Charlie Blackmon arrived at PNC Park for Sunday’s series finale between the Rockies and Pirates at 8:30 a.m. ET. First pitch was scheduled for 1:05 p.m.
“Charlie took it upon himself to get the guys going,” manager Bud Black said. “He was vocal, he was talkative, he had energy. … I won’t say much more than that, but he set a great example from the time he walked through the doors this morning through the last out.”
Blackmon tripled and doubled twice to fuel Colorado’s 4-3 victory over Pittsburgh, with the last double tying the game at 3-3 in the ninth inning. He scored on Matt Adams’ single two batters later, and the Rockies salvaged a game in the series with their fourth road win of the season.
Entering the ninth, Colorado was trailing, 3-2, and in danger of a 1-6 road trip and a 3-23 road record with another silent game at the plate. As incremental as it seems, 2-5 and 4-22 made for a much better flight home to Denver.
It began and ended with Blackmon, the team’s elder statesman, whose pregame chat remained shrouded in mystery during the postgame press conference.
“You can talk to Chuck about that,” said Kyle Freeland, who went four innings and gave up three runs on five hits and four walks in his second start off the injured list. “He made some adjustments and they paid off.”
When asked if the “adjustments” Freeland was referring to were in the clubhouse as opposed to in the game, he answered with a wry smile: “In the clubhouse.”
The man himself only made the riddle more difficult, using the same word -- adjustments. But for the Rockies, all that matters is Blackmon’s “adjustments” worked, at least on Sunday.
“I did some things that I don’t normally do,” Blackmon said. “Just changed my routine up completely, top to bottom. Just felt like I needed to shake things up. … It’s kind of a locker room thing, to be honest. It’s one of those things that it’s a joy to be in a big league locker room. It’s a privilege to be in there with those guys. Knowing it’s such a sacred place, I was safe.”
It’s safe to say things changed for the Rockies on Sunday, but not right away. For eight innings, the story remained the same for Colorado’s lineup. Though the Rockies finally broke through for their first run of the weekend in the fourth inning on Blackmon’s RBI triple, they squandered a bases-loaded, nobody-out situation with three consecutive strikeouts in the sixth, and the club was 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position, leaving 11 on base, prior to the ninth-inning rally.
“We couldn’t even at times put the ball in play,” Black said. “I could tell the group was frustrated. There were all the emotions of being angry, being discouraged, being down, all those things about not coming through. But we kept fighting and Charlie got some big hits late.”
Those big hits were a long time coming for Blackmon, who has been one of the MLB leaders in the gap between his actual batting average and his Statcast expected batting average. Entering Sunday, Blackmon was hitting .236, but his expected batting average was .303. That gap closed a bit when it was all said and done.
“Even the last couple games, there was the line drive to third, there’s been a couple hard-hit balls to the right side in the shift and those sorts of things,” Black said. “But I thought the last three weeks, the swings have been better overall, with the crispness, bat speed and barreling the ball up.”
When told of the 67-point gap between his actual batting average and his xBA entering Sunday, Blackmon seemed surprised.
“Wow,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been close. I haven’t hit that ball exactly perfectly, but I’ve hit some balls on the barrel or pretty good that could’ve been a hit and just ended up not being a hit. Today, I think I did a little better.”
Indeed, Blackmon did a little better, almost single-handedly willing Colorado to a road win that may not matter in the bigger scheme of things as far as the club’s record at the end of the season. But it could very well mean a lot for the clubhouse.
“I don’t know if I can put it into words,” closer Daniel Bard said after holding the Pirates scoreless over the game’s final two frames. “I think only a picture or video would suffice, and I don’t have those on me.
“It got the boys going. I’ll leave it at that.”