September 27, 2022

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Grichuk the spark in a road win? 'That's huge'

4 min read
OF hopes big hits vs. D-backs lead to reversal of fortune away from Coors

PHOENIX — Randal Grichuk doesn’t evaluate his first half-season with the Rockies on a curve. But he is thankful manager Bud Black is trusting him to provide the power and run production that was expected when he was acquired from the Blue Jays during Spring Training.

“Obviously I’ll be the first to tell you that I feel like I’ve been pretty terrible this year,” Grichuk said. “For him to still have that confidence in me, ‘Hey, there’s still some power in there and that’s what we got him for, and we’re going to keep running him out there to give him a chance to tap into it,’ that’s huge. I know there’s a lot more in there than I’ve shown this year.”

The hope is that there will consistently be nights like Thursday, when Grichuk’s ninth-inning double drove in the deciding run in a 4-3 victory over the D-backs to open a four-game series at Chase Field.

Grichuk’s big night came after the Rockies were competitive but still came up empty in a three-game series at Dodger Stadium to sink back into the National League West basement, after they had climbed to the point of tying the D-backs. But Thursday was one of those nights when the Rockies offered evidence of their belief that while their 36-47 record is a product of not coming through at key moments, such issues can be turned around.

Grichuk, 30, sees himself in much the same way as his club: better than first-half performance, with a chance to prove it as the season continues.

Grichuk arrived with five seasons of at least 22 home runs, with a high of 31 for the Blue Jays in 2019. The thought, as often is the case with someone moving into Coors Field as his home park, was that the power numbers and RBIs would automatically jump. But as so many have learned, the effect of going from Denver’s altitude to other playing conditions is more nuanced than anyone who hasn’t played for the Rockies understands.

Through 70 games, Grichuk’s .252 batting average is six points higher than his career mark of .246. But he has just eight home runs, and at one point went a career-high 24 games without one. His .394 slugging percentage is lower than in any full season with the Cardinals (2014-17) or Blue Jays (2018-21).

The road numbers show the adjustment period has been vexing: .288/.320/.453 at Coors, versus .206/.259/.318 away. His fourth-inning double off D-backs starter Dallas Keuchel ended an 0-for-16 skid over five road games plus his first-inning at-bat on Thursday.

“We’ve got to get him going,” Black said. “His track record of power and home runs is legitimate. There are a number of guys we’ve got to get going in the second half.”

Grichuk has learned that the difference between home and road is more nuanced than he originally believed.

“People don’t realize when we’re at home, pitchers pitch us differently than when we’re not at home, just because of the altitude — not to mention their stuff just looking different, being different,” Grichuk said. “There are a lot of things I didn’t even realize before coming over here. I’m learning a lot this year, the why and the cause of it.”

Grichuk notes that any player should be better at home because of the familiarity. But the trick is finding a swing that works everywhere. His search for a swing to drive balls in the air sometimes created swings and misses.

The first double, a low liner inside the first-base line, was simply going with Keuchel’s pitch location. The second was a manifestation of his best hitting plan. D-backs closer Mark Melancon went hard inside and stayed there, rather than going to a breaking ball. Grichuk still was able to hit to the opposite-field gap in right-center and drive in José Iglesias, whose deft slide beat catcher Carson Kelly’s tag.

Daniel Bard then navigated a clean bottom of the ninth to start this four-game set with a big win. The sweep the Rockies absorbed in L.A. came after Colorado’s four previous series against NL West foes produced three wins and a split.

Grichuk hopes his big hit — something the Rockies couldn’t manage Wednesday, when the Dodgers held them to one hit and took a 2-1 walk-off on Mookie Betts’ infield single — reignites some momentum.

“We had a very good chance to win last night’s game, but anytime you get swept it’s not a good feeling,” he said. “For us to answer back after a late night of traveling, at a place we didn’t have success early on, was good.”

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