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Blackmon makes Rox history on leadoff homer

@harding_at_mlb
April 21, 2019

DENVER -- The end of the Rockies' five-game winning streak -- as the Phillies' Bryce Harper’s three-run homer in the seventh inning handed Colorado an 8-5 defeat -- might have been a beginning for Charlie Blackmon. A night after his 12th-inning, two-run shot off the Phillies’ Juan Nicasio gave the

DENVER -- The end of the Rockies' five-game winning streak -- as the Phillies' Bryce Harper’s three-run homer in the seventh inning handed Colorado an 8-5 defeat -- might have been a beginning for Charlie Blackmon.

A night after his 12th-inning, two-run shot off the Phillies’ Juan Nicasio gave the Rockies a 4-3 victory, Blackmon took Saturday starter Aaron Nola deep on the first pitch of the game to right field. The right fielder added two singles and a triple, finishing 4-for-5. But the Rockies didn’t get enough big hits among their 14, which in addition to Blackmon’s home run included Raimel Tapia’s inside-the-park homer to open the second.

“I felt better in the box, felt like I was seeing the ball pretty good,” Blackmon said. “I took some good swings, made some good decisions in the box. I felt like on the whole, we did a pretty good job offensively. We maybe could’ve come up with a big hit in one of those spots, but it looks like we’re doing a little better.”

Blackmon made club history with his leadoff home run. He is the first Rockies player ever to hit a leadoff home run the game after hitting a walk-off home run, according to Elias. Brett Gardner is the last player to do it in the Majors on July 27-28, 2017, against the Rays.

Friday’s homer was his first of the season, so homers on consecutive pitches -- a few hours apart, granted -- are always nice, especially when one has to wait 82 at-bats for the first. But the near-cycle night -- a ball that eluded Phils left fielder Andrew McCutchen in the fourth was ruled a single and an error, rather than a double -- lifted Blackmon’s batting average 33 points to .264.

“Better swings, better bat speed,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “He squared a couple up in San Francisco, nothing to show for it. He squared up a couple in San Diego, nothing to show for it. Now, the last couple of days, some big swings.”

There is a track record.

This year’s .232 batting average through 19 games is not much different from the .232 Blackmon had through 15 games in 2017. Then he ignited over his next 18 contests -- .372 with a .405 on-base percentage and .744 slugging percentage, five home runs, three triples, eight doubles and 18 RBIs.

Blackmon repeated a turnaround later that season. After a mini-slump of .222 with two homers and four RBIs over 13 games June 22-July 2, he went off for 16 games to the tune of .408 with seven homers and 12 RBIs.

Last year, there was a 13-game slip from May 6-20, during which he hit .216 with one homer and three RBIs. His next 13 games after that, though, he batted .368 with five extra-base hits to raise his average to .295. He was mostly steady the rest of the way and finished at .291.

How this game got away
Senzatela not sharp:
Rockies starter Antonio Senzatela struggled with location while throwing 94 pitches and giving up four runs on seven hits in five innings. But a better pitch in a key situation might have minimized damage in the fourth, when Phil Gosselin’s three-run double on a hanging breaking ball turned an early lead into a 4-3 deficit.

“A pitch or two can swing the game, and you never know when it’s going to come, and that one he got up in the strike zone,” Black said. “I thought he threw the ball overall pretty well.”

Bad pitch to a good hitter: The Rockies were down one and lefty Mike Dunn was ahead in the count, 1-2, against Harper before missing with a slider and seeing it sail over the fence.

“I missed my spot,” Dunn said. “He did what a hitter is supposed to do -- hit it. At that point, I'd thrown four other sliders the whole inning and they were all in decent spots, and that one I missed the complete opposite side of the plate."

Learning moments: The Rockies finished seven of the nine innings with a runner in scoring position. At a couple of key points, Nola bested the two least-experienced hitters in the lineup, Tapia and Garrett Hampson.

Nola struck out Tapia looking in the third and fifth innings for the second out each time. He finished the third by striking out Hampson swinging and forced a grounder from him to end the fifth.

“There was a little bit of coming out of our approach -- being overly aggressive at times and maybe not being ready to hit a couple pitches early in the count -- a learning experience for a number of guys,” Black said. “Tonight, a lot of the younger guys in our group had some opportunities, but part of growth is to go through this.”

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and like his Facebook page.