Grichuk hopes to keep feeding off Coors energy

August 22nd, 2022

DENVER -- Sunday afternoon gave Rockies outfielder  flashbacks to his old home, Busch Stadium.

Don’t worry. He didn’t flash back to last week, when the Rockies absorbed a three-game sweep that included an uncompetitive finale. No, his game-tying two-run homer -- in a losing cause, 9-8 in 11 innings against the Giants -- at Coors Field took him back to his days playing with the Cardinals.

“It reminds me of Busch -- packed house, and they’re into it,” Grichuk said. “Big hit, they go crazy. Big strikeout, they go crazy. Shutdown inning, they’re on their feet, cheering. …

“Playing meaningful games in September and October would be a fun one here, that’s for sure.”

The Giants, even at 60-61, are nominally in the hunt for a National League Wild Card berth even though the Rockies took two of three in the weekend series. Part of the reason Colorado acquired Grichuk this spring from the Blue Jays for Raimel Tapia was for his power bat to help push the team toward postseason inclusion.

Grichuk’s homer off Giants lefty reliever Jarlín García, which tied it at 6-6 in the eighth, was his 13th. He’ll need a monster finish to come close to the 22 he hit last season, and he won’t approach the 31 he hit in 2019. But since dipping to .240 on July 10, Grichuk has steadily regained production -- .323 (40-for-124) in 33 games. On Sunday, he also singled during the Rockies’ two-run 10th.

Grichuk knows home runs weigh heavily in how he is viewed. Sunday’s was his fifth during the hot period.

“It’s a tricky situation,” Grichuk said. “Obviously, you want to produce the power, but you want to be a good hitter. It’s really tough for a lot of hitters to be both. You’re going to have your Christian Walker [D-backs] -- he’s going to have some at-bats, low average, walks, homers. You’re going to have guys like ‘Iggy’ [teammate José Iglesias] hitting .300-plus but not as much power. You’ve got to figure out what’s best for you, understand where the team looks to use you and what’s positive.

“I don’t know if I came in here and hit .310 with a .340 on-base with one homer this year, I don’t know if that would be pretty positive.”

Manager Bud Black on occasion has included Grichuk among players who haven’t provided the same power as in the past. But Black has been pleased with Grichuk’s overall work over the past two months.

“He’s been swinging well, especially against lefties,” said Black, noting Grichuk’s .321/.348/.590 slash line against left-handed pitching this season. “Over the last month, month and a half, you’ve seen his average climb into the mid-.260s [.267]. He’s doing his part.”

Grichuk’s homer was part of a game of Coors strangeness -- foreshadowed by a ground ball somehow escaping between the index and middle fingers of third baseman Ryan McMahon’s glove during the Giants’ two-run second.

The Giants went up, 6-2, on Evan Longoria’s seventh-inning grand slam against starter Kyle Freeland. After a mound meeting with Black, Freeland intended to miss down and in with his first pitch and did exactly that. “I don’t know how he hit that pitch,” Freeland said. But homers by Elehuris Montero in the seventh and Grichuk as part of a three-run eighth helped the Rockies drag the game into extras.

With the Rockies down a run in the 11th, the Giants’ LaMonte Wade Jr.’s laser throw from right field beat Sam Hilliard at third base to complete a game-ending double play -- one that needed a replay review to determine that it really happened.

The Rockies will need to win games like that. Part of the issue is missing Kris Bryant for all but 42 games with back and foot injuries, plus inconsistent pitching and poor depth. Colorado will look to correct those issues next season, with the roster screaming for adjustment through trades and free-agent shopping while prospects develop.

All indications are the club’s plans include Grichuk, who enters the final year of his contract. His base salary for 2023 is $10,333,334, but it can grow through incentives based on combined plate appearances last year and this year. Grichuk said he’s not sure what the club is thinking, and “that’s a conversation to be had at the end of the year.”

Grichuk acknowledged the frustrating season, but viewed Sunday as reason to believe.

“It says a lot, because that [Longoria’s slam] was the [seventh] inning – pretty late to go down four,” Grichuk said. “I get it that there are more runs scored here, but in a Major League ballgame, it’s tough. But we just kept selling out, having good at-bats.”