ROCK­IES

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Nick Groke Dustin Brad­ford, Getty Im­ages Nick Groke: ngroke@den­ver­post.com or @nick­groke

year-old out­fielder has only two ca­reer home runs, but his speed can fly him around the bases. In the sec­ond in­ning, his line drive down the right-field line rat­tled around the cor­ner long enough for him to sprint into a stand-up triple. And his ground-rule dou­ble to left field in the third in­ning only capped his run.

With a cy­cle on the line to lead off the eighth, Tapia struck out. He re­turned to the Rock­ies’ dugout hear­ing ap­plause from the first-base side of the Coors Field crowd of 49,131.

“Stand-up triple, stand-up dou­ble, stand-up homer,” Black said.

Black­mon’s homer in the fourth landed just about the time Ma­jor League Base­ball an­nounced the Colorado cen­ter fielder would com­pete in the Home Run Derby next week in Miami. His 18th home run this sea­son, one be­hind Mark Reynolds’ team lead and the most among NL cen­ter field­ers, gave the Rock­ies a 3-0 lead.

But Black’s ex­pla­na­tion for his club’s los­ing skid served as a map for fi­nally end­ing it. As the Rock­ies col­lected 10 hits Mon­day, they fi­nally found a start­ing pitcher to throw some length.

Hoff­man, a 24-year-old rookie, weath­ered back-to-back home runs from Scooter Gen­nett and Joey Votto in the sixth that tied the game 3-3 be­fore set­tling in for seven. He re­tired the fi­nal six bat­ters he faced.

Hoff­man gave up just four hits and three walks over 90 pitches, im­prov­ing to 5-1 af­ter his call-up from the minors in early May.

“To the crit­i­cal eye, I still want Jeff to hit his spots,” Black said. “But he knows the im­por­tance of keep­ing the ball down. What I do like: Over­all, he threw strikes. I’m not go­ing to flip my nose up at that one.”

And the Rock­ies fi­nally set up a bullpen with the two arms who most ably sur­vived a week of blown leads and rough out­ings. Lefty Jake McGee faced just three bat­ters in the eight af­ter a rou­tine dou­ble play to sec­ond base­man DJ LeMahieu. And all-star Greg Hol­land struck out Adam Duvall and Eu­ge­nio Suarez in a 1-2-3 ninth against the heart of the Reds’ lineup for his base­ball-best 27th save, a club record for most saves be­fore the all-star break.

The Rock­ies played so well through 11 weeks to open the sea­son, they in­flated a cush­ion in the

Char­lie Black­mon made a spe­cific and con­scious de­ci­sion to hit home runs. This is sim­i­lar to de­cid­ing to run fast. It’s not some­thing that is just done.

But the Rock­ies’ cen­ter fielder and lead­off hit­ter spiked his long­ball num­bers last year, fin­ish­ing with 29 homers in his third full sea­son in the ma­jors, a 61 per­cent jump over his first two full sea­sons. Sun­day, Black­mon was se­lected for his sec­ond All-Star Game ap­pear­ance.

Around the time he lined a solo home run to the right-field mez­za­nine off Reds right-han­der Luis Castillo in the fourth in­ning Mon­day night at Coors Field, Black­mon was an­nounced as a par­tic­i­pant in next week’s Home Run Derby in Miami, ac­cord­ing to Ma­jor League Base­ball. NL, a lead so deep that a week of frus­tra­tion and ug­li­ness still did not dent their hope. They re­main well ahead in a wild-card play­off race, de­spite trail­ing two teams in their own di­vi­sion. And they are 8-2 in their past 10 home games.

“I’ve al­ready seen it,” Black­mon said. “I’ve seen the of­fense be good, I’ve seen the pitch­ing be good. I’ve seen the bullpen be re­ally good. It’s there. If you can do it once, you can do it again. We just have to be con­sis­tent. We just have to get it all go­ing at the same time.”

“I just try to learn as much as I can from the ex­pe­ri­ence I’ve gained and im­ple­ment it into my game go­ing for­ward,” he said be­fore Mon­day’s game. “Pick up a lit­tle bit as I go and try to be a lit­tle bet­ter than I was the day be­fore.”

Black­mon’s 18 homers this sea­son rank 14th in the Na­tional League, but he by far paces the NL’s cen­ter field­ers. He is one be­hind Mark Reynolds‘ team lead and three ahead of Nolan Are­nado.

“Day to day, I keep it pretty sim­ple,” Black­mon said. “But if I’m tak­ing care of the day-to-day stuff, when you look back at big­ger pe­ri­ods of time, you’ll see progress.”

Black­mon will com­pete in the Home Run Derby against the Mar­lins’ Gian­carlo Stan­ton and Justin Bour, the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger, the Twins’ Miguel Sano, the Yan­kees’ Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez and the Roy­als’ Mike Mous­takas.

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