Colorado Rockies: Sam Hilliard’s strikeouts keeping him out of big moments

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DENVER, COLORADO - JULY 10: Sam Hilliard of the Colorado Rockies takes batting practice during summer workouts at Coors Field on July 10, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
DENVER, COLORADO - JULY 10: Sam Hilliard of the Colorado Rockies takes batting practice during summer workouts at Coors Field on July 10, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /
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Colorado Rockies rookie outfielder Sam Hilliard must cut down on his strikeouts to earn manager Bud Black’s trust.

Friday night, the Colorado Rockies are trailing the San Diego Padres by a run in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded and two outs. Padres closer Kirby Yates has been ineffective, so they turn to left-hander Drew Pomeranz to put out the Rockies’ rally with left-handed-hitting Sam Hilliard due up.

Instead of leaving Hilliard in to potentially be the game-winning hero, Bud Black goes to the bench and inserts right-handed veteran Chris Owings. With a 2-2 count, Owings hits a lazy fly ball to center. Game over. Rockies lose by a final score of 8-7.

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Now, there are a lot more important things to nitpick from the home opener, so why am I singling out this one? It is because it shows that Hilliard has not yet earned Black’s trust in such a high-pressure situation.

I realize that Black is a situational manager who wanted to get to a right-on-left matchup, but had it been any other lefty in the lineup, Black would have likely stuck with that batter. Instead, he went with Owings, who is a career .240/.284/.364 hitter in his eighth MLB season.

Hilliard has the potential to be an All-Star in this game and a fixture in the Rockies’ everyday lineup for years to come. He showed that in his September call-up last season when he slashed .273/.356/.649 with seven home runs and 13 RBI in 77 at-bats.

However, there is one gaping hole that has to corrected if Black is going to give Hilliard that chance to be the hero in the ninth … and that is his strikeouts. Last season, in his 77 at-bats, he struck out 23 times. In the five games he has played in this season, he has struck out in 10 of his 16 at-bats.

Next. Looking back on a weird, disappointing Opening Night at Coors Field. dark

Those are the types of strikeout numbers that won’t get him put into high leverage situations late in ball games, no matter how far he can hit a ball into the stands on any given moment.

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