DENVER -- C.J. Cron is not the celebratory kind when he hits a home run. Twice Sunday at smoky and sunny Coors Field -- including on his fourth-inning grand slam in the Rockies’ sweep-completing 13-8 victory over the Marlins -- he gently set the bat down as the ball sailed over the left-field wall and tapped his high fives.
Connor Joe also homered twice, a two-run homer in the second and a solo shot in the eighth. Of course, he is a rookie, while Cron debuted in 2014. After his trots, Joe stopped and allowed himself to be fitted with the wacky sunglasses Rockies players wear in the dugout after they go deep -- a fun little ritual established during this homestand that Cron doesn’t observe.
“I guess I'm a little old school,” said Cron, who established a club record with three grand slams in a season, drove in a career-high seven RBIs Sunday and had 13 RBIs total against the Marlins to tie Hall of Fame electee Larry Walker (Aug. 27-29, 1999, against the Cardinals) for the club mark in a three-game series. “I didn't wear them the first time, and then I hit a homer in the next at-bat or the at-bat after, and I was like, ‘I ain’t doing that now.’ So I kind of just rolled with it.
“The guys are having a great time with it. If we keep hitting like we did, they can put on anything they want.”
Overall, it was a homestand of fun and frolic. Added to the homers from Cron and Joe were a second-inning, two-run shot from Dom Nuñez and a Sam Hilliard solo shot in the seventh, as the Rockies clubbed 17 home runs while going 5-1 against the Cubs and Marlins.
Maybe the Rockies can adopt both stances -- Cron acting like it’s expected, and Joe having the time of his life. Both would do the team good in its upcoming games.
As they prepare for a road trip against two first-place teams -- the Astros on Tuesday and Wednesday and the Giants for four starting Thursday -- the Rockies are in the midst of a performance uptick.
It goes beyond the 38-21 record at Coors Field -- including a Majors-best 25-9 at home since May 21. Since June 14, they are 26-20 overall. They’ve even won half of their last 14 road games after a 6-33 start.
“It’s so many conversations about what we need to do on the road,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “It starts with chase percentage. It starts with an increased on-base percentage, putting the ball in play, not striking out as much.
“Situational hitting. Getting the guys in from third with less than two [outs]. Keeping the game close on the pitching side so we can steal [a game]. Potentially hit-and-run … all the things you need to do to win a game.”
Starter Kyle Freeland endured the long offensive innings, the second-worst air quality in the United States -- due to western wildfires -- and his own lack of sharpness to hold the Marlins to four runs on seven hits in five innings, while striking out six against one walk. He had not given up four runs in any of his previous eight starts.
But it was good enough in a series where the Rockies established some confidence for their next road trip.
“We have a good spot with good momentum coming off of two series wins and a sweep at home,” Freeland said.
While Joe is understated after his home runs, he’s not a killjoy despite being one of the team’s older players at 28. In the clubhouse and dugout, he keeps folks loose. He also encourages a free, open-door exchange, rather than taking a coach-like approach. Cron said he, Charlie Blackmon and Trevor Story have embraced the middle of the order, while younger players settle into their careers.
“As the season progressed, you see guys who haven’t had a lot of experience taking big steps forward,” said Cron, whose increasingly impactful performance is serving as a bid for a new contract. “This homestand, definitely this last series, has been the best we’ve played all season.
“We’re hitting the cover off the ball, which is outstanding. I think we're finally starting to figure some stuff out.”
Looks like they’ve already figured out that Cron and the others can celebrate their own way.