DENVER -- On unattractive nights like Monday’s series opener, shortstop Trevor Story believes there is nothing wrong with looking in the mirror and remembering what the Rockies were a few months ago, and how beautiful things can be.
Story doubled in his first two at-bats, then he launched his 27th home run of the season in the fourth inning. But the three-run lead the Rockies carried into the fifth evaporated into a deficit in the space of four batters, and in what has been a repeated storyline of late, Story’s best efforts became obscured by an 8-6 loss to the D-backs at Coors Field.
Back on June 20, when the Rockies completed a three-game sweep of the D-backs, they not only were six games above .500, but they were at the end of a 37-22 stretch. Only the Dodgers, at 43-17, were better. But since June 21, Colorado is 13-31 -- worst in the National League and only ahead of the Tigers’ mark of 9-36.
“We haven’t performed the way we want to on a consistent basis -- obviously, more losses than wins, and it hasn’t been pretty,” Story said. “But when we look in the mirror, we see the team that went on that run, that was second in the NL at the time. That’s how we view ourselves. We always will be positive in that aspect.
“We’re humbled. We know we’re not performing the way we want to. We’re doing everything we can to fix it.”
If all this were fixed, stories on Story would tell the tale of how he has emerged to the upper echelon of NL shortstops.
Story went 3-for-4 with a walk against the D-backs, and he has now hit safely in 10 of his last 11 games. His homers in four straight home games are a career high, and constitute the Rockies’ longest such home streak since Charlie Blackmon's five homers in a four-game stretch from May 11-June 11.
Beyond that, Story’s 14 defensive runs saved, per Fangraphs, entering Monday ranked second in the NL to the D-backs’ Nick Ahmed (19). Because Story missed 11 games -- with a sprained right thumb from June 20-July 2 -- he has played 97 1/3 fewer innings than Ahmed. Story has appeared in two straight All-Star Games, won a Silver Slugger Award last season and he is in line to at least be a Gold Glove Award finalist for the first time.
All in a season when the Rockies entered with hopes for a third straight postseason appearance, then watched it all fall apart.
“This is a crucial point to show and lead the way,” Story said. “Nolan [Arenado], Chuck, myself, Desi [Ian Desmond] and Murph [Daniel Murphy], it’s a big time for us to lead and show how you go about your business every day. We’re taking it personal to where we want to come out there and lean on the young guys, just show them nothing’s given to you for free in this game. We’re working hard and trying to win, still.”
All of Story’s hits, including his homer to straightaway center, came off D-backs starter Merrill Kelly. But the signature play may have been Story’s second-inning double, when he took a chance and made it to second on a roller to center fielder Ketel Marte.
“Trevor, right now is in a good spot,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “He’s seeing the ball well. He’s taking really good swings. He’s playing hard. I love the ground ball up the middle, turning it into a double. He’s playing the game.”
A few takeaways
• It was a mixed night for rookie starter Peter Lambert. He left with a lead after five innings, but he gave up three runs on four hits and five walks (one intentional). Four of the walks came in the D-backs’ three-run second.
But there were fleeting instances of growth. After walking the bases loaded in the fourth, Lambert forced Josh Rojas, making his MLB debut, to hit into a 1-2-3 double play before giving up Ahmed’s two-run double. Jarrod Dyson doubled to open the fifth, but Lambert made sure Marte, Eduardo Escobar and Christian Walker didn’t get the ball beyond the infield.
However, after walking as many as three batters just once in his first nine starts, Lambert has walked 12 in his last three outings.
“After every game you’ve got to go back and see what you did well and what you didn’t do well, and tonight I allowed a lot of free baserunners,” Lambert said.
• Given a 6-3 lead, lefty reliever Jake McGee replaced Lambert and he gave up a sixth-inning leadoff homer to Jake Lamb, and two batters later, a two-run shot to Ahmed. Then, righty Chad Bettis replaced McGee and yielded Carson Kelly’s go-ahead homer.
Lamb’s homer was the first McGee has yielded to a lefty hitter this season, and his ERA is a solid 3.98, while 10 of the 19 runners he has inherited have scored. Bettis has yielded eight homers in 49 1/3 relief innings, with a recent penchant for serving them up to the first batter he faces. But with the exception of closer Scott Oberg, bullpen performance has been undependable.