DENVER — Rockies second baseman Brendan Rodgers ripped April off his calendar — let’s pretend he has an old-time paper one — crumpled it, burned it and washed the ashes down the drain on Sunday afternoon.
Rodgers lashed a two-run single to right field with his first at-bat, a three-run double in his second. His four-RBI day not only ended an 0-for-17 skid as part of a season-long slump, but they led the Rockies’ 10-1 victory over the Reds to complete a three-game sweep at Coors Field.
The hits were real — they were the baby steps that took Rodgers’ average from .078 to .109. But, man, were they also symbolic.
“I will never think about that month again,” Rodgers said.
The Rockies are banking on the success curve of last season, Rodgers’ first as a Major League regular. Once Rodgers has a little success, slumps are gone.
After missing 44 games with a right hamstring injury last season, Rodgers hit .161 (5-for-31) in his first 10 games. But from June 3 to season’s end, Rodgers hit .295 with 15 home runs in 92 games.
Entering the finale vs. the Reds, Rodgers had missed the last four games with back soreness. Success came in the first inning, when he battled Reds starter Reiver Sanmartin for six pitches, four with two strikes, before lining the single. Rodgers showed happiness and relief while running to first base after plating the fifth run of the six-run inning.
His teammates didn’t stop at relief.
“The dugout was electric,” said Rockies starting pitcher Kyle Freeland, who had a big day himself – seven innings, four hits, one run and four strikeouts.
“Everybody sees how hard he’s working and everybody wants him to be successful, because we know how good a player he is,” said Charlie Blackmon, who was not in the lineup and could put his energy into supporting Rodgers. “It was nice for him to have some success today — four RBIs. That’s an incredible game. And even more importantly, I just spoke to him and he says physically he feels really good. [We have] tomorrow off, and he should be good to go.”
Rodgers’ second hit, a second-inning double to the right-center-field gap, was reminiscent of his strong finish to last season.
“I’m just getting back to myself, taking the ball to right field,” Rodgers said. “That first hit was a huge huge first step for me. Then, obviously, the next step — driving one in the gap — is a great feeling. I’ve got to stay up the middle of the field. That’s where I do most of my damage, so I’m going to continue doing that.”
Manager Bud Black has said all along that once Rodgers has success, it will continue. Rodgers took off last year after hitting his first Major League home run, on June 5 off the Athletics’ Jesús Luzardo. Black said other than poor timing — which Rodgers acknowledged a week ago — there was nothing particularly wrong with his swing.
“He’s got a good swing,” Black said. “Sometimes you can overanalyze things, but he’s got as good and as efficient a swing as anybody — but his timing was off. When he hits the ball to right-center, that’s a good sign. I thought he had some good swings, too, on a couple of strikeouts. He just missed a couple of pitches, but he’ll get there.”
Rodgers rose slowly after sliding and not coming up with Tyler Naquin’s sixth-inning grounder, but that was because “I cleated my inner thigh … I had a hole in my leg.” The next batter, Kyle Farmer, grounded into a double play on which Rodgers made the pivot.
However his back feels, Rodgers has less weight on it.
“Tough first month — definitely the worst month I’ve ever had,” Rodgers said. “But it’s part of the game. You’re going to struggle and go 0-for-20.
“But it’s the same thing on the good side. You’re also going to go 15-for-30.”
Those are the months that he’ll be more joyous about flipping on his calendar.