Raimel Tapia has quietly become the Rockies' best and most consistent hitter this season.
Even as the Rockies' bats went dry at times, Tapia stayed hot. He had four hits Saturday, and followed that up with three Sunday. His .320 batting average is the highest on the team, and he has at least one hit in all but seven games.
His efforts weren’t enough Sunday though, as the Rockies fell to the Diamondbacks 8-4. The Rockies continue to fall apart on the road, and are 2-11 away from Coors Field this season.
"Tap is a solid player," manager Bud Black said. "This is another big year for Tap to solidify himself as a professional hitter."
Tapia, who has an easygoing confidence that doesn’t waver, has been steady this season. He doesn’t panic, even when he goes through a dry spell.
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“That's baseball for you,” he said prior to the game, through bullpen catcher and translator Aaron Munoz. “The pitchers are good pitchers and they need to eat too, but I stick with my approach.”
As others on the team have had no luck at the plate, including Charlie Blackmon, players have asked Tapia what he’s seeing. In his fifth season in the majors, Tapia is one of the few veterans on a young Rockies roster. He has picked up on cues that have helped him against major league pitchers, such as understanding velocity, changing of speeds and other tidbits he can pass on.
“When I was younger, I tried to ask those types of questions to the veterans and now that I’m in that role it just gives me a little more confidence knowing I can help out a younger hitter,” he said. “I believe in those guys and they believe in me.”
The challenge for him is to stay with his approach, and not try to make his swing too big. He has only three home runs — including a walk-off — but he’s confident more will come.
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The Rockies, who have played 10 days straight and don’t get a day off until Thursday, rested some of their regular starters, including Charlie Blackmon and CJ Cron. Tapia had hits in the first inning and the fifth, and also made a diving catch in left field.
In the top of the eighth, with the Rockies down 4-2, Tapia hit a single to left field as Elías Díaz scored. He stole second, and Garrett Hampson sent him home with a line drive to tie the game.
Daniel Bard, the 2020 National League Comeback Player of the Year, gave up four runs in the bottom of the eighth as the Diamondbacks took back the lead. Bard, who has a 12.0 ERA in his last five appearances, said he asked hitters to look at videos to see if he is tipping his pitches.
"They were on it," he said. "It's one of two things: either the sequencing is getting too predictable or they know what's coming."
Trevor Story hit a two-run home run in the third inning, his second in two days and fourth for the season. But his throwing hand was hit by a pitch in the eighth inning, and he left the game shortly after as a precaution. X-rays on his index finger were negative, but it's too early to know if he'll need to miss a game or two.
"I think we dodged a bullet there," Black said.
Chi Chi Gonzalez pitched 4 2/3 innings, allowing five hits and four runs. The Rockies return to Colorado on Monday for a three-game series against the Giants. Germán Márquez will be on the mound.
"We'll get out of this little rut," Gonzalez said. "We'll take it day by day. Tomorrow Marquez has the ball and he's going to be great."