Rox

A celebration is in order following a Charlie Blackmon homer against the San Diego Padres, Aug. 17 at Coors Field. (Photo courtesy Colorado Rockies/Matthew Dirksen)

Sometimes you make history by doing the same old thing. Winning at home?  Snore. The Rockies have had winning home records in 19 of 28 seasons. But something is different this season. 

The Rockies are on pace for their second-best home record ever, and the best since the humidor eliminated the pinball approach to pitching at Coors Field.  They’ve won 16 of their last 21 home games entering play Friday and are 8-1 at home in August, including seven in a row starting with their finale against the Cubs and sweeps of both the Marlins and Padres. They need to win 14 of their remaining 19 games at altitude to match their highwater mark of 55-26 set in 1996.

Is it something in the Gatorade?

“I wish I had the answer for that,” manager Bud Black told the Daily Planet Monday after winning the opener with the Padres on a C.J. Cron walk-off homer. “I just know that our guys play with a great deal of confidence in this ballpark. Our defense helps us in this ballpark. Our pitchers are tough as nails. They don't let the environment bother them. That's probably the biggest thing as far as the team game. How we pitch here as opposed to our opposition. And offensively our guys are comfortable here. There's a lot of room in the outfield, the ball flies, as you know, and that lends to confidence, but again, that lends to confidence on the other side as well. I know from being a visiting manager and coach and even going back to my playing days going to Mile High Stadium how that effects opposing players coming here. But no secret recipe. No magic potion. We play well here.”

The success at home started when Eric Young drove the first Major League pitch ever thrown in Colorado over the short left field fence at Mile High Stadium in 1993, and the Coors Field factor took flight two years later with Dante Bichette’s 14th inning three-run walk-off in the new park’s first game in 1995.

“There's a feeling in the eighth or ninth that something magical can happen, and it's been happening,” Black said about the never-over-at-Coors-Field phenomenon. “It’s so great, and it gives us a great deal of confidence as the game goes into the later stages of the game in close game.”

For the Rockies, the “later stages” often translates to the final swing.  They’ve already posted a franchise record 11 walk-off wins this season, and the author of Monday’s most recent game-winning blast couldn’t be more comfortable than in Colorado, his fifth “home” in five years with five different teams.

“Whether it's late or early, we also jump on teams,” Cron told the Planet. “I don't know what it is, but we love playing here, we love playing in front of the fans, and it seems like whenever we're down late, we always come back. It's something that I guess we take pride in. It's special. It’s probably the best home record I've had since I've been in the league.”

At the other end of the spectrum is Charlie Blackmon, the longest-serving Rockie on the roster after 10 years in purple pinstripes. After the Padres battled back against German Marquez Tuesday with a three-run seventh to climb within a run, Blackmon blasted a two-run homer to center off a side-slinging southpaw to build back the lead.  He echoed his manager’s tip of the cap to pitchers like Marquez, who he called “the best player on the field” after the Rockies’ ace pitched 6 1/3 innings allowing five hits and a walk while going two-for-three with a double and two RBIs at the plate, all while suffering flu-like symptoms.

“Our guys are just pitching really good,” Blackmon said, noting the improved home record after a rare losing 2020 season at Coors. “To be honest, our starting pitching is very good at home, and that's the difference.”

Monday’s well-pitched win was actually reminiscent of days past when poor pitching helped set up dramatic come-from-behind wins. Closer Daniel Bard suffered a pair of cheap infield hits to open the ninth inning before yielding a three-run homer to tie the game.  Bard has been an extremely effective closer for the Rockies, but he can leave a memorable impression by using all the rope he’s given before escaping danger. 

Ultimately, good pitching doesn’t account for all those record-setting walk-offs.

“I hadn't thought of that,” Blackmon admitted. “Our team does a really good job of continuing to try to win games no matter what the situation is. We've had some really tough breaks late in the game. It would be easy to say, ‘oh, man, we blew it,’ and then take the loss.  But the Rockies put some hits together, the next thing you know we got a rally going, and then we win the game. It just seems like our guys don't quit.”

Tuesday’s win secured the season series over the Padres, and with Wednesday’s win Colorado earned its second consecutive sweep of the Padres at home.  Even as they left town, the Padres remained precariously in position for a playoff berth.

“Our guys can play with anybody,” Black said, explaining what the sweep says about his team. “When you throw our starting pitchers out there against the opponent, we feel good about our chances with that group. Our bullpen, at times, can match up with other teams in bullpen game [as they did Wednesday]. Where we fell short a little bit is on the offense, but our offense at home has been good, right? We've chronicled that.

“Now it's a matter of taking those same at bats we take here and take them on the road. You got to put the ball in play more, cut back our strikeouts, cut down our chase, and take that on the road when we play other contending teams. It's a great barometer for us to have a series like this to gain confidence that we that we can play with anybody. That's what our expectation is.”

The Rockies knocked seven homers in three games with the Padres, including two each from Cron and Blackmon, a birthday bash from Connor Joe, and one each from Dom Nunez and Trevor Story. As a fitting footnote, Story’s fifth-frame shot in the finale bounced off the “hit the mitt” sign 433 feet down the left field line, triggering a $5,000 donation from UC Health to the Feeding Colorado network of food banks serving all 64 Colorado counties through direct service programs provided by more than 1,300 hunger relief partners.

Talk about home cookin’!