DENVER - Nolan Arenado strode to the plate in the bottom of the ninth, his Colorado Rockies down by one after the San Francisco Giants had staged a late comeback, and over 48,000 fans and 24 teammates rose to their feet hoping to see something that happens in less than one percent of major league at-bats; a home run.
Arenado was just a homer short of the cycle, an odd statistic that requires one to get every type of hit in a single game, something that has only been done eight times in the history of the franchise and less than 300 times in the game's very old history. Rarer still is the concept of a walk-off cycle. Not only must the exact right situation present itself, the player has to be able to deliver the goods under -- especially in this case -- an extraordinary amount of pressure.
But Arenado has never been known for sinking to pressure and has always been known for being able to deliver the goods. He is Colorado's King of Clutch, and this was the biggest swing of his career.
"That's number one," he said after the game about where this ranks on his all-time home run list. "This is one of the greatest moments of my career."
Like most things in baseball, such a grand moment came less by exact design and more from preparation meeting opportunity. The superstar third baseman says he had one thing in mind coming to the plate, "Winning the ballgame is number one. I was just trying to get the ball to the outfield. I know how good he is, I didn't want to get behind."
He admits he knew history was at stake, and if he hadn't, teammate Gerardo Parra -- known for his enthusiastic yet somehow calming presence -- made sure he did. "Parra was telling me if I hit a single just to run home," Arenado joked.
Once he swung, though, it all came into focus.
"I thought there was a chance, I hit it pretty good. I hadn't hit a homer in a while so I was kind nervous. Thank God it went out. "
Arenado has been significantly better for four years running now the higher leverage the situation is. There are some who believe that statistical reality is a random occurrence, but it seems like the man who received "MVP, MVP" chants from the home crowd after the game, has a mentality that allows him to rise to the occasion.
"I wanted that last at-bat," he said. "I want to be up in that situation. I'm not afraid."