Rockies lose season finale on Josh VanMeter’s walk-off homer – The Denver Post

PHOENIX — Rockies veteran right fielder Charlie Blackmon watched most of Sunday’s season finale here from the dugout at Chase Field.

Rockies manager Bud Black’s plan was to give Blackmon, along with star shortstop Trevor Story, the day off.

It didn’t work out that way.

After Colorado blew a 4-2 lead to Arizona in the eighth when reliever Tyler Kinley faltered, Blackmon was called on to pinch-hit in the ninth. He singled, but the Rockies failed to score.

With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, second baseman Josh VanMeter blasted a walk-off homer on Carlos Estevez’s 3-2 fastball. It was the first walk-off homer of VanMeter’s career.

The 5-4 loss to the 110-loss Diamondbacks was a fitting end to the Rockies’ frustrating season.

Sunday’s game, of course, was just a single snapshot of the team’s big picture. The Rockies finished 74-87, their third consecutive losing season. They were in fourth or fifth place in the National League West for all but four games. They were never a postseason contender.

Blackmon, 35, has a player option on his contract for 2022 ($21 million) and ’23 (currently valued at $13 million, plus incentives). He made it clear before Sunday’s game that he’s not going anywhere.

So what is the 35-year-old’s view of the franchise, going forward?

“It’s hard to significantly improve from one year to the next with the same players, right?” Blackmon said. “I don’t think we have a bad group of players, and we certainly played really well, at times.

“I think we are very talented. And I think we played pretty well, the last couple of weeks. Does that translate into playing really well all year, next year? I hope so.”

Since making his big-league debut in 2011, Blackmon has been to the postseason only twice, in 2017-18. That’s not nearly enough to satisfy the four-time all-star.

“That’s why we’re here, to make the playoffs. I want us to be a really good team,” Blackmon said. “It’s frustrating for me when I haven’t played as well as I wanted to, and we didn’t make the playoffs. So that’s a personal responsibility. I feel like I have to do better to give us a shot.

“So I get kind of frustrated watching a lot of the same teams play on TV in October. I want to be out there.”

Statistically, Blackmon had a down year. He hit .269 with 13 home runs and an OPS of .759. His career average is .300 and his career OPS is .854. He hit 32 home runs as recently as 2019.

“The ball has definitely changed. Absolutely, no doubt it’s changed across the league, all of the power, all of the averages are down,” said Blackmon, adding that he felt good, physically, for most of the season.

“I didn’t produce as much as I wanted to, but I need to see how I stacked up against the rest of the league. Then I’ll make an honest evaluation of how I did.”

Story made a grand entrance at Chase Field in his big-league debut on April 4, 2016. He hit two home runs off Diamondbacks ace Zack Greinke that day.

But in what was very likely his final game in a Rockies uniform, Story was a spectator. He’ll be a free agent and although he said he’s open to signing with a number of teams, the Rockies don’t appear to be in the mix.

Before Sunday’s game, he had only good things to say about the Rockies, but he also made it clear that playing for a contender tops his wish list.

“Being in the postseason, that’s what shapes everything for me,” he said. “Having been there two out of the first three years I was here … that truly shaped me. Being there and feeling that atmosphere and the feeling that gives you … there is nothing better than that.”

But the Rockies will have to wait until next year. Again.

They open the 2022 season on March 31, at Los Angeles, against the Dodgers.


End of the Road

The Rockies finished their 2021 season with a 5-4 walk-off loss to Arizona on Sunday. A look at some final numbers:

Record: 74-87, fourth in the National League West , 32 ½ games out of first place

Winning percentage: .460, 13th-best in the franchise’s 29 seasons

Road record: 26-54, fourth-worst in franchise history

Team batting average: .249, lowest in franchise history

Team ERA: 4.82, 10th-lowest in franchise history

Home run leader: C.J. Cron, 28

Batting average leader: Brendan Rodgers, .284

ERA leader (starter): Kyle Freeland, 4.33

# ERA leader (reliever): Robert Stephenson, 3.13

# Minimum 40 innings pitched