DENVER -- It has been almost eight weeks since Charlie Blackmon had homered, and yet multiple members of the Rockies predicted he’d do just that on Sunday.
Bench coach/acting manager Mike Redmond called Blackmon’s solo walk-off shot in the 6-5 victory over the Dodgers in 10 innings at Coors Field. Hitting coach Dave Magadan also made the fearless and, Redmond admitted, more-trusted prediction.
“I’m notorious for calling homers -- I call them all the time,” said Redmond, in his third game in place of manager Bud Black, who is out because of MLB’s COVID and contact tracing protocols. “I might call 50 home runs in a game.
“But ‘Mags’ and I did sit there and go, ‘Charlie hasn’t hit a walk-off in a while, and this would be a perfect spot.'”
Starting pitcher Jon Gray, who went seven innings and struck out seven to move into second on the Rockies’ career strikeouts list, said he called it, only a pitch earlier.
“I called first-pitch homer from Chuck right there,” said Gray, who has 779 strikeouts -- ahead of Ubaldo Jiménez (773) and behind only Jorge De La Rosa (985) in club history. “Didn't get it then, but it was worth it a couple pitches later. We do a home run game, where we get one pitch in one at-bat. I saved that pitch for Chuck right there.
“I picked the wrong one, but sure enough, he got it out.”
And even Blackmon, who last homered on June 3 and has gone from an approach fueled by power to one fueled by hustle, was upset that he didn’t do better against the Dodgers’ Phil Bickford on the pitch that Gray predicted.
“I faced that guy for the first time two days ago, and he’s got a little deception,” said Blackmon, who also delivered a first-inning RBI single. “There’s something to it that you don’t see from the side. Once you get in the box, it gets on you, cuts a little bit. Actually, I was a little upset with myself after my first swing, fouling it off kind of late.
“And I was able to make an adjustment.”
It was Blackmon’s second walk-off homer this season. The first was on May 4 against the Giants, who were able to go to bed Sunday still leading the National League West -- but with the eight-time defending champion Dodgers in hot pursuit.
Blackmon’s three walk-off hits this season -- he also did it against the Padres on June 16 -- tie him with Dante Bichette (1996) for most in a season in club history. And Blackmon has seven career walk-off hits to tie Bichette for second in club history, two behind Todd Helton. So maybe it wasn’t so far-fetched for anyone to sense a game-winner was coming from Blackmon, whose chance came after Trevor Story shook off four strikeouts with a game-tying sacrifice fly.
But the way these meetings have gone since the end of 2018, when the Rockies grabbed the Dodgers’ attention by forcing them to a 163rd game to decide the NL West, it was far-fetched for anyone to expect a joyous ending for Colorado in front of a crowd of 35,513. After winning the April 1 season opener, the Rockies had dropped eight straight to the Dodgers -- and even with Sunday’s thriller, they’re just 9-23 vs. L.A. since the start of 2019.
Blackmon, though, knows something about staying competitive. He didn’t pull his batting average above .200 until May 5, but from that date through Sunday, he has hit .301 with a .386 on-base percentage.
Blackmon’s overall work over the last two months put him in at least passing consideration for inclusion in the All-Star Game, where only pitcher Germán Márquez represented the Rockies. Maybe more home runs would have boosted that argument. But the concern now is, as it has been, helping to win games.
“I’ve been pretty competitive as of late,” Blackmon said. “I’m making more outs when I feel good in the box, rather than coming back to the dugout feeling like I beat myself. Today, my at-bats were competitive. My swing was feeling pretty good. If I got some pitches to hit, I felt I was going to hit them hard.
“Ideally, I’d like to do both, but if I had to pick, average or power, I’d pick average. I’d love to be a consistent hitter.”
But it’s nice to have a home run swing when the situation calls for it, and when folks on his team predict it.