January 29, 2023

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'He's just really fun to be around': Cron making his mark

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DENVER — Having lost eight of their last nine, the Rockies haven’t offered casual fans much to smile about lately. The team has sunk two games under .500 and is in the cellar of the National League West. But for those fans who stuck it out to the final out at Coors Field on Tuesday night, C.J. Cron has remained a bright light, offering endless reasons to cheer.

In Tuesday’s 10-7 loss to the Giants, Cron was 3-for-4 with an RBI and three runs scored when he came to the plate in the ninth with two out and two on, representing the tying run. There’s nobody else a manager or teammate would rather have up in that situation. With a 1-2 count, Cron sent a soft fly into shallow center, and it took a charging, diving catch from center fielder Austin Slater to neutralize the Rockies slugger and hand Colorado its 12th consecutive loss to the Giants — including eight straight at home.

“Not the best result,” Cron said. “Obviously, I love opportunities like that. I pride myself on being able to drive in my teammates when they get on base in front of me, especially hitting in the middle of lineup. So not being able to get the job done there stung quite a bit, and hopefully we can flush it and get back out there tomorrow.”

For manager Bud Black, the at-bat may not have been so flush-worthy. It captured the essence of his team, their desire to climb back from any deficit, and the character of the man who has been in the thick of their offense and kept them within reach of success.

“Down 10-2, we got the tying run to the plate with arguably our best player,” Black said. “He did his part. He got three hits. Had some good swings. He’s been able to collect hits, hit for average, for power, even that last at-bat against a guy throwing 100 mph with an 88 mph slider with some deception, a really nasty breaking ball. He put the bat on it, and Slater came in and made a nice play. He’s showed the ability to hit to all fields. He’s got power. He’s doing his part. In a lot of ways, he’s carried us through this.”

Cron’s three hits — all off starter Alex Cobb — gave him his 15th multihit game of the season, the most in the Majors. Cobb held the Rockies to a scattered pair of runs through the first five innings before a five-run fifth frame closed the gap.

“Nothing crazy,” Cron said of what gave him the key to wearing down Cobb. “I had a couple of good pitches. I didn’t hit the ball that hard off him, so I’m pretty fortunate to even get those hits.”

Cron was 2-for-4 with a walk, a run and two RBIs in the series opener Monday, and he went 5-for-13 in the Royals series, capping nearly a full year as the Rockies’ most dependable bat in the lineup and an increasingly valuable glove in the field. Entering Tuesday, his four defensive runs saved at first base were second best in the Majors.

He’s slashing .321/.368/.593 through 36 games this season, and while he’s found a happy place at Coors Field, where he’s slashing .398/.446/.723 with seven of his nine home runs, 22 of his 27 RBIs, and 11 of his 15 multihit games, he’s making his mark well beyond the friendly confines of Colorado.

“Around the league, when I talk to other managers, coaches, players, they’ve been impressed by his play, not only with the bat, but on the field,” Black said. “He’s being noticed.”

Cron’s value isn’t contained within the lines. Making a rehab start in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Kris Bryant commented on Cron — an alum from the nearby University of Utah — and his presence in the clubhouse.

“He’s awesome,” Bryant said. “He keeps it light. He’s a great guy. He’s a great baseball player that often doesn’t get enough credit for what he’s able to do. He’s just really fun to be around.”

Ultimately, as the Rockies navigate the most trying stretch of their season to date, Black points to Cron’s emblematic example on a team that fought back from a dismal deficit to put victory within reach.

“You saw tonight that we came back from 10-2 to get the tying run to the plate,” Black said. “That sort of answers all your questions about the guys.”

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