Rodgers finds power stroke, fuels comeback with 1st career slam

April 24th, 2024

DENVER -- Rockies second baseman shared a self-evaluation of his power swing with assistant hitting coach P.J. Pilletere.

“I was talking to P.J., saying it feels like it always takes me 80 to 100 at-bats to start the season, get that feeling and get that first one out of the way,” Rodgers said.

The first homer of Rodgers’ season and the first grand slam of his career lifted the Rockies to a 7-4 victory over the Padres at Coors Field on Tuesday night.

Rodgers isn’t the only one starting slowly. The Rockies’ 6-18 mark is tied with the 2005 club for worst at this point in club history. They have trailed at some point in all 24 games, with the only club since 1900 to trail in more games to begin a year being the 1912 St. Louis Browns (28).

It’s not the first time Rodgers has gotten off to a slow start. In 2022, he batted .078 in 14 April games, then ranged from hot to torrid over the next four months.

The Rockies hope to follow a similar trajectory, which could start if they can win again on Wednesday to make it two in a row. That would set them up for a chance to win the series (which is four games). Both feats have gone unaccomplished in the early part of this season.

Tuesday felt to both Rodgers and the Rockies like a starting point to a season that started in late March.

As the year started, Rodgers was the cleanup hitter. But because of a slow start that saw him hit .194, as well as a recent stomach illness that cost him four games, he was batting eighth. He had gone 1-for-13 in his last four games with an at-bat, and entered Tuesday with three RBIs.

The Rockies entered the game with a homerless streak of six games. The only longer droughts in club history were seven games -- April 18-24, 2007, and July 28-Aug. 3, 2014.

That changed in the fourth, when Rodgers turned on an 0-2 fastball from Padres starter Michael King to transform a 4-1 deficit into a 5-4 lead.

“We’re going, ‘Come on, B,’” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “And then he got the head to a fastball -- King has a good fastball. That was a big exhale. The dugout was pumped.

“You hope that these types of moments can jump-start us.”

Less than 24 hours before his slam, with the Rockies smarting from yet another close loss, Rodgers promised better days ahead. Rodgers’ way of keeping a promise was not lost on his teammates.

“[Third baseman Ryan McMahon] came up to me and said that was one of the biggest swings of the year,” Rodgers said.

Starting pitcher Ryan Feltner felt his burden dissipate. Feltner yielded two first-inning runs, and four runs in four innings. Knowing his night was done, Feltner -- disappointed in his performance, although happy he didn’t let the game spiral -- went to the clubhouse for usual post-start maintenance. Not for long.

“Once we got things going, I went back out there,” Feltner said. “I was out in the dugout for most of it. I put a lot of my recovery stuff on the back burner. I just wanted to be out there with the guys and see what they were doing. What they did tonight was pretty special.”

After the homer, Elehuris Montero -- whose hard-hit balls all season haven’t always gotten results -- drew a bases-loaded walk to end King’s night. The lead stood, mainly because of the relief pitching of Jalen Beeks, who struck out two in three scoreless innings.

“I definitely hadn’t gone three in a while,” Beeks said. “I definitely enjoyed it, getting extended.”

Three hits for Montero and one in a second straight game for Charlie Blackmon (3-for-28 over the previous nine games) helped the Rockies loosen up a bit. There was a brief smile from Nolan Jones, whose second-inning RBI single ended an 0-for-26 slump. However, Jones, a National League Rookie of the Year candidate, left in the seventh with back stiffness. He pronounced himself fine after the game.

“There’s a bunch of us grinding some at-bats out, not getting too satisfied with the outcome,” Rodgers said. “But there’s a lot of game left. We’re just getting to that 100 at-bats. We’ve got 500-plus more. I keep telling the guys be positive, keep grinding.”

Rodgers will be happy if it turns out he’s a slow starter who is just beginning.