Kids' Stuff: Rockies' Youngsters Developing Into Key Factors
A year ago, it was the emergence of the young arms -- that under-30 rotation anchored by Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela and German Marquez -- that was critical for the Rockies to claim a wild-card spot in the post-season.
Now, it's time for the young bats -- the likes of Raimel Tapia, David Dahl and Ryan McMahon -- to assert themselves.
The Rockies do, after all, frequently post a lineup in which Charlie Blackmon, at the age of 32, and Nolan Arenado, at the age of 28, are the elder statesmen.
And the new kids on the roster are making their presence felt. Ask the D-backs. Arizona was on the verge of a weekend sweep of the three-game series at Coors Field. One Arizona media member, in fact, tweeted as the game on Sunday when into the bottom of the eighth, "Diamondbacks are six outs away from a five-game winning streak."
Emphasis past tense. After the Rockies eighth-inning uprising, the D-backs went to bed Sunday night 135 outs away from a five-game winning streak. For the first time since Aug. 17, 2014, the Rockies rallied from a deficit of at least four runs in the eighth inning or later, a five-run eighth-inning lifting them to an 8-7 victory.
And who was in the middle of all the action?
The 24-year-old duo of Dahl and McMahon with 25-year-old Tapia mixed in are making their presence felt, and never was it more obvious than that eighth-inning rally where they showed the patience and determination it took for the Rockies to overcome a 7-3 deficit, and leave the D-backs with a loss when leading after seven innings for only the second time in 17 such situations this season.
It started with Dahl drawing a bases-loaded walk, forcing in the rally's first run, and then Tapia tripling to empty the bases and tie the score, and McMahon delivering the game-winning single.
"That's confidence and awareness of the situation," said manager Bud Black. "I think David's at-bat probably eased (the pressure on Tapia) a little bit."
As Dahl expalined, "I stayed clam. ... I passed it to the next guy."
That next guy was Tapia, and his triple, in turn, allowed McMahon to relax.
"He had an amazing at-bat," said McMahon, "and hustled his butt to third. He did that and it took all the weight off my shoulders."
It was a sign of growth for Tapia, who had big-league stints the past three years, but compiled only 223 at-bats in 117 games. This year, though, he has pushed his way into more regular playing time, and it has parlayed into a more confident approach at the plate.
"He stayed under control," said Black. "He is showing signs of maturity. It's good to see."
It's the type of maturity that allowed Tapia to work the count against Bradley to 3-0, and then take a pitch before driving the hustle-triple into left-center field.
And then the vet, Blackmon, stepped in.
"Charlie talked to me and said, `This is the approach with (Archie Bradley), you are going to have to go the other way," said McMahon.
And McMahon did, slipping the ball between the shortstop and third baseman, sending the Rockies on their way to a win, which they have to hope they can build off in a homestand that continues with the Giants arriving on Tuesday for three games, and then a three-game, weekend visit by the Padres.
They have put themselves in enough of a hole that they can't get too comfortable with any particular win, not even one like Sunday.
"There is a lot of baseball left," said Nolan Arenado. "We have to clean up some things. We have to be better with runners in scoring position. We have to shore things up with the pitching staff. As a group we know we can improve together. We know what we need to do. (Sunday) was a great win. It would have been bad if we were swept. But we need to come out Tuesday ready to go. We need to start winning series."
To do that, they are going to need continued improved production from not only the three emerging talents, but the entire roster. Coming off the least productive offensive season in franchise history -- in which the Rockies did not have a .300 hitter for the first time ever -- there are signs of progress, but not enough to please the Rockies, from the clubhouse to the front office.