Bryant crushes another mistake pitch for Rockies

Ex-NL MVP hits one of three homers for the Rockies, who cruise to open the second half

July 15th, 2023

DENVER -- What sounded like self-deprecation from  was actually the tip of a hitting philosophy.

Bryant’s two-run insurance homer, right-on-right against reliever Michael King, in the Rockies’ 7-2 victory over the Yankees on Friday night at Coors Field was much like his last homer, in Houston on July 4.

“It was kind of like the same pitch in Houston [from Ryne Stanek], so I guess I got that swing going -- the slider/mistake pitch,” Bryant said. “That guy [King] was pretty sharp. The first two he threw were balls, but good spin. But he left one over the plate.”

If you don’t think along with Bryant, you’d almost think that’s totally on the pitcher. Bryant hasn’t hit many home runs in two seasons with the Rockies -- seven this year, 12 in 101 games total for a club that expected more in each category. But now he has two within 18 at-bats. Merely as a frame of reference, in seven seasons with the Cubs, he hit one every 19.4 at-bats.

No one is predicting a return to his production with the 2016 World Series-winning Cubs, given the way the first two seasons of his seven-year, $182 million contract have gone. But with the Rockies carrying a National League-worst 35-57 record, they’re casting their thoughts to a future that includes Bryant crushing mistake pitches, with younger players surrounding him in the order.

At 31 and with two seasons of back and feet injuries behind him, Bryant might not be the force he was with the Cubs. But if his plate discipline can produce big swings on misplaced pitches, that would make him an important cog in a rebuilding batting order.

If Bryant’s homer was a replay of his shot in Houston, the Rockies can use more replays.

“Same type of pitch -- high breaking ball that he caught out front,” manager Bud Black said. “K.B. is capable of doing that with a hanging breaking ball pull side, and driving the fastball to right-center. That was a good sign.

“The Houston home run, tonight, San Francisco; I thought he had some good swings there.”

Much more went into the result.

Austin Gomber, the only pitcher in the Rockies’ original projected rotation who is not on the injured list, yielded a two-run shot to Giancarlo Stanton in the first inning but nothing else through six frames. Relievers Pierce Johnson, Daniel Bard and Justin Lawrence, who generally pitched well in the first half, handled the last three innings with little issue.

Bryant’s homer was bracketed by solo shots in the fourth by Randal Grichuk -- who left after six innings with groin tightness according to Black -- and rookie Nolan Jones, who replaced Grichuk and ended a 40 at-bat drought without a homer.

Bryant’s first three at-bats Friday produced two grounders rolled to shortstop and a strikeout, but the homer was a flashback to his four-time All-Star past. 

In Houston and Friday night, Bryant happily described the thought process that led to an outcome the Rockies need for him to repeat with greater regularity.

“Nothing crazy,” Bryant said. “But just trying to chase less, trying to swing at pitches that I can really do something with rather than the ones that are on the corners. Anytime I get in a rhythm like that, I usually hit the mistake pitches. With the ebb and flow of baseball, hopefully I’m on an upswing.

“If you’re swinging at the pitches that you want to swing at more often, you’ll get good results.”