December 9, 2022

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Blackmon continues surge with 2 Philly HRs

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Rockies' outfielder logs 4th multi-HR game at CBP, but defense, pitching struggle
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PHILADELPHIA — Charlie Blackmon’s two home runs on Tuesday night — his fourth multi-homer game at Citizens Bank Park — didn’t erase anything in the Rockies’ 10-3 loss to the Phillies. And Colorado is tasked with not letting a second straight sloppy and lopsided loss in this four-game series erase a solid start to the season.

A night after committing three errors and other defensive faux pas in an 8-2 defeat on Monday, the Rockies committed two second-inning errors, including a third in two games for usually sure-fielding third baseman Ryan McMahon. Only difference between the games was Kyle Freeland pitched far better the previous game (one earned run in five innings) than Germán Márquez (seven runs, four earned, in 3 2/3).

But before the series began, Blackmon — with 10 career homers at Citizens Bank Park, including three games with two and one with three — spoke of a Rockies club that is imperfect but owns a 10-7 record.

“At any given time period during the year, you’re going to look at your lineup and there are gonna be guys that are swinging it good and guys that aren’t swinging it good, and guys that are in the middle,” said Blackmon, who shook off his slow start and is hitting .349 (15-for-43) with four home runs in his last 12 games. “That’s the truth about baseball. Nobody is going to be great wire-to-wire.

“I do think we’ve had enough guys be good to get innings started. We’ve been pretty good as far as driving in runs — just enough here and there, maybe even a homer.”

The Rockies have two more games against the Phillies in this set to uphold the undefeated series record (4-0-1), and their 4-3 road start is far better than last year’s 2-17 mark away from Coors Field. All of this is with Brendan Rodgers’ average dipping to .078, and Kris Bryant (1-for-14 road trip before being scratched on Tuesday with back soreness) and Elias Díaz (0-for-10 on the road trip) also struggling.

One doesn’t have to view social media to know that the Rockies have a rough recent history overall, and a tradition of poor play on the road. They can pick their challenge — set out to prove they can join the 2009, ‘17 and ‘18 teams as the only ones to finish with winning away records in club history, or ignore the longtime drumbeat of how poor Colorado is away from Coors Field.

But the emergence of Connor Joe, whose hit streak ended at 12 games, has allowed Blackmon to settle in the No. 2 spot in the order. Bryant and Randal Grichuk, whose own hit streak ended at 10 games, have taken key spots in the order. C.J. Cron has six homers from the cleanup spot and several young players have stepped forward. These are all conditions that should travel well.

“Our lineup is deeper than it has been in the past,” Blackmon said. “You’re seeing more production at the bottom of the order. And I do think the type of hitter that we have in this lineup is not so much the strike at the first pitch.”

An underrated part of Blackmon’s game could come in handy if the Rockies struggle for a prolonged period and face familiar questions that they can only answer through their play.

“When athletes play with freedom, they play better,” manager Bud Black said. “Charlie is an example of that. We know Charlie is prepared, intense, competitive, but he plays loose — and he might not show like all the time in the dugout, through television. But he’s calm.

Last season, Blackmon didn’t raise his batting average over .200 until early May. He admitted some concern during the first week-plus, but he handled it well by clinging to an approach he brought into the season.

“It’s just trying to simplify, trying to have less movement, see the ball better, swing at pitches in the middle of the plate, feel comfortable,” he said. “There’s always that time in the beginning of the season where it takes a little while to get comfortable in the box. That’s always tough for me.

“You’ve just got to keep things in perspective and realize it’s gonna be a long season.”

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