Newman: As Rockies return to Wrigley, they need to remember (and stash) some of last season’s wild-card magic for down the road

CHICAGO — The last time the Rockies were at Wrigley Field, they played deep into the night, grinding through 13 innings and nearly five hours of baseball to earn a wild-card win in the longest postseason elimination game in major league history.

A lot has changed for the Rockies since that late October night, yet at the same time, the club is defined by its resolve. After an atrocious start, the Rockies have stayed relevant with a 9-1 homestand. At this point, with the Dodgers looking like a lock to cruise to a seventh consecutive division title, Colorado is playing, and seasoning itself for, staying in contention for a late-season run to the postseason.

As Colorado begins a six-game road trip with the aim of building on its momentum, it’ll need to remember the magic of that wild-card win — even if the vibe of this season’s team is much different.

Consider: Despite a horrendous start, a changing of the guard at the No. 1 spot in the rotation, several role changes in the field and a few young players who are carrying a much heavier load in 2019, manager Bud Black has the Rockies square in the wild-card race. And the narratives for Colorado this season in many ways contrast to the team’s accomplishment here last October.

Struggling southpaw Kyle Freeland, the workhorse of that historic night with 6 ⅔ scoreless innings, has been demoted to Triple-A as German Marquez is now Colorado’s unquestioned ace. Plus Jon Gray, who was left off the postseason roster in 2018, has done his part to prop up an inconsistent rotation.

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And remember catcher Tony Wolters, the surprise hero of the wild-card game with his game-winning RBI-single with two outs and two strikes in the 13th? Perhaps that night was a turning point for him. He has emerged as one of the best catchers in the National League this season, with whispers of legitimate all-star candidacy after hitting .170 last year.

Yet throughout all the change from when the Rockies were here last October — expected (fresh faces at second base and in the outfield) and unexpected (Freeland’s struggles) — Colorado is flashing the same grit that a year ago led to that wild-card win.

Every season’s a new season. Every team is different from year to year. But here, within The Friendly Confines, the Rockies should take a good look around and remember what happened on Oct. 2, 2018, and into the wee hours of Oct. 3.

Colorado needed everything it had, plus some, to win that night. That has to be a theme which continues this year as the Rockies fight for another likely win-or-go home opportunity in early October.