Rockies’ veteran lead sparked a moment to shine for youngsters

Apr 27, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Colorado Rockies third baseman Ryan McMahon (24, right), first baseman Daniel Murphy (9), and third baseman Nolan Arenado (28) celebrate their win against the Atlanta Braves in the ninth inning at SunTrust Park. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

It’s easy to narrow down a moment into just a singular occurrence, void of outside influence. For the Colorado Rockies and their young players, a game-clinching eighth inning in an 8-7 victory to avoid a sweep was that moment.

There was more to it than just the hits.

The scene was a somber one. After another blown start by a member of their starting rotation, the Rockies found themselves down 7-3 to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Archie Bradley was set to enter the game with the heart of the hosts’ lineup set to oppose him.

Trevor Story started the rally with a single. Then the club’s offseason addition, veteran Daniel Murphy, reached on an error. Another single from Nolan Arenado and walk from David Dahl lessened the lead to three.

Enter Raimel Tapia.

In his career against Bradley and the Diamondbacks, Tapia carried an err of confidence that stemmed from their most memorable encounter prior to Sunday’s win:

The end result, a game-tying triple to clear the bases, wasn’t in doubt in the minds of Tapia’s teammates.

“(Raimel) Tapia just goes and does his thing,” Ryan McMahon said. “He’s a ballplayer man.”

The occurrence was just another example of the type of influence Tapia, through the lessons of those around him, can have.

On the year, despite battling for playing time, Tapia has been a spark plug for the club. Whether it was his three-game homer streak – that included an inside-the-park home run –or his latest heroics, his .271 average doesn’t tell the whole story.

“(Tapia) is showing some signs of maturity here early,” Manager Bud Black said. “He plays an uptempo game, which we encourage. We want that out of him.”

With his increased playing time (five starts in the last six games), Tapia is being given a chance, though his efforts didn’t finish the tale in the win.

Tied 7-7 with no outs, McMahon stepped to the plate on the heels of a 1-for-3 day so far. Though he said the weight was lessened in his mind, the burden was still a heavy one. A hit would save the Rockies from going winless in another division series. Luckily for the youngster, he, much like the other young players on the team, had help.

“Charlie (Blackmon) had talked to me before and he said ‘hey I think this is the approach off this guy, you really (have) to try to go the other way,’” McMahon said.

He did just that.

With the infield shifted in to save the run, McMahon shot the first pitch he saw from Andrew Chafin into left field past a scurrying Nick Ahmed. McMahon went up to the plate, packed with the knowledge for one of the club’s veterans once again.

The conversation prior to the at-bat wasn’t an anomaly. McMahon has made a point to sit in film sessions with Blackmon, bouncing questions off the veteran outfielder. Bordering on annoyance, the Rockies’ newly-minted second baseman wants to know all he can from members of the team that have experienced the most. The same goes for Dahl. 

“Charlie (Blackmon) helps out a lot,” Dahl said. “I watch his at-bats, talk to him on what he has on each pitcher and he helps a lot.”

For the Rockies, their success will depend on more of the same.

Blackmon, Murphy, Mark Reynolds and Chris Iannetta all boast resumes from the majors that stem back to when the youngsters of the club weren’t even drafted. Their wisdom helped on Sunday but hadn’t been missing prior to the pivotal moment.

The losses of Carlos Gonzalez and D.J. LeMahieu forced new voices to step up. After an early-season slump, it appears their talk is beginning to walk.