Blackmon’s matured swing has all-field power

Rox slugger hits 2 straightaway homers, pulls triple vs. Padres

June 14th, 2019

DENVER -- It used to be that if you wanted to catch a home run from the Rockies’ , you logged on and limited the purchase choice to the right-field stands. Dead pull, baby.

Now, there are more nights like Thursday. Blackmon launched two home runs to center field while helping lift the Rockies to a 9-6 victory over the Padres at Coors Field. Then, to show he hasn’t abandoned the pull side, he delivered a two-run triple into the right-field corner to loosen a tight contest.

The location of Blackmon’s homers are the result of a swing and thought process that grow by the year. The two-homer night on Thursday brought his 2019 total to 14, and the previous three years netted him 29, 37 and 29, respectively, and he is using more of the ballpark for his power.

“My first couple years in the big leagues, I had none of that,” said Blackmon, whose homers came off lefty starter Matt Strahm in the fourth and righty Gerardo Reyes in the sixth. “Then I tried to add it. It’s something I work on every offseason. It’s a fundamental of mine now.”

In fact, Blackmon is so fundamentally sound that he can drill one to center by accident.

“It’s hard to hit balls to center field and hit them over the fence,” Blackmon said. “Honestly, I was trying to pull one of those balls and I was just a little late. So if you can hit it not exactly where you want to hit it, and hit it out, that’s good.”

But before the deeper delve into that, his night was big in the here and now.

Since returning on Saturday after missing 14 games with a right calf strain, Blackmon -- who went 4-for-5 in Wednesday's loss to the Cubs -- has gone 11-for-25 (.440) with four homers and 10 RBIs.

Blackmon and , who had a two-run shot in the second off Strahm, led a 13-hit performance that helped the Rockies to their 11th home win in their past 12 games.

Also, starting pitcher fanned 10 in six innings, and the Rockies overcame two homers from Padres third baseman Manny Machado.

To see how Blackmon has evolved, here’s a look at his home run spray charts -- first, from 2016, when he peppered most of his 29 to right, and this year:

Blackmon accelerated his ability to hit to the middle and the opposite way in 2017, when he won the National League batting title after hitting .331. That year, he also hit a career high in home runs and set an MLB record with 103 RBIs (of his 104 total) from the leadoff spot.

The difference now is seen more on his second homer than his first -- a towering shot to center that he barreled through a wind that pushed some balls toward the field rather than the stands. He actually finished the swing one-handed, which he usually doesn’t because, he said, “this year I wanted to reinforce that fundamental.”

On the second, Blackmon’s left, or top, hand stayed on the bat throughout the follow-through. However, the key for Blackmon is not the end of the swing, but the meat of it.

“I don’t want to get to the zone and then be out of it -- I want to get to the zone, and then with this top hand, or my back side, whatever you want to call it, continue to feel strong all throughout the middle of the field,” Blackmon said a few days ago, demonstrating with a bat. “So I exaggerate more this [the push forward, with the elbow close to his ribs] and less this [the backswing].

“That’s part of me hitting for power a little bit, hitting the ball in the air hard. That’s when I started to be able to hit balls a little bit harder to the middle of the field and the other way. You can’t hit the ball the other way hard or the middle of the field hard unless you have good extension after contact.”

Rockies manager Bud Black loved Blackmon's entire night, which included a first-inning, opposite-field single off Strahm and the pull-shot triple off Matt Wisler. Both hits were pitches located where Blackmon wanted.

“I’ve seen the all-field approach and the every-at-bat approach based on his plan and his approach against a certain pitcher in a certain game situation,” Black said. “That’s evident if you really watch the game with a critical eye what he’s trying to do. He literally has a plan before the game starts, and when the game unfolds, depending on the situation, he enacts that plan, puts it in play.”

Teammate Daniel Murphy (who went 3-for-5) said that Blackmon’s night demonstrated that Blackmon “knows that he can do damage to all parts of the field, so he doesn’t have to cheat to the pull side. When you know you can do damage to the middle of the field, it gives you an opportunity to see the ball a little bit longer.”