The Rockies traded for Kevin Pillar to make a difference during a playoff run. It’ll have to be some kind of run, but he was up to the task in his old home Monday night.
Pillar singled during a two-run first and launched a third-inning leadoff homer as the Rockies beat the Giants -- the team he was with most of last year -- in a 7-2 victory at Oracle Park on Monday night.
The Rockies (24-29) are 2 1/2 games out of the final National League playoff spot with seven games remaining. But, hey, it beats toiling for the already eliminated Red Sox, which he was doing before the Rockies acquired him at the Trade Deadline.
“When you can play meaningful games deeper and deeper into the season, your individual intensity, your individual concentration, needs to remain as high as possible,” said Pillar, who acknowledged that there is some motivation against the Giants (26-27), themselves trying to make the postseason.
“But, also for guys like me, constantly playing for a job next year, trying to take care of my family, there's no excuses for myself to not give it 110 percent,” added Pillar. “That's why getting to the postseason is the most fun. Having experienced it, it's because it's not about you; for one time in your life playing baseball, it's about the team.”
The Rockies, who before the game placed star third baseman Nolan Arenado on the injured list for the rest of the regular season with a shoulder injury, have largely struggled. Monday’s win, with Germán Márquez holding the Giants to one run in six innings and finally getting some run support, coupled with Sunday’s 6-3 win over the Dodgers gave the Rox two straight for the first time since Sept. 5 and 6.
Understudy characters like Josh Fuentes (two hits and an RBI), Ryan McMahon (a couple of fine plays at third, having moved from second) and Elias Díaz (two-run single in the three-run fifth) gave the lineup length it hasn’t had all season. And Márquez had the unusual factor of help from the offense, after his team gave him just 19 runs in his previous eight starts. It all added up to what Pillar saw as a different Rockies team by McCovey Cove.
“I don’t know if it was getting out of the ballpark [Coors Field, where the Rockies finished a difficult-to-explain 12-18], facing a different team, I don’t know what it was,” Pillar said. “But the feeling in the dugout before the game, even lunch with these guys in the food room, and during stretching, batting practice just felt different, for whatever reason.
“I don't know if with Nolan [going to the IL], maybe the pressure of this team to perform kind of disappeared a little bit. Guys maybe sense that the end is coming, that we're within one week from either going to the postseason or going home, but everyone seemed to be in a really good mood today -- maybe it was the fresh air coming off the coast today.”
Pillar has upheld his end, with two home runs, nine RBIs and 11 runs in 18 games since joining the Rockies. Even during the losses in the first three games of the Dodgers series, there was Pillar attempting diving plays in the outfield and playing with effort -- and faith that his effort would have meaning.
“There's a steadiness to him that I've come to appreciate -- he plays the right way,” said Rockies manager Bud Black, whose team is 12-11 on the road. “There’s a quiet intensity to him.
“In a short period of time, our guys and I have come to respect the way he plays from the time he gets to the ballpark. He does it the right way. That's professionalism for me.”