DENVER -- A formula for stopping the Rockies' offense has emerged: pitch around Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado and take advantage of the rest of the lineup. Their response? Patience at the plate and trust in their teammates.Through April 25, Blackmon was hitting .300 with a 1.023 OPS that was
DENVER -- A formula for stopping the Rockies' offense has emerged: pitch around Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado and take advantage of the rest of the lineup. Their response? Patience at the plate and trust in their teammates.
Through April 25, Blackmon was hitting .300 with a 1.023 OPS that was buoyed by a .638 slugging percentage, and Arenado was at .342, with .589 slugging and a 1.026 OPS.
In the 12 games since (which leads into Friday night against the Brewers), they've crushed the mistake pitches -- to the tune of three homers for Blackmon, and four homers and three doubles for Arenado. But in those dozen games, the combination of high walks (10 for Blackmon, eight for Arenado) and suppressed averages (.227 for Blackmon, .273 for Arenado) shows that they're either seeing a high number of quality pitches or are just being avoided.
"It's a little bit of an adjustment -- 3-1 last night, I didn't get a fastball right down the middle, like I assumed to get," Blackmon said. "But you have to stay within yourself, let the walks happen and they'll throw a good pitch to hit instead of getting yourself out by swinging at pitches you shouldn't be swinging at."
What's happened behind them -- and sometimes leadoff man DJ LeMahieu, who has gone 3-for-8 in his first two games back from a hamstring injury -- has justified the strategy.
In the last 12 games, Gerardo Parra has hit .314 and David Dahl .294. Beyond them have been some low averages: Carlos Gonzalez .188, Trevor Story .182, Ian Desmond .171, Chris Iannetta .167, Daniel Castro .143, Pat Valaika .118 and Tony Wolters .111.
Gonzalez, Iannetta, Valaika, Wolters and Noel Cuevas have gone a combined 0-for-23 with runners in scoring position in the past 12 games.
Only a standout stretch of pitching made the Rockies 7-5 over a period during which they averaged 3.08 runs per game. Blackmon with eight runs and Arenado with seven combined for 40.5 percent of the runs over that stretch, but that also accounts for when they drove themselves in seven times.
The temptation would be for Blackmon and Arenado, power hitters and run producers, to chase pitches just to not get innings turned over to teammates who aren't hitting. To resist that urge takes trust that the rest will experience a turnaround.
"I would say this is different than in years past, but it's part of the game. Hopefully our lineup gets going throughout the whole thing where they start having to throw pitches over the plate, all at the same time," Arenado said. "I won't lie. I usually don't walk this much. I'm OK with it because I'm getting on base, but we have to take advantage of those walks.
"I can't give in, can't be over-aggressive. I have to stay within myself and sometimes you have to give pitchers credit. But, I think our lineup is capable of doing some special things. We haven't seen it yet and I don't know when it's going to come. We've just got to find a way."
Manager Bud Black and his staff have been meeting with players about individual and overall plans, so that the trust level Blackmon and Arenado are placing in their teammates is rewarded in runs for the offense.
"There's going to come a time when if pitchers do pitch around certain hitters consistently, and they keep getting baserunners on base, they're going to get burned by it," Black said. "We've got to get to a point where the guys who are hitting behind those fellows who are walking get that big hit."
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.