For the second time in three games, the Colorado Rockies rallied late and beat the Baltimore Orioles on a walk-off. Friday it was a home run and Sunday a sacrifice fly. The Rockies won the series 2-1, and no player had a greater impact throughout the three-game homestand than third baseman Nolan Arenado.
“He's a fellow that we rely on every night because of his stature and what he means to us,” Rockies manager Bud Black said.
During the series, the 6-time Gold Glove winner’s play at third base was eye-popping per usual. Nobody in baseball today makes fielding a ground ball on the run and completing the throw to first base look easier, but it was his offensive output that truly stood out.
With each and every at-bat, there was an anticipation in the air at Coors Field. Every Orioles pitch against the 28-year-old righty seemed like it might be sent past the outfield wall.
On four of those pitches that feeling proved correct.
Arenado took full advantage of the thin Rocky Mountain air and a suspect Orioles rotation that entered the series with a combined ERA of 5.77.
Arenado’s final stat line for the series included a .615 batting average (13 at-bats) five runs, nine RBI’s and four home runs.
“My job is to help this team win and doing my job is playing good third base and driving runs in... so that's what I focus on,” Arenado said.
As impressive as his stats were, his impact for the Rockies was greater than what can be seen from the boxscore. His play elevated that of his teammates and many of his hits came at critical times.
“I gotta go up there and just focus on what I'm doing, hit the ball hard, keep the line moving, and get on base,” Arenado said on hitting during critical moments.
One aspect of his game that he feels has improved is, not “overthinking it” during big situations.
Black thinks Arenado’s play helps set the tone for the entire lineup.
“When he plays well It makes the other guys relax and do their thing,” Black said. “Offensively, we've picked it up the last month, and It sort of coincides with how Nolan's going."
He also knows that his best player has bailed them out of a lot of difficult situations.
“When no one swinging well, he carries the torch,” Black said.
In Friday's game, his home runs on back-to-back at-bats sparked a Rockies comeback that culminated in a Trevor Story walk-off home run.
Saturday, the Rockies were unable to pull off the comeback, but nonetheless, Arenado gave Colorado a brief one-run lead on a homer in the sixth inning. That home run marked the 200th of his career.
Following the game, he was excited about the 200 career home runs but was focused far more on the team result.
Sunday he hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth inning and with the Rockies down by one, scored the tying run during the bottom of the ninth to cap off a superb offensive series. His home run in this game (his 201st overall ) moved him into a tie with Dante Bichette for 5th all-time in franchise history.
The Rockies glaring pitching struggles were apparent all series long, but Arenado isn’t focused on that. He tries to concentrate on his own game.
“I’m just focused on doing my job,” Arenado said. “ They pay me to do my job, they don't pay me to pitch and criticize that stuff.”
He added: “There's no pointing fingers around here. Baseball's a hard game... you can't be doing that. At the end of the day, we’re just focused on picking each other up.”
Throughout the course of his seven-year career, Arenado has come up big for the Blake Street Bombers time and time again. His performance against the Orioles was yet another reminder why he signed an eight-year contract worth $260 million this past offseason.
Arenado will continue to have a large hand in the Rockies success moving forward. He is a leader in the Rockies clubhouse and the face of the organization. If the Baltimore series is any indication, NL pitchers should be on high alert. After an uncharacteristically a slow start to the year the 4x all-star has found his stride and then some.