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Colorado Rockies role players step up in doubleheader split

The Rockies remain two games over .500 against the Giants this year thanks to the performances of players the team definitely wasn't -- but maybe should be -- counting on.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Whether it's pitching, offense or other facets of baseball, the Colorado Rockies haven't done much of anything right lately.

Good pitching performances on the last road trip and in the first series of the current homestand were squandered by poor offensive outputs. Offensive outbursts in the first two games of the Rockies' series against the defending World Series-champion San Francisco Giants were rendered meaningless by a pitching staff that allowed double-digit runs.

And on the rare occasion both of those things are going well, baserunning mistakes usually rear their ugly head.

Simply put, baseball hasn't been a whole lot of fun for the Rockies lately. But a series of recent moves combined with some rest-inspired lineup tinkering from manager Walt Weiss are beginning to turn the tide in the fun department.

"it’s been rough but it’s nothing we can’t fix," recently promoted outfielder Brandon Barnes told Purple Row's Drew Creasman earlier this week. "We need to have fun," Barnes added. "This game is supposed to be fun."

Though the Rockies dropped Game 1 of the doubleheader on Saturday, it wasn't without a fight. Despite trailing early, 7-1, Colorado lost by just two runs thanks to a couple of late rallies. Ben Paulsen, called up from Triple-A Albuquerque not long before Barnes, had a pair of hits -- including a home run -- in the afternoon tilt.

Many other players whom the Rockies probably weren't counting on to be regular contributors followed Paulsen's lead in Game 2.

David Hale, specifically on the roster because of a rule in place that allows teams to use 26 players for the second game of a doubleheader, pitched admirably in the nightcap, allowing just two earned runs -- and perhaps, more importantly, no walks -- in 6⅔ innings. Hale whiffed only two batters but induced nine ground-ball outs and worked efficiently overall, throwing 66 of 97 pitches for strikes.

If Jordan Lyles, who was bothered by a toe injury in Game 1, is forced to miss some time beyond this weekend, look for Hale to stick around and get another start or two at least.

Daniel Descalso also came up big, smacking a two-run homer in the sixth inning and adding a third RBI on a productive out. Descalso, incredibly, has hit the same number of home runs and walked the same number of times as Troy Tulowitzki this season. And he's done it in roughly 90 fewer plate appearances.

Paulsen and Michael McKenry were key, too. Paulsen followed his strong Game 1 by walking and driving in a run while McKenry dished out a couple of hits.

And then, once again, there was Barnes.

The 29-year-old outfielder finished with a couple of hits in the nightcap and now has seven knocks in 10 at-bats since being promoted. Barnes' seven hits are more than Drew Stubbs had all season before accepting a demotion to the minors last week.

Barnes, the Rockies' top pinch hitter a year ago, was barely cracking .200 in Triple-A this year when he was recalled by the Rockies. Some of the struggles were inevitable for a guy who entered Saturday a .246/.290/.369 career hitter, but Barnes has also been adjusting to some changes with his swing.

"In spring training I had a big leg kick but I fell out of rhythm," Barnes said. "I couldn't find where I was landing, so we kind of modified it into a toe tap."

Who knows if the changes will help Barnes morph into a better offensive player in the long run, but one thing is for sure: He brings something sorely missed by the Rockies offense either way.

"I feel like I can help in any way if I go out there and play, Barnes quipped. "The energy I bring, getting these guys going ... I don’t let these guys slack. We don’t have time. We're going out there to win."

Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez and Nolan Arenado are going to continue to receive most of the attention and accolades for what they bring to the Rockies. And, that's fine; the trio of proven stars deserves that treatment. But if Colorado can get good play from the likes of Barnes, Descalso, Paulsen and McKenry going forward, that may be just as important given the team's depth and injury issues.