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Hurray for Homecoming Victories

The Colorado Rockies gave a nail-biting performance to their hometown crowd on the Opening Day at Coors Field that ended in a spectacular walk-off grand slam from Ryan McMahon on Friday. This is the kind of playing the Rockies were showing in Spring Training, and the fans were glad to see it as the start to this first home series.

Everybody loves to watch a good game of competitive baseball when both teams show up with their best, and that is what was on display Friday. As has been the trend, Austin Gomber got behind right off with a walk for the Tampa Bay Rays lead-off batter. That was followed by the equally trending occurrence of a hit to Nolan Jones in left field. Then sadly the third trending occurrence of the Rockies’ opponent getting on the board first when Issac Paredes singled off Gomber’s change-up. There was not much difference to this start until Gomber stemmed the hitting momentum by stranding runners on base with two strikeouts to end the inning.

The Rockies then were able to answer the Rays’ run with one of their own. This tied the game at the bottom of the first, but most importantly it kept the Rockies’ morale up and the support of the fans in it. Just like in game three against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Rockies had answered that first inning lead. Charlie Blackmon popped out after drawing seven pitches and a full count off the Rays’ starter, and then Brendan Rodgers doubled. Nolan Jones stepped up and doubled to bring Rodgers home and to create the positive momentum the top of this Rockies hitting order should be doing. Kris Bryant and Ryan McMahon both went down swinging next, but the Rockies had answered that dreaded first-inning lead by bringing it to a tie game.

Tampa Bay got some great work from the legs of Jose Siri in the second inning when he stole second and then turned Yandy Diaz’s right-field single to Blackmon into a run that barely beat the throw home. Despite this run putting the Rays ahead again, there was a different feel to it. Blackmon came up clean with the grounder and rocketed that throw in, and it all looked good. It looked like the Rockies were there to play some exciting baseball.

Gomber had given up hits in those opening innings, but he had also sent several batters out swinging, so the energy was good. It had the hometown hopeful feel to it, which kept the Rockies in it with solid playing. They were making the catches they were expected to make, and Gomber was holding the Rays at two. By the time the Rockies got to the bottom of the 6th, they had positive momentum because they were playing well. Morale seemed high and that was evident in their bats. When the Rays brought Colin Ponche in for Zack Littell, the Rockies lineup immediately went to work getting a piece of everything Ponche was throwing. The Rockies surged ahead and were looking like the Spring Training team from early March.

The game continued to have good energy. When the Rays fought back to a 7 – 6 lead in the top of the 9th over the Rockies, the energy did not have that taste of defeat like fans have seen so far this season. The Rockies came to bat with discipline and patience. Jake Cave, Rodgers and Jones all grabbed walks from the Rays’ closer to stack the bases and bring up Bryant. Unfortunately, the temptation was too much for Bryant and he went down swinging on three pitches well outside the strike zone.

The storybook ending came when McMahon stepped up and on the first pitch, a 78mph low-inside sweeper, mailed it 417ft to the still-full crowd of purple-bedecked fans for a grand slam walk-off. That was the kind of baseball fans saw during Spring Training, and it is the kind of baseball fans believe the Rockies are capable of in the 2024 season. Now, the question remains if Colorado will keep this momentum going through their first home series of the season and start building some positive balance to their early season numbers.


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