|Arenado responded well to his benching the previous night.|
BY: ZACH MARBURGER
Nolan Arenado told reporters before yesterday’s game he was embarrassed by his lack of hustle in the Rockies’ win over the Pirates Friday.
Saturday, he jogged out of the batter’s box again. Everything worked out ok this time, because he kept jogging all the way home.
Arenado’s solo home run in the bottom of the seventh helped break the game wide open for the Rockies, who wiped Coors Field with Jeff Locke and the Pirates en route to their second straight 8-1 win.
In the series opener, manager Walt Weiss laid down the law with his young third baseman. It was clear that Weiss was making an example out of Arenado that served as a warning to the rest of the Rockies that lackadaisical play will not be tolerated no matter what the team’s record is.
But credit Weiss for not turning Arenado’s brain fart into a bigger deal than it really was. He slotted Arenado into the third spot in the lineup, and was rewarded with a three-hit, 2 RBI performance. Weiss was getting criticized a lot early in the season for not sticking up for his players on the field, and for not seeming more angry about the death-spiral his team was locked in. His calm, laid-back demeanor paid off this time around.
Arenado had plenty of help on offense. Charlie Blackmon, who went just 1-5, did his damage with his speed. His lone hit was a bunt single in the first, and he stole third base in the third to set up Josh Rutledge’s RBI single and the Rockies first run. It was Blackmon’s 19th stolen base of the season, and it’s important to keep in mind that he can still affect games in other ways even if he’s no longer hitting at an all-star clip.
As for Rutledge, he must love Pirates pitching – he has five hits and seven RBI’s in the first two games of the series.
The Rockies would tack on a second run in the fourth thanks to a Drew Stubbs home run – unfortunately, the center fielder twisted his ankle on the swing and had to leave the game. Hopefully the injury isn’t serious. Beyond never wanting to see someone get hurt, trade rumors have been floating around Stubbs for a while now, and an injury might kill a potential buyer’s interest, if his massive home/road splits (.356 with nine home runs at Coors, .229 with two home runs on the road) haven’t already.
On the bump, Tyler Matzek was a fielder’s dream, allowing just three hits and no runs over seven innings while striking out three. The concerns around his command have, so far, been overblown. He pitched to contact all game, and got some help from Nolan Arenado on a fantastic diving stab in the bottom of the fourth with two men on.
The only hiccup Matzek encountered was in the seventh, when he walked a batter and gave up a hard single Gregory Polanco. There again, Matzek allowed his defense to do his work for him when he induced a 4-6-3 double play off the bat of Pirates third baseman Brent Morel to end the inning.
From there, the Rockies offense poured it on. Corey Dickerson added a solo shot in the seventh, and Rutledge scored DJ LeMahieu and Ben Paulsen with a single in the eighth.
It was a balanced attack, as everyone in the lineup but Brandon Barnes and Wilin Rosario got a hit, and both walked. It’s interesting the team had Rosario at first base – after the game Weiss said it was nice to have position flexibility against left-handed pitching, but the team could be trying to make Rosario more appealing to other teams before the trade deadline expires. If so, it probably won’t work, as the bar for offense at first base is so much higher than at catcher. Rosario’s .238 batting average isn’t going to look any more appealing at the corner.
Other than a solo home run to Ike Davis in the bottom of the ninth, it was the second straight impressive performance against Pittsburgh by Colorado. Given the team’s road struggles, playing well at home take son an even greater performance, and the Rockies head into Sunday with a chance at a sweep.
Based on the pitching matchup, it won’t be an easy task. Franklin Morales gets the ball Sunday for Colorado against Edinson Volquez of the Pirates.
Zach Marburger is a transplant from Maryland who covers the Rockies and Nuggets as a staff writer at milehighsports.com. He also covers high school sports at CHSAAnow.com.
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