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Paul Klee: They're alive! Colorado Rockies close record-tying stretch with Coors Field home run derby

By: Paul Klee
July 23, 2017 Updated: July 24, 2017 at 12:27 pm
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Colorado Rockies' Nolan Arenado strikes out while swinging at a pitch from Pittsburgh Pirates starter Ivan Nova in the first inning of a baseball game Sunday, July 23, 2017, in Denver.(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

DENVER — If the bats are alive and raking, the Rockies have a chance.

They have a chance — an 81-percent chance, according to fivethirtyeight.com — to make the playoffs in the National League. They have a chance to throw Kyle Freeland (my $2 says the Colorado guy eventually becomes the staff ace), Jon Gray (the smarter choice) or Jeff Hoffman (his 2.45 ERA on the road jumps out, like a squirrel on the road) and win the Wild Card play-in game. 

They have a chance to win a playoff series against any team in the NL except for the Dodgers, because no team in the NL will win a playoff series against the Dodgers.

The Dodgers are such a pain.

The Rockies have to get there first, of course. There's work to do. The Cubs and Pirates are charging, the Brewers capable; one will emerge as a Wild Card threat (not the Cardinals, who are blah). But after 100 games (58 wins, 42 losses, a ton of fun) the Rockies have a chance, with one big, non-guaranteed “if” — if the bats are alive and raking.

“We’ve got a good thing going offensively,” manager Bud Black understated.

Ya think? Here’s the gory, gaudy rundown over the past seven games, including the 13-3 butt-whooping they laid on the Pirates on Sunday: 98 hits and 74 runs. That’s 14 hits per game. That’s 10.5 runs per game. That’s tied for the most runs over a seven-game stretch in franchise history. That gives them a chance — and it was fair to get worried about their chance when the bats went silent to close the first half of the season. Turns out, games against Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood and Zack Greinke has that effect on an offense.

“It’s good to have that feeling again,” said shortstop Trevor Story, who, like the bats elsewhere up and down the lineup, is coming alive.

Sunday, in an extension of Charlie Blackmon’s rockin’ Home Run Derby appearance, the Rockies swung for the fences. With a boom and a bang and a badabing, the Rox blasted home runs in the fifth, sixth (three!) and eighth innings. Combined, and with a virtual tape measure, the five homers traveled over 2,000 feet. Their favorite food is tacos, again, and that gives them a chance.

“And it’s contagious, you know?” Story said.

On April 3, the date of season opener, this wouldn’t have made sense: the Rockies will have four rookies in the starting rotation, but it’s the offense that will have believers nervous at the All-Star break. 

Pffft. So much for that theory. The only other time the Rockies scored 74 runs over a seven-game stretch was in April/May, 2000. They finished 82-80 that year, one of seven seasons (out of 25) the Rockies closed with a record above .500. This will be their eighth season above .500.

The Rockies never have completed 100 games with a better record than this one, 58-42.

It’s worth noting that Black, one cool cat who doesn't seem to worry about much, continues to emphasize pitching. They need to keep pitching, he said again Sunday, and that makes you wonder if the young arms are starting to feel the grind of their first long season.

“I feel great,” said Kyle Freeland, the winning pitcher on Sunday, whose 12th quality start gave him the lead in that category among all rookies.

Sunday made me feel like a big dummy for worrying about the bats in the first place. On the first pitch tossed his direction, Pat Valaika bashed a home run that wrapped inside the left-field foul pole and bounced up the tunnel. Story then blasted one into the bleachers in left. Blackmon spanked one into left (the second opposite-field homer of his career, his team-high 24th this season and fourth since the Home Run Derby, in which he smacked 14 long dongs). And Mark Reynolds crushed two home runs — one into right field, directly below the party deck, and one into dead center. 

The Pirates didn’t have a chance.

Twitter: @bypaulklee

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