Entering Monday’s series opener at Coors Field against the San Diego Padres, the Colorado Rockies had struck out 34 times in their three games since returning from the All-Star break. They dropped the first two of those games, averaging 12 strikeouts apiece in those losses.

On Monday, Colorado made a concerted effort to take better at-bats and cut down the strikeouts. It paid off in the form of a 9-6 win over the Padres, including three runs that were directly attributed to taking a free pass rather than swinging freely.

“We had some good at-bats in [the recent weekend series in] New York,” manager Bud Black said postgame. “We talked about it in our hitter’s meeting [Monday] about the at-bats [Sunday] and let’s try to carry that over. So I think there was some intent [Monday], on certain situations in not expanding the zone. You know, take what they give you – and if it’s a walk to get on base, let’s take advantage of that.”

The Rockies took advantage of three important free passes, and ended up winning by three runs.

In a five-run third inning, Mark Reynolds and Ian Desmond (who rank second- and third-worst on the Rockies by striking out every 3.1 and 3.7 at-bats) each took bases loaded walks to score runs. Trevor Story, who ranks last on the team with a strikeout every 2.6 at-bats, followed those walks with a two-strike, two-RBI double that had the manager happy about the young shortstop’s approach at the plate.

“I see certain counts where the swing is shortening and he’s taking a better overall approach in the overall at-bat,” Black said about Story following the win.

Story also took a walk in the fifth inning to add to a two-hit, three-RBI night.

Later in the game, Pat Valaika took an important one-out, pinch-hit walk in the bottom of the eighth inning with the Rockies leading by just two runs. Colorado entered the eighth leading 8-3, but allowed three runs in the top half of the inning to tighten up the contest. Charlie Blackmon followed the walk with a single that moved Valaika to third, and DJ LeMahieu hit the first pitch he saw to deep right field to drive in the insurance run with a sacrifice fly.

As a team, Colorado struck out just three times against the Padres while drawing seven free passes. One of those strikeouts was by the starting pitcher, German Marquez, and another was on a bizarre foul tip off the bat of Tony Wolters that was originally ruled a hit by pitch. Nolan Arenado‘s swing and miss in the bottom of the eighth inning was the only true strikeout on the night.

With the win on Monday, the Rockies improve to 7-2 when striking out less than five times in a game. It was the first time Colorado had produced back-to-back wins since June 18 and 20, when they capped an eight-game winning streak.

The Rockies face rookie Dinelson Lamet (5-5, 5.93 ERA) on Tuesday in game two of the series. Lamet is averaging 12.1 strikeouts per nine innings and only 3.3 walks per nine, so Colorado has their work cut out for them if they hope to replicate Monday’s success.