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McMahon returns with bang, hits 2 HRs vs. Phils

Infielder missed previous 10 games with left elbow sprain
@harding_at_mlb
April 19, 2019

DENVER -- Ryan McMahon didn’t believe in single-handed hitting drills -- “I was like, ‘You’re never going to swing like that.'” But while sitting out 10 games with a left elbow sprain, he was bored enough to hit off a tee using only his right arm. McMahon homered twice on

DENVER -- Ryan McMahon didn’t believe in single-handed hitting drills -- “I was like, ‘You’re never going to swing like that.'” But while sitting out 10 games with a left elbow sprain, he was bored enough to hit off a tee using only his right arm.

McMahon homered twice on Thursday in a 6-2 win over the Phillies, the Rockies’ fourth straight victory. He went 3-for-4 with five RBIs and put four balls in play, all with exit velocities greater than 100 mph, according to Statcast.

Now, McMahon has a new training technique.

“If you have a purpose and understand what you’re trying to do, it can be beneficial,” McMahon said. “Honestly, it was something I did when I was bored and I felt something in that swing. ‘That feels really good.’ So I just kind of rolled with it.

“It’s more of a direction of your swing sort of thing. It helped me realize how I should line up and what the quickest path was to the ball.”

McMahon and David Dahl, who also returned on Thursday after missing eight games with a left core injury and finished with a walk and a double, helped the Rockies stay on the path back from a slow start. Colorado lost eight straight before its current win streak.

McMahon broke through in a scoreless game by pulling a changeup from Phillies starter Zach Eflin into Colorado’s right-center-field bullpen for a three-run home run. His second homer, a two-run shot in the seventh, came when he went below the zone and launched Philadelphia reliever Victor Arano’s 2-2 slider.

“We talk about homers, and most of the time they’re mistakes,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “The first one was a changeup that was in the middle of the plate. Then the second homer was a pretty good pitcher’s pitch.”

With the Rockies’ Kyle Freeland having struck out seven in six scoreless, Eflin hung with the left-hander every step of the way, until his sixth-inning mistake to McMahon.

"I liked [the changeup] against him, and lefties in general, as well,” Eflin said. “We knew going into the game today that we were going to have to throw some changeups just to throw something else at them. It just stayed up on me. If it's to the bottom of the zone, tailing down, I get a double play right there and it's a different ballgame.”

The Rockies hope McMahon and Dahl’s returns signal the start of something positive for their lineup. The only regular still on the shelf is Daniel Murphy, who was brought in to play first base and sustained a fractured left index finger in the second game of the season.

“After the first couple of games, we just didn’t swing the bats,” Black said. “The [0-5] homestand, we had three or four starting pitchers who didn’t have good games. The consistency of play is what’s important, and now we’re starting to get some consistent play and consistent offense.”

McMahon believes he could have helped that consistency had he not been hurt colliding with the Dodgers’ A.J. Pollock at first base during the Rockies’ home opener on April 5. He was 5-for-20 before the injury but liked his swing.

“I had gotten about 13 at-bats the last couple of days down in extended spring [camp],” McMahon said. “I felt good down there and just wanted to carry it over.”

Three takeaways

Nothing fickle about this finger: Freeland had taken the loss in each of his previous three starts, only the second time he has endured a skid of that length in his career. In his previous start, Saturday at San Francisco, a blister forced him out after allowing three runs over five innings.

This time, Freeland not only ignored it, but he added to his mix as he battled through 89 pitches. Freeland previously threw curveballs 4.7 percent of the time, but on Thursday, he used 11 of them to great effect. Five were swings and misses, and three of those whiffs ended strikeouts.

“From the get-go, it was a good pitch,” Freeland said. “I was able to land it short and land it for a strike.”

A different face behind the mask: Chris Iannetta, who caught 33 of Freeland’s 34 starts last season (including his 6 2/3 scoreless innings in the 2-1, 13-inning National League Wild Card Game victory over the Cubs), is on the injured list with a right lat strain, so Tony Wolters filled in on Thursday.

Wolters prepared by handling Freeland’s bullpen session earlier this week in San Diego, and he not only handled the southpaw’s pitches with no problem. Wolters matched a career high with three hits. He admired how Freeland worked through the blister.

“That’s his warrior mentality coming out -- it was killing him, it was pretty bad, and he worked through it and put everything on the field for the team,” Wolters said.

No history, thank goodness: The victory kept the Rockies from tying the 1998 team’s 0-6 home start for worst in club history.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and like his Facebook page.