'Grinder' breaks out vs. Braves, finishes triple shy of cycle
By Jon Cooper
Special to MLB.com |
ATLANTA -- Life has not been easy for Rockies outfielder Brandon Barnes during the season's second half. The 29-year-old, in his third full Major League season, came into Wednesday hitting .251, due to a .190 average since the break and .111 during August. He knew of only one way to turn things around -- grind.
"I've been working my butt off to just get out there and keep grinding it out," said Barnes, after leading the Rockies to a 6-3 victory over Atlanta. "My big saying is, 'Grind it out and good things will happen.'"
Good things happening also seem to coincide with Barnes facing the Braves. In the series finale Wednesday night at Turner Field, he went 3-for-4, with a double and his second homer of the season, scoring twice and driving in two runs as the Rockies rallied from 3-0 down in the seventh to win the series.
The win was the Rockies' fourth in 60 games when trailing after six innings. Atlanta is now 38-11 when leading after six.
Barnes also added an RBI single in the eighth inning of the series opener Monday. Were it not for a tremendous throw from Braves left fielder Michael Bourn on the play, cutting down center fielder Charlie Blackmon at the plate, the Rockies might be celebrating a road sweep on Wednesday.
This new-found production is a pleasant sight for Rockies manager Walt Weiss.
"He's worked on some things here recently, him and [hitting coach] Blake [Doyle]," Weiss said. "He feels good about his swing right now and it shows. He's a guy that grinds every day, shows up and performs for the team every day. It's good to see him get rewarded."
Barnes also pestered the Braves in the four-game series at Coors Field just prior to the All-Star break, when he went 4-for-10, with three doubles and an RBI. Combine the two series and that's a .500 average (8-for-16) over seven games, with four doubles and four RBIs.
So what is it that has the native of Orange, Calif., seeing dead red when he faces Atlanta?
"It's probably just coincidence," Weiss said. "[Barnes] is a guy that grinds and competes every day, a blue-collar type player, and he's another one that brings big energy to our club."
Barnes offered his own reasons.
"Maybe my old manager is over there, [Braves third-base coach and former Astros manager Bo] Porter," said Barnes, with a laugh. "It's always fun to play against guys you played for. I've also had a bunch of at-bats off [Braves starter] Shelby [Miller] so I feel like the more at-bats you get off guys, the better you start seeing them."
Barnes, who came in 2-for-7 lifetime vs. Miller, got the better of him with a double as part of Colorado's seventh-inning rally that turned a 3-0 deficit into a 4-3 lead. In that frame, the Rockies transformed from a moribund bunch that saw 14 straight hitters retired into a powerhouse, going 4-for-5 with runners in scoring position and sending Miller to his 18th consecutive winless start. Barnes' two-out double to left set up Blackmon, who legged out a chopper to short for an RBI, then Jose Reyes, who had been 1-for-11 before booming triple to the wall in right-center, capping the rally.
"We knew it was getting later. His pitch count was getting up there and in the later innings you try to make guys work a little bit more and get balls over the plate," Barnes said. "We waited him out and waited for a good pitch and just kept grinding."
In the eighth, Barnes went from grinding to battling to crushing an Edwin Jackson 3-2 slider out to left for two insurance runs that gave the bullpen breathing room.
"I was just trying to battle. He was making good pitches," Barnes said. "I knew that 3-2 count, I had [pinch-hitter] Nolan [Arenado] behind me and they really didn't want to walk me to get to Nolan. So I was looking for something middle of the plate. I was sitting fastball and he threw a slider, so I was able to get the bat out in front."
The Braves might want to consider walking Barnes in the future. The Pittsburgh Pirates, who are next on the schedule for Colorado following Thursday's off-day, might consider doing so as well, or at least be wary of him.
"It's good. You want to continue it," Barnes said. "The big thing is to feed off of it, and keep going. Feel that positive energy and roll with it. We've got to go in there rolling. They need to win to make the postseason and we're going to try to stop them."
Jon Cooper is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.