'There's some osmosis': Blackmon's return lifts Rox

OF goes 2-for-3 in first game back from injury, helps set up game-winning rally vs. D-backs

August 15th, 2023

DENVER -- had missed nine weeks with a fractured right hand, and manager Bud Black could tell that the Rockies were missing something without him.

“Eventually, I do think there’s some osmosis that rubs off on others,” Black said.

In a 6-4 win over the D-backs at Coors Field on Monday night, it was finally time for that osmosis to turn positive. As Blackmon made his return from injury, a mostly younger lineup that struck out 49 times in four games this weekend while being swept by the Dodgers started whiffing again -- 11 times in six innings against Arizona starter Merrill Kelly, 13 times total.

But Blackmon practically busted the buttons of his purple jersey for an eighth-inning leadoff single. Then the Rockies broke out for four runs on six singles -- the kind of controlled offense rarely seen from this crew -- and took home a dramatic come-from-behind victory.

Blackmon finished 2-for-3 with a walk, but that doesn’t capture all he did to help the Rockies end their losing streak at five games.

Two numbers were more fitting: 37, Blackmon’s age, and 28.4, his speed (in feet per second) in reaching first base before D-backs shortstop Geraldo Perdomo could knock down a one-hopper with his chest, pick it up and fire across the infield.

Call it osmosis. Call it inspiration. Whatever it’s called, the hitters behind him felt it.

“Just seeing guys play hard brings the best out of everyone,” said Blackmon, who began the night at designated hitter but finished in right field. “Seeing someone else set a standard makes you more willing to get over that bar yourself.”

Blackmon is in the final year of his contract, on a team turning to young players -- some of whom possess physical attributes beyond Blackmon’s, but none of whom can match his 13.4 percent strikeout rate. Blackmon hasn’t committed to playing in 2024 or staying with the Rockies, nor has the club committed to anything, with all parties waiting it out.

But what Blackmon offered Monday to a team struggling through the dog days of the season was not lost on Black.

“You just feel it,” Black said. “You feel better when guys like Charlie are active, on the team, in the cubhouse. It’s tangible for me. Great players have that persona about them -- that feeling when he walks in the clubhouse doors.

“It’s like a starting pitcher who’s a stud. When it’s his day to pitch, it’s like it’s ‘win day.’”

Before Blackmon’s rally-starter, which came left-on-left against reliever Joe Mantiply, two of the Rockies’ five hits were homers by Elehuris Montero in the fifth and Ezequiel Tovar in the sixth. But Blackmon’s hit began a parade of offense of winning quality for a team that suddenly looked a lot better than 46-73.

In a lineup replete with young hitters -- some of them with raw power, but most also with strikeout problems -- it may take a bit for the lineup to consistently meet Blackmon’s standard. But it’s a start.

“You see a guy like Chuck beat out a ground ball up the middle, you kind of rally behind it,” rookie Nolan Jones said. “Anything Chuck does impresses me. He’s the hardest worker I’ve ever seen. He’s a leadoff hitter who gives us great at-bats and comes back and gives us a great scouting report.”

Brendan Rodgers noted, “It kind of shows the boys that we’re still in this game.”

Batting behind Blackmon, Tovar and Ryan McMahon singled to load the bases and knock Mantiply out of the game. Elias Díaz lined out, but Rodgers’ two-run single and Jones’ RBI single off Scott McGough gave the Rockies the lead. Pinch-hitter Alan Trejo added another RBI single off Kyle Nelson.

“Hitting breeds hitting,” Blackmon said. “If I see someone in front of me get a hit, I'll just do that, right? Sometimes seeing something good or bad happen puts you in that mindset. … ‘I'm going to have a good at-bat, too, because my teammate did.’”

The Rockies needed the vibe Blackmon injected.

But he needed it just as much.

“I’m just really thankful to be healthy and be able to play baseball again,” Blackmon said. “You really just can’t take for granted your health, especially coming back. You never know how you’re going to play. You want to play well, but it’s hard to prepare for big league baseball. To come back, contribute and help the guys get a win tonight, that was really cool for me.”