NEW YORK -- When the Rockies' offensive strategy works, as it did in Tuesday night's 8-4 win over the Yankees, it's an exercise in role awareness, with each player at the top of the order knowing what his part is and what he needs to do.On nights when one or
NEW YORK -- When the Rockies' offensive strategy works, as it did in Tuesday night's 8-4 win over the Yankees, it's an exercise in role awareness, with each player at the top of the order knowing what his part is and what he needs to do.
On nights when one or two guys are off, the results may be middling. But on Tuesday, the battery of Charlie Blackmon, DJ LeMahieu, Nolan Arenado and Carlos Gonzalez was locked in, combining to go 11-for-18 with three home runs, six RBIs and eight runs scored.
In order for a night like that to happen, everything has to work, starting with Blackmon at the top.
Blackmon opened Tuesday's game with a home run, his first of two solo shots on the night and his fourth leadoff home run of the season. He also reached base in the second inning on an error and came around to score on a sac fly, bumping his on-base percentage on the season to .357 and his runs scored to 40, the fourth most on the team despite having played at least eight fewer games than the three players ahead of him.
With Blackmon on base, or rounding the bases as he did Tuesday, it's then LeMahieu's job to place the ball where it needs to be, getting on base himself or moving the runner in certain situations. LeMahieu did just that Tuesday, slapping three singles, stealing a base and scoring two runs.
Then it's time for Arenado, the lineup's big bopper. But just as important as Arenado is the man hitting behind him: Gonzalez. CarGo serves as Arenado's protection, making sure that opponents can't pitch just around the NL's leader in home runs (21), RBIs (60) and position player WAR.
Arenado seemed to be sufficiently protected Tuesday, posting a 3-for-4 day with a home run and three RBIs. But Gonzalez wasn't just a safety net, netting a three-hit day of his own and improving his batting average since May 23 to .396. He also lined a double that had an exit velocity of 118 mph, according to Statcast™, freezing Yankees right fielder Carlos Beltran.
As Blackmon explained, that's the plan. And the Rockies are sticking to it.
"I feel like if somebody gets on near the top of the order, we have a really good chance of scoring runs," Blackmon said. "I give a lot of credit to DJ for that. He's a really good handler of that bat. And then CarGo is starting to get hot. And when CarGo gets hot, he can be better than anybody."
Blackmon said he feels that hitting a leadoff home run is a trap, a numbing agent that can potentially derail focus from a three-hour game. But Arenado said it doesn't have that effect on him at all.
"It's almost like a deep breath," Arenado said. "It's almost like, 'Aww, we got the lead.' It's not just a home run."
That said, Blackmon is confident both on offense and defense. But when asked to weigh his two home runs against his diving catches, he couldn't help but contradict himself and perfectly sum up the Rockies' selfless strategy.
"I really like making outs for my guys," he said. "I think there's no better feeling then making diving catches and stuff. Except for homers. Homers are awesome."
Nick Suss is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York.