Baseball is a difficult sport to master. Between the 162-game season, playing nearly every day and the constant, seemingly never-ending travel; to call professional baseball a grind is an understatement.
The long stretch of play can provide some difficulties when trying to establish balance. The sheer amount of games played requires players to have a short memory, but there are always games that stick out compared to others.
The Rockies endured a memorable game to start the weekend, collapsing versus their National League West rival, the San Diego Padres.
Colorado entered the ninth inning with a six-run lead that evaporated following a slew of poor outings from relief pitchers Mike Dunn and Wade Davis.
The Rockies wound up losing 16-12 in a game that required 12 innings to decide the victor.
The clubhouse was deflated. Manager Bud Black was composed when speaking with the media following the loss, but the second the mic went down, his true emotion showed. Black departed the Rockies’ interview room clearly disgruntled, slamming the door shut on his way out.
The story was more of the same in the clubhouse. Dunn stared into an endless abyss with a blank facial expression after surrendering four runs on four hits, while starting pitcher Jeff Hoffman had skipped out of the clubhouse.
Baseball is a marathon, not a sprint and games like Friday’s tend to happen on rare occasions, even to the best of teams.
The Rockies have floated around the .500 mark for the past few weeks and are at a critical point in their season with a slew of games versus division opponents upcoming.
Friday’s collapse was awful, but the strongest trait of championships teams in all sports is their ability to shake things off and move on quickly.
“You have to turn the page,” Black said. “After a tough loss you come out, do your thing and play the game.”
The Rockies’ clubhouse was fairly quiet Saturday afternoon. The players that did shuffle in and out appeared to be ready for what lay ahead instead of dwelling on the past. Despite the quick turn around, the players moved on.
“It feels like a bigger loss because of how it ended, but a loss is a loss,” Nolan Arenado said. “Guys are looking at themselves in the mirror, knowing that they have to step up. Guys are doing a good job, but we have to find a way to take care of business a little bit better. We are going to be fine.”
The Rockies responded by crushing the Padres in the third game of the four-game set, 14-8. Saturday’s victory was a statement win and yet another step in the right direction for the club.
Whether it’s game one, 71 or 162, the Rockies are determined to continue along with the one pitch at a time mentality.
“We have to stay in the moment,” catcher Tony Wolters told Les Shapiro of Afternoon Drive. “It’s pitch by pitch, inning by inning. We have to win every moment that counts.”
The Rockies mindset has always been centered around the present. Black’s marquee saying during his media availability session is, “Rule number one: be ready for anything.”
The Rockies take a lot of pride in their resiliency and ability to move on from tough situations.
In 2019, the campaign has been a whirlwind of sorts for Colorado. At times, the club has looked like a legitimate powerhouse in the NL. In other instances, they have looked dazed and confused.
Where the Rockies end up will be dependent on how their pitching staff functions throughout the rest of the season. Black has long considered the club’s pitching staff as the make-or-break aspect of the team.
“We have to execute our pitches,” Wolters said. “We cannot take any pitch off. We need to be simple-minded back there. We need to make better, consistent pitches over the course of the game, not just five innings. We need to start from pitch one to pitch 150.”
Wolters continued, explaining the fine detail that goes into handling the Rockies staff and how the focus is always on the present moment, like the rest of the club.
“What that means to me is that we have to be detailed,” Wolters explained. “We can’t be thinking ahead or past ourselves. We have to be in (the) moment. Guys are going to hit good pitches, they are in the big leagues for a reason, but if we go and execute our pitches on a consistent basis, the pitchers are going to win.”
The Rockies currently sit with a record of 37-33 and are well within striking distance of an NL Wild Card spot. There is no denying the surplus of talent within the club’s offense, but the difference between them sinking and swimming in 2019 will be their consistency.
The Rockies will continue to roll with the same simplistic mentality that carried them to the postseason in each of the past two seasons. Whether it will work remains to be seen, but for the time being, the club does not care about the 16-12 loss Friday or their 9-1 homestand from a few weeks ago.
Their focus is centered around Sunday’s series finale.
“We are grinders,” Wolters said. “We expect to win and we have a chip on our shoulder. Our goal this year was to play more games than last year and we are going to. We just need to stay in the moment and be pitch-by-pitch offensively and defensively.”