DENVER — In Sunday’s 11-4 win over the Chicago Cubs, the Colorado Rockies showed off many of the reasons for fans to be optimistic about the future, and a couple areas where progress is still required.
In the scheme of things for 2016, the win meant that the Rockies secured a winning homestand, taking series from both the Cubs and Washington Nationals, who currently hold the two best records in baseball. It also gave the Rockies a win over Chicago in the season series, having taken two of three from them at Wrigley Field in April. Finally, it improved the Rockies to 60-64 on the season; in three of the past four seasons, they failed to eclipse 50 wins in their first 124 games.
“I think it speaks volumes,” Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. “You’ve got to play really well to beat clubs like that, because there’s no weaknesses with that club.”
The catalyst for Sunday’s win was Nolan Arenado, who broke out of a slump by going 4-for-5 with a pair of home runs to re-take the National League lead in homers and runs batted in. Arenado said he worked with assistant hitting coach Garret Carson after Saturday’s 9-2 loss to Chicago.
“We hit late after the game last night for a little bit,” Arenado said. “After last night I was able to sleep better with what I worked on and I applied it today and it worked out.”
Arenado said he felt like he was overstriding during his slump, but got back into a comfort zone today.
“I was like, ‘That’s me right there.’” Arenado said. “I’m a pull hitter and all my home runs are usually pull, you know, and I know that when I’m going good I can pull the ball with backspin and that’s what I did today.”
Arenado’s first home run, a three-run shot down the left field line, was the catalyst for a seven-run first inning for the Rockies that included a two-run double from Tony Wolters and a two-run single from Jorge De La Rosa.
“I was just looking for a fastball right there,” De La Rosa said. “He threw it and I just got lucky.”
The hit was De La Rosa’s sixth in 30 at bats this season and brought him to five runs batted in on the year, a far cry from when he went just 2-for-52 in 2013.
Though he produced at the plate, the bulk of De La Rosa’s contribution came, as expected, on the mound. De La Rosa pitched eight innings, allowing two runs on four hits with a walk and six strikeouts. He threw 107 pitches, 70 for strikes. It was his longest outing since he pitched eight innings against the Dodgers in a 2-0 loss on September 16, 2015.
“Everything was working really good,” De La Rosa said. “Curveball, changeup, fastball, good locations, too.”
As important as De La Rosa’s run prevention was the fact that just one reliever, rookie Matt Carasiti, was used, giving the majority of the bullpen a much-needed day off after a high-scoring week at Coors Field.
“If you have to go to the pen, it affects you for the next couple, three days,” Weiss said. “Hopefully now, only having to use the one guy, we’re set up for the next couple, three days.”
Also of note was the fact that DJ LeMahieu was 3-for-4 with his career-high 10th home run, moving into a tie with Daniel Murphy for the NL lead in batting average at .345.
There were only a couple of rough moments for the Rockies on Sunday, as both of the runs De La Rosa allowed came on home runs from Addison Russell and in the ninth inning both Carasiti and Cristhian Adames, in at third base for a resting Arenado, forgot to cover home on a pop up between home and first, allowing Rizzo to score Chicago’s fourth run.
Despite the few slip-ups, the Rockies will head into this week’s road trip to Milwaukee and Washington a confident bunch, at least if you believe Arenado.
“We went out on the road on a high note,” Arenado said. “Hopefully we can keep playing good ball.”