LOS ANGELES — The Colorado Rockies walked into Dodger Stadium with a surprising amount of confidence for a team that got blown out on Wednesday by the last-place team in the National League West and stumbled to eight games over .500 for the first time since May 13.
Perhaps that last part should’ve told the rest of us something; that a feeling of desperation revolving around a team that has stayed comfortably over .500 and in position for the postseason all year might have been overkill.
“The way we played this series, we believe this is who we are,” Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado said after an 8-1 pounding of the Los Angeles Dodgers to complete a four-game sweep of the team with the best record in baseball. “We controlled ourselves very well.”
The last bit perhaps sheds some light on why the club has lost ground in the Wild Card standings in recent weeks after getting off to a blistering 47-26 start and, aside from an eight-game losing skid in late June, keeping a steady pace. Just about every position player, heading into the weekend, looked like they were pressing all at once. It looked like the moment was too big for a team chock-full of players who haven’t been in a postseason race.
But with a reeling Dodgers team looming, the Rockies pulled it together and stuck to the mantra of their manager.
“There's something to playing this game in a relaxed, yet focused and intense, way,” Bud Black said prior to the game. “Two or three weeks ago, I saw some signs of our guys trying too hard to get it going. That works against you in this game.”
Mark Reynolds, who drove the nail into the Dodgers’ coffin with a grand slam in the eighth inning off of highly touted rookie Walker Buehler, echoed that point after the game.
“It's a tough game,” Reynolds said. “Look at the Dodgers: they couldn't lose, and now they can't win. It's a tough game to stay consistent at.”
Reynolds would certainly know. In the series opener on Thursday, he struck out twice with the bases loaded and did so again in the first inning Sunday. Finally, on his fourth such opportunity, the tides turned.
"I had the bases loaded all series, man. I just couldn't find the barrel,” Reynolds quipped. “The other guys picked me up the first couple games of the series but I was able to do it there. Needed that one."
The same could be said about the entire team. After hitting just .206/.323/.309 with runners in scoring position from Aug. 1 through Sept. 3, the Rockies exploded to the tune of a .271/.390/.542 line—in a staggering 59 chances—in four games against the Dodgers.
The shift in RISP performance began, though, in the Rockies’ series win over the Giants, when the team collectively took better at-bats, Black explained. Colorado managed a .286 batting in those situations against San Francisco, though with only a few truly damaging hits like the many the Rockies came up with at Chavez Ravine.
It was only a matter of time, though, according to Sunday’s hero.
“We know we have a good team,” Reynolds said. “Everyone's just trying to gain a little confidence. Once we got a few hits with guys in scoring position, it was contagious.”
“We came to play and it was a good series for us.”