Colorado Rockies morning after: Bats for Story, Blackmon come alive
By Duane DaPron
Hidden behind the pitching gem turned in by Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Jon Gray on Thursday was the possible emergence of a good sign for the team.
Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon collected two hits apiece and each drove in a pair of runs in support of Gray’s two-hit outing over 6.2 innings to fuel the Colorado Rockies to a 7-3 victory against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the rubber game of a three-game series at Coors Field.
The victory, the second straight for the Rox after dropping three in a row in the team’s season-opening series to the Los Angeles Dodgers, gave Colorado (3-4) its first series win of the 2021 campaign.
Both Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon entered Thursday’s contest mired in early-season slumps for the Colorado Rockies.
Story, after going 0-for-5 in Colorado’s 8-0 conquest of the D-Backs Wednesday night, was hitting a meager .185 (5-for-27) with just one RBI and only one extra-base hit — a double — through six games. Meanwhile, Blackmon — who was given the night off on Wednesday — carried a .105 batting average (2-for-19) into action Thursday with only two RBI this season. His two hits thus far were a double and a home run.
The pair wasted little time on Thursday, showing flashes of the hitting prowess that Rockies fans have come to expect from the two.
Colorado started the game against starter Merrill Kelly with five consecutive hits, the ninth time in club history that the Rox have accomplished the feat. Story and Blackmon were big parts of that opening hit parade.
After Garrett Hampson and Raimel Tapia each began the bottom of the first inning with singles, Story followed by lacing a double off the left field wall to drive in Hampson with the game’s first run. The hit snapped an 0-for-14 drought at the plate for Story.
Blackmon then followed with a single to right field to knock in Tapia and Story and the Rox were off and rolling with a 3-0 lead.
On his next at-bat in the third inning, Story notched an RBI triple to once again send Hampson across the plate and Colorado moved in front 4-0.
Blackmon would later get his second hit of the day with a two-out double in the seventh inning.
Bating third and fourth, respectively, in the order, Story and Blackmon combined for four of the Rockies 10 hits on Thursday.
The big days at the plate boosted Story’s batting mark to .226 while Blackmon now stands at .174.
While each of those marks are pedestrian in comparison to what one would expect from the the pair based on their past offensive numbers, the performances by Story and Blackmon in the series finale with Arizona certainly bode well.
And in a Rox lineup that no longer features Nolan Arenado, the importance of the two returning to being offensive stalwarts for the Rox reigns supreme.
With Story and Blackmon combining for four hits and four runs batted in, coupled with a three-run homer from catcher Dom Nunez, Gray (1-0) had plenty of offensive support in his second start of the season.
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The veteran right-hander turned in a second consecutive impressive performance.
After allowing just one run on five hits with seven strikeouts in five innings before exiting with full body cramps April 3 in his season debut against the Dodgers, Gray was even better against the D-Backs. He stymied Arizona batters, tossing no-hit ball for six innings before surrendering a triple to lead off the seventh.
An RBI single followed the triple and a walk later in the inning — his fourth of the game — ended his day.
Gray struck out five to give him 704 career strikeouts while becoming the fifth pitcher in franchise history to amass at least 700 strikeouts.
After Carlos Estevez permitted a two-run homer in the ninth inning followed by a pair of walks, Daniel Bard was summoned from the bullpen to get the game’s final two outs and earn his second save of the year. Bard is now 8-for-8 in save opportunities in his two seasons with the Rockies.
Colorado sees its first road action of the season when it opens a three-game series Friday at 2:35 p.m. (Mountain time) against San Francisco. Austin Gomber is slated to take the mound for the Rox in his second start of 2021.