Narratives have a way of coming to life and running so far from the truth that the truth is unrecognizable. Even so, All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado denies that the force of his words sparked the Rockies' hot streak heading into the All-Star break.Arenado joined the club's other two All-Stars
Narratives have a way of coming to life and running so far from the truth that the truth is unrecognizable. Even so, All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado denies that the force of his words sparked the Rockies' hot streak heading into the All-Star break.
Arenado joined the club's other two All-Stars -- shortstop Trevor Story and center fielder Charlie Blackmon -- for media availability in Washington on Monday, ahead of Tuesday's MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard at 5:30 p.m. MT on FOX. It was Arenado's fourth straight Midsummer Classic, and second as a fan-voted National League starter.
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Comments about being "tired of coming to the park and losing" from Arenado appeared in The Athletic after a win over the Giants on June 28, and he addressed the issue again the next day in Los Angeles. Since then, the Rockies are 13-3 and two games behind the NL West-leading Dodgers and two games out of the second NL Wild Card spot.
The team has hit .298 since the start of the run, second only to the Cubs' .299. But Arenado insists that what he said wasn't the catalyst, simply because others felt that way.
"I don't think what I said did anything," said Arenado, tied with the Nationals' Bryce Harper for second in the NL in homers with 23, one behind the Brewers' Jesus Aguilar. "Guys just realized that we need to step up, in general. I think everyone knew that. Everyone knows that. Everyone is taking it upon themselves. These guys are looking themselves in the mirror and making a change. Good things are happening.
"I'm trying to have quality at-bats, play as hard as I can, do the little things. I try to just be there, try to find a way, stay consistent. There are things that I can get better at in this game that I wasn't doing when we were losing, and I'm trying a point now."
Blackmon noted that Arenado's statement wasn't news to the players. They felt the same. But even though the comments suggested urgency, Blackmon, in his third All-Star Game, said the Rockies actually resisted urgency.
"I'm big on putting that fire out -- I don't believe there are any must-wins in the first half," said Blackmon, heading into the break hitting .404 (19-for-47) in his last 11 games. "You want to be in it, you want to be close, you want to play well -- and we did not do that at times in the first half. I knew that it was there. We just needed to do it."
Story catching fire is part of that surge. Since June 8, he leads the Majors with a .378 batting average and is fourth in slugging at .704.
Besides, the statistics say the turnaround was pitching.
When the Rockies went 8-17 from May 30-June 27, they batted .278 -- yes, 20 points lower than the current successful run, but they were still second in the NL (to the Reds) over that period.
But the difference had less to do with Arenado -- or All-Star teammates Story and Blackmon, for that matter.
During the 8-17 struggle, the Rockies' 6.62 ERA was worst in the NL. During the current 16-game run, their 2.76 ERA is the NL's best.
"Pitching, that's going to win for us," Arenado said.
According to Blackmon, all is in sync.
"We've pitched well, hit well, played good defense -- all at the same time," Blackmon said. "That's why we've won a few games toward the end of the first half."
Reliever Adam Ottavino (4-2, 1.62 ERA, two saves and 67 strikeouts in 44 1/3 innings) and lefty starter Kyle Freeland (8-6, 3.11 ERA, with home games in a notorious hitters' park) put up good All-Star arguments.
"We feel like they got snubbed a little bit, but that happens every year to guys that are very deserving," Story said. "It's fun playing with those guys, and we feel good as a team right now."
With multiple trips to the Midsummer Classic, Arenado and Blackmon find the experiences valuable in the interactions with other stars. Blackmon noted that last year a "pretty good player came up and asked me questions about hitting, and I was just like, 'Woah,' a little bit blown away. He was just trying to understand where I was coming from. To have that player ask me was pretty cool."
Since being selected as a supplemental first-round pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, first-time All-Star Story has been compared to the Giants' Brandon Crawford. With both in Washington, Story can finally converse.
"I've talked to him just when I'm out at second base and stuff," Story said. "Nolan has told me a lot about him. He seems like a great guy. I'm looking forward to talking to him.
"He's a great player. I've looked up to him for a while. He plays hard, great defense, and he's a really good hitter, too. I'm excited to talk to him. Once we get in the clubhouse and I have that moment, it'll be really cool."
Blackmon expects Story to be around enough All-Star Games to be giving advice.
"Trevor's on a mission to be that consistent player that everybody wants to have on their team," Blackmon said. "He's had a few ups and downs early in his career. Thankfully, he's such a young player that he's got lots of time for him to figure it out. But here he is so early in his career starting to put it together."
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Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.