Baseball’s postseason has a way of finding the Tony Wolters of the world. Or maybe it’s the Tony Wolters of the world who just happen to find the postseason.
We’ll probably never know which it is, but we do know another unlikely postseason hero was found Tuesday night as the Colorado Rockies outlasted the Chicago Cubs 2-1 in an NL wild-card game that certainly lived up to its name.
It was 13 innings, filled with a first-inning run-in with the Wrigley Field ivy, a catcher’s interference, a bizarre hug on the basepaths and an attempt by one of the Cubs’ final batters of the night to fake a hit by pitch.
It was neither Nolan Arenado nor Charlie Blackmon nor Carlos Gonzalez who had the biggest moment for the Rockies. It was the third-string catcher. The guy who hadn’t had a hit since Sept. 10. The guy who hit .170 this season. The guy who, in the 13th inning, broke a stubborn 1-1 tie with a single that scored Trevor Story and would eventually send the Rockies to the National League Division Series against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Tony Wolters is his name and he gets in line with people like Francisco Cabrera in the 1992 NLCS and Christian Colon in the 2015 World Series — they’re the heroes you’d never expect but, at the same time, absolutely love to see happen.
Wolters is 26. He played six seasons in the minors with the Indians before being claimed on waivers by the Rockies, where he’s been a backup since 2016. Colorado manager Bud Black likens Wolters to the team’s little brother.
“They love Tony because Tony truly cares about each and every one of those guys and those guys feel that,” Black said. “He’s a great teammate, he’s unselfish. He just cares about the Rockies, which is awesome. It’s great when those types of players respond and do something like this. I mean it’s the little brother, man, doing something great and they love it.”
A reporter asked Wolters if this was the biggest hit he’d ever had in a baseball game. Wolters was dumbstruck.
“Of course,” he said. “Are you kidding me?”
Wolters was the third catcher the Rockies used Tuesday night after starter Chris Iannetta and Drew Butera. In most cases, if you see your third catcher in a do-or-die playoff game, that’s not a good sign. In this case, it was because the Cubs and Rockies stalled at delivering a death blow. Each time a team got close to pulling ahead, baseball inevitably intervened — a key strikeout, an inopportune groundout. It was already the longest do-or-die postseason game in baseball history before Wolters did his part.
“I stretched about four times throughout the game,” Wolters said. “I was thinking I was going to get put in with a double switch or something. Our guys that play every day, I want to do something for them because they’re grinding every day.”
Wolters was switched into the game in the 12th inning, going behind the plate when Scott Oberg took the mound. Wolters came to bat in the 13th after two-out singles from Story and Gerardo Parra off Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks, who had been deployed as Chicago’s eighth pitcher of the night.
“When I get put in there, I expect myself to do my job,” Wolters said. “So the first changeup he threw to me I could have swung twice. And then the second one, I actually got a piece of it and put it in the hole, so it felt pretty good. It’s a feeling I’m not going to forget.”
He expects himself to get the job done, but it’s not exactly a diss to think that Wolters was pretty low on the potential hero list for Colorado. But that’s what make baseball magical, isn’t it? Sometimes it’s the guy you’d never expect, the guy who hadn’t produced in so long but whose confidence never wavered.
“These guys keep me confident,” Wolters said. “They’re my brothers and they’re my support group. They’re my second family. This game can kick your butt sometimes. There’s a lot of adversity, but I’m not ever going to let that take me down. So I think that adversity makes you stronger.”
That adversity also makes moments like this that much sweeter.
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