Black not concerned about early hitting woes

Black not concerned about early hitting woes

DENVER -- Last year, Rockies shortstop Trevor Story homered seven times in his first six Major League games. During Wednesday's 6-0 loss to the Padres at Coors Field, Story went hitless for the sixth time in 10 games, but it also was his second strikeout-free contest -- and that's progress.

"I'm not too down on myself or anything like that," Story said. "I'm coming to work every day, and I'm gonna work myself out of it."

At least Story isn't struggling alone.

DJ LeMahieu, the defending National League batting champ, is hitting .171. Three-time All-Star Carlos Gonzalez is batting .200. Charlie Blackmon, who had two of the Rockies' three total hits as they absorbed their first shutout of the season, needed his current 8-for-19 performance during his current five-game hit streak to reach a middling .256.

The Rockies are at 6-4 because of pitching -- especially their bullpen. Not often is that the case around here. But at no point has the entire powerful lineup clicked. That's either maddening or encouraging, since good hitters can't stay down long. Manager Bud Black chose the latter adjective.

"They're fine," Black said. "These guys are confident players. They all believe in themselves and in each other. They believe in this team. This is a long haul. I think there's nothing to worry about."

The Rockies won their first two series, but dropped two of three to the Padres while hitting .167, with five of their 15 hits sailing for homers. Wednesday's game against Padres starter Zach Lee featured the weak fly balls symptomatic of a group of hitters taking on too much while trying to shock an offense into life.

Lee, mixing a fastball, cutter, breaking ball and changeup -- unafraid to use any of them as a put-away pitch -- forced eight fly-ball outs and struck out three. His pitches were enticing enough to attract aggressive swings that sent the ball into the blue sky.

"Putting the ball in the air is not going to help," said Gonzalez, who in his first at-bat, swung through a pitch that looked hittable, then took a mighty swing that ended up a fly to center. "You might end up hitting a home run, but even if we did, then it's only 6-1. So I think we've got to do a better job offensively to try to play for each other and put runners on base."

After this, the Rockies -- who won't get their first day off until Monday -- will travel for four games against the Giants, who pitch well at AT&T Park. But facing established Major Leaguers Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Matt Moore and Jeff Samardzija might help. Padres starters Jarred Cosart, Jered Weaver and Lee had thrown a combined total of one game at Coors before this week.

"There were a couple starters we'd never seen," LeMahieu said. "They pitched well, but offensively we're not clicking yet, which is frustrating. The pitching is doing a great job; offensively not so much."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.