Rockies tapping into home-field edge at Coors
LeMahieu's hustle play an example of Weiss' managerial guidance at work
DENVER -- Since the first day of Spring Training, Colorado Rockies manager Walt Weiss has been preaching.
His congregation of ballplayers seems to be listening.
Instead of crawling in a corner after a disappointing season-opening trip to Miami, where they lost three of four, the Rockies came home to Coors Field and have lived by the word of Weiss. They hustled their way to back-to-back victories against Arizona, making an early statement about protecting their home.
"It's one thing to talk about it and say it's what we are going to do," said left fielder Carlos Gonzalez. "It's another thing to put the words in action."
Action? You want action?
Try a come-from-behind 9-4 victory in which the Rockies spotted the D-backs a 4-0 lead after three innings, and then slipped a DJ LeMahieu sucker punch into the middle of an offensive explosion that allowed them to even their record a 3-3 and leave Arizona at 1-7, the worst start in franchise history.
Michael Cuddyer got the comeback started with a two-run home run in the fourth, followed two batters later by Nolan Arenado delivering the first of his two home runs in the game. The bullpen was called on after Jorge De La Rosa's second subpar effort in two starts this season, responding with 4 2/3 shutout innings in which four relievers combined to allow just two hits.
But as big as anything was the little bit of hustle by LeMahieu in the fifth. After singling home Charlie Blackmon with the game-tying run, LeMahieu scored from first base on a Gonzalez single to give Colorado a 5-4 lead.
Emotional edge, Rockies.
Third-base coach Stu Cole had to make the call whether to wave LeMahieu home on the ball that D-backs right fielder Gerardo Parra cut off in right-center, which carried him away from the direction of his throw, resulting in a bit of an off-line throw to the left-field side of second base.
And it was the hustle of LeMahieu, who ran hard from first base, that gave Cole the freedom to wave the run home.
"When I noticed that Parra was kind of taking his time getting to the ball in the gap, and then he threw to second, I knew we had to try," Cole said. "Once [Parra] threw to second base, I was sending him all the way. DJ gets a lot of credit, because he never slowed up. With him being off on the pitch, it put things in motion."
Now, the question is whether Colorado can keep that momentum going forward.
"It is something we talk about a lot, guys running the bases aggressively, looking for the opportunity to take an extra base," Weiss said. "That was a great play by both parties. DJ has to give Stu the opportunity to wave him, and he did give Stu the opportunity to make the big call."
LeMahieu didn't have much choice. He was focused on touching second base and looking for Cole's signal. LeMahieu never peeked over his shoulder to see the ball, showing full confidence in Cole to provide the proper direction.
"It was a great call by Stu," LeMahieu said.
It also was a great effort by LeMahieu.
"I take pride in that, running hard and hustling," he said. "This is what we talked about doing from day one. It's fun."
The Rockies have four more games on this homestand -- one with Arizona on Sunday and then three with the Chicago White Sox -- to try and shake off any hangover from the lethargic events in Miami.
Weiss sees that as good way to start spreading the word that there's a throwback mentality at Coors Field, where Colorado is looking to regain a home-field dominance.
"What we have to do," he said, "is take care of business within our division and take care of things at home."
Historically, if the Rockies have done that, they have had success.
When Colorado claimed the National League Wild Card in 2007 and '09, the team won 51 games at Coors Field each season. And the Rockies had a .611 winning percentage at Coors Field during the strike-shortened 1995 season, when they claimed their first postseason trip.
Colorado didn't have a winning record at home in 2011 and '12, but it did show signs of regaining that home-field edge in a 45-36 effort last year. The Rockies are looking to build off that.
"We have talked about playing well at home and trying to overwhelm teams offensively," Weiss said.
There are 79 more games scheduled at Coors Field this season. Just how successful the Rockies will be in that approach, only time will tell.
Early indications, however, have been promising.