“Who’s that dude with the weird ass mullet and beard?”
Oh, Charlie Hustle? The do-everything superstar for the Colorado Rockies? The man, the myth, the legend who can outrun gazelles and send moonshot homers to the…MOON?
The first-place Rockies are running through the National League like Derek Jeter at a sorority house and there’s one man who sets the tone each and every night as the leadoff hitter. Charlie Hustle. Peaking in his late twenties and now 30 years old, there’s nothing about Mr. Blackmon that would lead you to ever believe him to be a baseball superstar. With an every-day hipster look you’d be hard pressed to find him anywhere other than a local Brooklyn coffee shop with a “trendy” haircut and a full grown beard.
But don’t let his exterior fool you, the kid can get a base knock or 3 each and every night while stealing your lunch money. Continuing his post All-star hot streak of a season prior, nay, BLAZING HOT streak when he hit .338 with 17 HR in less than half a season, he’s hitting a cool .313 with 8 HR in the early going. While he doesn’t steal as many bases as he did in his Speedy Gonzalez-like season in 2015 when he swiped 43 bags, he’s still THE premier lead-off man in baseball with his fantastic OBP and speed. There’s a reason some of those stolen bases have gone by the wayside, he’s spending too much time circling the bases with the many JACKS he’s launched over the last season plus. Here’s a tip: If you play Fanduel, play Charlie Hustle. That one’s on the house.
Playing behind the man with the magnificent beard and mullet are some fine players in their own right. #2 hitter DJ LeMahieu has followed up a career high .348 BA nicely and superstar Nolan Arenado is off to his usual ho-hum start of hitting nearly .300 with 8 HR. What’s been quite shocking is the drop off of Carlos Gonzalez. The 31 year old who was seen as the face of the franchise a mere two years ago is now below the infamous “Mendoza Line” at .188 with a paltry 2 HR. Guy STINKS.
Which makes it that much crazier is how successful the Rocks have been without their everyday 3/4 slugger producing.
Mark Reynolds can take the credit for telling Gonzo “I got ‘dis homie” and putting the team on his back. He’s slugging .339 and ranks 2nd in the National League in both HR and RBI with 12 and 31 respectively. Add in newly acquired Ian Desmond who’s swung the bat beautifully since his return from injury and you have a Murderer’s Row that’s doing its damnedest to keep up with the red-hot Bronx Bombers. Sure, playing in Coors Field helps as can-of-corn flyballs soar for majestic homers, but the opponent is awarded that same advantage. Yet the Rockies keep puttin’ up W’s. In fact, Colorado’s MLB-best 11-5 record away from Coors stands most impressive. Guess it’s not just the thin Denver air that has the magic in it for this upstart bunch.
The Rockies are mashing the ball like nobody’s business, but is that really so different than years past? We’ve seen plenty of Colorado teams put up crooked numbers inning after inning in the thin Rocky Mountain air with nary a W to show for it. So what’s changed?
Looks like Denver’s own Emmanuel Sanders was onto something. FINALLY, pitching has arrived for the Purple and Black. Leading the rotation has been young gun 22 year old Antonio Senzatela with a 5-1 record and 2.86 ERA. Simply unheard of numbers for a guy who spends half his time at Coors Field. But right behind him is 23 year old lefty Kyle Freeland, churning out a 2.93 ERA himself. And all this without the expert-proclaimed stud pitcher Jon Gray who’s essentially been out the entire season with a foot injury. If he comes back, (I can’t believe I’m saying this), Colorado’s pitching could become downright SCARY.
Ok, not that scary.
But while the starting pitching has clearly risen above expectations, it’s the bullpen that’s been downright spectacular. Led by Jake McGee, set-up man Adam Ottavino, and closer Greg Holland the Rocks have turned late-inning leads into no-questions-asked W’s. The three relievers have a combined 2.00 ERA with the closer from yesteryear, Greg Holland, slamming the door shut in the 9th with a 1.20 ERA and 14 saves. Not only do his 14 saves lead the majors, they’re a full 4 more than 2nd place.
THAT is how you win ballgames. The Royals showed the world how a devastating 7-8-9 bullpen stack can shorten the game to 6 innings when they won it all in 2015. With dominating arms for the first time in…FOREVER, the bats aren’t being asked to put up 10 runs each and every single night. But when they do need to step up, you know who’ll be ready. Charlie. Charlie Hustle.