard work and will be biting at the chance to face the Dodgers in the NLCS (assuming they make it).
The misery of the Mile High Review continues this week as we look at the Broncos. Now 2-2, the Denver Broncos had an opportunity to improve to 3-1 and beat the best team in the NFL in the Kansas City Chiefs. They failed to do both. The gameplan to start the game was flawless. The Broncos clearly had Patrick “Showtime” Mahomes feeling the pressure, and I mean that quite literally. Mahomes was only sacked once but when the Broncos were thriving, Mahomes was rattled. Denver also ran the ball well. Lindsay and Freeman were pounding the Chiefs’ front seven with chunk plays that opened things up for Case Keenum to take some chances downfield. Then, the wheels came off.
The Broncos were able to hold Travis Kelce without a reception in the first half. A lot of this was due to the brilliant game plan of putting Chris Harris, Jr. on Kelce a few times. For reasons unknown, Vance Joseph went away from this in the second half. Kelce and Harris then ate the Broncos’ lunch in the second half; particularly Kelce. Kelce finished the game with seven receptions for 78 yards and a touchdown. VJ refused to give the linebackers any help on Kelce and they paid the price for it. Joseph and the Broncos’ coaching staff also got away from the run game.
They had a 23-13 lead and could have salted the game away, but they didn’t. By the time they did try to return to it, it was too late. Case Keenum definitely has his faults. He did badly miss Demaryius Thomas on the potential game-winning drive. No excuses for Case there; however, the lion’s share of the blame for this loss goes on the coaches. They refused to adapt when they needed to. They got away from the things that made them successful when they shouldn’t have. There is much frustration here in Denver. If Vance Joseph is not on the hot seat by now, then John Elway needs to be on the hot seat as well. The team is talented. They just need the right leader.
Let’s end this on a high note. Now, we’ll continue to profile the finest of the Denver Nuggets. We are looking ahead to the start of the NBA season, which is fast approaching. Last week, we looked at the Serbian god, Nikola Jokic. This week, we look at his loyal archer: The Blue Arrow. For those unfamiliar, the Blue Arrow is none other than Jamal Murray. Coming into his third year, this point guard from Kentucky is turning in the playmaker that the Nuggets hoped he would.
Like Jokic, last year was the best year of this guard’s young career. Murray average 16.7 PPG on 45% shooting (37.8% from deep) and 90.5% from the charity stripe. The Blue Arrow is not your traditional point guard, but who is anymore? While I would not say he’s in the conversation of the best shooter in the league, but he certainly has that potential. If you’re looking for someone to spearhead a run and gun offense, the Blue Arrow is your weapon of choice. He can catch and shoot, shoot off the dribble, and blow past defenders. No, he’s not afraid to venture into the land of the giants. Muray is similar to Kyrie with strong ability to finish at the rim.
At 6’4”, he’s a new age guard with size. This season, we look for him to work on his passing and defense, but I wouldn’t call them liabilities. They’re more like opportunities to take a step closer to dominance. The future is bright for this young man.
That’s all for this week. Be sure to check back next week as I will continue to profile Nuggets players. We will also be following the postseason of the Rockies. Don’t forget to check out me out on Twitter at @5280Keith. Check out the amazing content of Nuts and Bolts Sports at the locations below:
Random Colorado Fact:
The first Teddy Bear was invented in Colorado when the maids at The Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs crafted it to give to a famous visitor – Theodore Roosevelt. (www.outtherecolorado.com)