DENVER -- The Rockies’ Josh Fuentes spent the last couple weeks being the fun-loving guy who wasn’t having any fun.
“A lot of the guys and coaches were like, ‘We haven’t seen “Fuent” smile in, like, two weeks,’” Fuentes said Wednesday. And this time he was still beaming.
Fuentes’ walk-off RBI single to deep center off the Padres’ Nick Ramirez in the bottom of the eighth for a 3-2 victory over the Padres earned a doubleheader split and halted the Rockies’ losing streak at five games.
In addition, Fuentes’ second-inning two-run homer off starter Blake Snell ended the team’s homerless streak at six games. And Fuentes had gone 1-for-13 over his previous five games and entered with the second-lowest slugging percentage of any National League player with at least 90 at-bats (.266).
Above all, Fuentes went 1-for-10 with a key error during the weekend series at St. Louis -- a team that has former Rockies third baseman, and his cousin, Nolan Arenado. That trip ended with him grounding into a game-ending double play with the bases loaded in Sunday’s 2-0 loss.
So after Fuentes knocked his extra-innings winner over the head of Padres center fielder Trent Grisham, he could let loose. And during the too-long-coming celebration, teammate Ryan McMahon loosened things up even more by ripping away Fuentes’ jersey.
“I definitely got caught up in trying to do really well, especially in front of my family and in front of Nolan,” Fuentes said. “I wanted to rake in front of him. It was clear that I was pressing. I’ve been doing that the past couple of weeks. But you can definitely say Nolan got me a little too fired up.
“Usually when I do well, my personality is very energetic. But when they see me after bad games -- especially after I had that double play and we lost in St. Louis -- I think it was ‘Mac’ [Ryan McMahon] and [Garrett] Hampson, they waited on me and patted me on the back. With my personality, guys know when I’m pressing.”
Fuentes has been on and off the Major League roster the last two seasons, although he finished last season strong with a .306 batting average -- one that suggested it was time for him to have greater opportunity. This year has been a struggle, and manager Bud Black and the coaches believed Fuentes compounded his problems by becoming uptight.
“He’s an emotional player,” Black said. “He cares a lot. I talked to him the other day about not beating himself up over the recent at-bats or the last couple of weeks. He tries so hard to get hits, and sometimes that works against you.
“He loves to play. He has a great passion to play. We talked about getting back to enjoying the game and don't have it correlate with how many hits you get. A game like today hopefully will make him relax.”
The ending was tense. Closer Daniel Bard gave up the tying run with one out in the top of the seventh. But the game stayed tied because of two standout throws, one from left fielder Raimel Tapia for a force play at third and the other from catcher Elias Díaz to catch Grisham on a steal. McMahon’s throw to the plate prevented a run in the eighth, and it set up Fuentes to relax and win the game -- and maybe even start the process of regaining his swing and playing time.
“You can go one of two ways,” Fuentes said. “You can get surly, say, ‘I’m not playing,’ or figure out why I’m not playing. I knew why I wasn’t playing. It was obvious. There was stuff I needed to work on.
“With Bud, I talked to him yesterday, and the coaches rallied around me. Today, I wasn’t worried about being on time or all kinds of crazy stuff. I just wanted to hit the baseball.”