Bare-handing the slow roller and firing to first base to beat Darin Ruf and end the Giants’ fifth inning on Monday night was natural and joyous for Rockies third baseman Ryan McMahon.
In two games since replacing the injured Nolan Arenado, McMahon, 25, has played with a freedom -- not only in the field but while batting -- that indicates he has put a rough year behind him and is having fun.
A third baseman in the Minors, McMahon has played mostly second and third in the Majors. This year, he's hit .212 with 60 strikeouts in 146 at-bats going into Tuesday. But after a few days out of the lineup and in the batting cage earlier this month, and after going from the main guy at second to sharing the job with Garrett Hampson, McMahon has begun to put the difficulties behind him.
Moving back to third, it seems, has completed his newfound peace. McMahon went 1-for-4 in Sunday’s 6-3 home victory over the Dodgers, and added an RBI single and two walks in Monday’s 7-2 victory over the Giants. In the two games, he has had just one strikeout.
“I'm really comfortable over there,” McMahon said. “I've taken a lot of reps over there in the Minor Leagues and everything like that, so I feel good. I love third base. I'd be lying if I if I said it doesn't feel like home, so I miss playing it a good bit.
“But you know, we've got a pretty good player over there.”
McMahon is playing much like the Rockies. There’s no use dwelling on how they got here (for the Rockies, they’ve tumbled from an 11-3 start to needing a hot streak to get into the playoffs). Just play like the dickens now that they’re here.
Offensively, McMahon has been tripped up with a long path at the start of his swing, which most likely will be the key to hot streaks and slumps. Through the cage work, the left-handed-hitting McMahon has become better at keeping his left elbow closer to his body on his swing, and is recognizing pitches quicker. Both are connected to being on time with the swing.
“I would like to think that he's getting more comfortable, if he is more comfortable with the plate, just by hopefully some confidence that might be developing,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “So I don't think so much it's position.”
McMahon said he stopped looking at his stats “a long time ago." And while getting through the season during the COVID-19 pandemic, he is talking to people closest to him in spirit.
“I talk to my dad a little bit,” he said. “My fiancée has been great, kind of just keeping me there [mentally]. Some of my teammates pick me up, stuff like that.
“But until you decide on your own that you're going to really commit to it … it's a lot easier said than done. So I just try and go out there enjoy being with the guys and play some good baseball.”
On the Rox
• Righty setup man Carlos Estévez has given up runs in seven of his last nine appearances, the latest coming Monday when Alex Dickerson homered on a poorly located fastball. His slump started not long after he missed time when hit by a line drive, but Black said Estévez insists he is healthy. Black points to focus, rather than health.
“He's become a little emotional when things have gone awry in his inning,” Black said. “He’s gone from a guy that I thought was developing as a pitcher to, at times, becoming a thrower.
“He tries to overpower the fastball, tries to make the breaking ball too nasty and you can't do that.”
• Black said righty No. 29 prospect (per MLB Pipeline) Antonio Santos is a candidate to start one of the games of Friday’s doubleheader at Arizona. Santos, 23, has appeared in relief in two blowout losses and has an 8.44 ERA in 5 1/3 innings. Black said he would “probably not” call on Jeff Hoffman, a starter until converting to relief work this season.
• The Rockies carried many players from their alternate camp on the road trip, but decided against bringing lefty No. 2 prospect Ryan Rolison, the 2018 first-round pick out of Ole Miss. Rolison will report to Scottsdale, Ariz., for instructional ball in early October. Black said teams are working to have games against one another during the instructional program.