Colorado Rockies morning after: Ryan McMahon and his new approach

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 4: Ryan McMahon #24 of the Colorado Rockies watches his solo home run to tie the game in the seventh inning as catcher Nick Hundley #5 of the San Francisco Giants looks on at Coors Field on September 4, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 4: Ryan McMahon #24 of the Colorado Rockies watches his solo home run to tie the game in the seventh inning as catcher Nick Hundley #5 of the San Francisco Giants looks on at Coors Field on September 4, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) /
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Ryan McMahon came through for the Colorado Rockies once again in a pinch-hitting role late in the game on Tuesday night. It’s becoming a thing of habit for the 23-year-old infielder.

McMahon’s pinch-hit home run in the seventh inning lit a five-run fuse for the Colorado Rockies, sparking a come-from-behind 6-2 win over the San Francisco Giants. The win was Colorado’s sixth straight against San Francisco, including five straight victories at Coors Field. It also kept them alone at the top of the National League West as the end of the regular season creeps ever closer.

Of course, Rockies fans remember McMahon’s first pinch-hit homer of the season, an August 10 shot against former Colorado pitcher Zac Rosscup and the Los Angeles Dodgers that propelled the Rockies to a 5-4 victory. The next night, in a starting role, McMahon again provided the heroics with a three-run walk-off blast against the Dodgers.

Since being recalled from Triple-A on July 29, McMahon is hitting .275/.359/.478 overall. However, in high-leverage situations, he has put together (in 36 plate appearances) a line of .394/.417/.727 with an OPS of 1.144.

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McMahon credits the time in Triple-A between June 21 and July 29 as an eye-opening time for him and his approach at the plate, especially when it comes to pinch hitting.

“As soon as I stopped looking at it (regular hitting versus pinch hitting) so differently like that, I go up there and take it like I would take my first at-bat of the game,” McMahon told me in an exclusive chat after Tuesday’s win. “Once I’ve done that, I’ve found a little more success in that role.

“When I went back down, I was like, ‘Why don’t I just take the same at-bat? Why am I so worried about possibly missing it, a pitch to hit? Who cares? I miss pitches in normal at-bats all the time and I still get hits.’ I just went up there and let it all hang out and said, ‘Hey, I’m just going to go up there and grind it out.'”

That approach has made a difference for McMahon, who had just a .211 average in 95 at-bats before the June 21 send-down. It’s also making a difference for the Rockies as young players who were up with the team earlier in the season are coming through with some big moments in September. On Monday, Noel Cuevas delivered the game-winning hit and McMahon started the ball rolling again for the Rockies late on Tuesday night.

"“With Noel or any young player, it’s a growth opportunity every time you get into a big league game,” Colorado manager Bud Black said before Tuesday’s game. “Experience is the best teacher.”"

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That experience includes being sent down to Triple-A to work on the things necessary to succeed at the Major League level. McMahon is living proof of that and Rockies fans are seeing some of the work put in by McMahon, Cuevas and others 425 miles south of Coors Field in Albuquerque pay off in big ways.

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