Charlie Blackmon has put in a lot of hard work on his way to becoming one of the National League’s most dangerous leadoff hitters. On Monday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates, that hard work pushed Blackmon into one of the elite categories in Colorado Rockies history.
Blackmon stole his 39th and 40th bases of the season in the fifth inning of Colorado’s 9-3 loss to the Pirates. He not only keeps building on his career-high number in steals but also now joins Eric Young Sr. (1993 and 1996), Juan Pierre (2001 and 2002), and Willy Taveras (2008) as the only Rockies to steal 40 bases in a single season.
“I’ve never been there before. It’s really cool,” Blackmon said of reaching the 40-steal plateau. “I didn’t really set out to have certain number goals in mind, but I’m certainly happy with my improvement over last year.”
Blackmon had swiped a combined 41 bases over portions of four seasons with the Rockies coming into 2015. He has an excellent chance to match or exceed that total in the season’s remaining 12 games.
“I think I’m just overall better on the bases,” Blackmon said. “I was able to get comfortable with a large lead and have the ability to get back if I needed to, or steal the base. Some of it is preparation, but most of it really is being in the right mindset. It’s being aggressive, but not reckless and not second-guessing yourself and not being doubtful. If I can get in that mindset, base stealing is much easier.”
With 40 steals now on the season, Blackmon ranks third in MLB in swipes behind Cincinnati’s Billy Hamilton (57) and Miami’s Dee Gordon (53).
Colorado manager Walt Weiss believes the homework Blackmon put in before the season began and the extra time devoted to knowing the opposition has paid off in a big way for the Colorado center fielder.
“He puts a lot of time in studying pitchers,” Weiss said. “He really takes a lot of pride in being an elite base-stealer. He’s really made himself that. He’s always run pretty well, but he does a real nice job of preparing every night to steal bases. Forty bases, that’s a lot in this day and age. It’s a nice accomplishment.”
Part of Blackmon’s homework this season including a deeper knowledge of not only the opposing pitcher, but also the best situations to attempt a steal.
“That was a good spot,” Blackmon explained of his two-out steals on Monday night. “He’s trying to get out of the inning with two outs. It’s a good spot to move up into scoring position. Obviously, if you’re going to steal third there, you’ve got to make sure you’re safe, because it doesn’t give you a whole ton of benefit, except for the fact that (A.J.) Burnett was throwing a lot of offspeed stuff in the dirt, and maybe me being on third keeps one of those pitches up and it gets hit hard.”
Burnett’s pitching style was not only tough for Blackmon on the bases but also for the Rockies’ offense as well. Other than a 3-run homer from Tom Murphy, Colorado’s bats couldn’t capitalize on two bases-loaded situations, including a flyout from Blackmon to end the sixth.
“We had the opportunities but the guy didn’t throw a pitch over the middle of the plate while he was throwing strikes,” Blackmon lamented. “There’s not much damage you can do when a guy is throwing like that.”