Viva Valaika: Shortstop slugging in fill-in role

Seven of Rockies sub's 11 hits have gone for extra bases after 1st career multi-homer game

Viva Valaika: Shortstop slugging in fill-in role

DENVER -- When everyday Rockies shortstop Trevor Story was placed on the 10-day disabled list retroactive to last Wednesday, reserve infielder Pat Valaika got the nod to take his spot in the starting lineup. That didn't mean the Rockies expected Story-like power production out of the 24-year-old, but they got it in Sunday's 9-6 win over the Dodgers.

Valaika turned in the first multi-homer performance of his career, going deep off Dodgers starter Julio Urias in the fourth, and again off reliever Chris Hatcher in the eighth to provide some much-needed insurance runs.

Neither Valaika, nor his manager, Bud Black, appeared all that surprised at the 416-foot shot to center off Urias, who had given up just five homers in 87 1/3 career innings pitched to that point.

"It was a ball up and out over the plate, and Pat squared it up," Black said. "[Urias] is a good pitcher, and has good stuff. But when you throw the ball up in the strike zone, you're in peril."

"It was just a curveball that I left there," Urias said. "He hit it well. What else can I say?"

Seven of Valaika's 11 hits this season have been for extra bases, including that shot off Urias, which was the first homer the left-hander had given up in 20 1/3 innings in 2017. But he's not trying to fill Story's shoes offensively, even if Story has slumped to open the season.

"I just try to be myself, whatever situation comes up, I don't try to do anything different," Valaika said. "I just try to be the same player every day."

The way he hit on Sunday, and with a .585 slugging percentage in his limited playing time this season, Valaika's teammate-given nickname of "Patty Barrels" may be here to stay.

Manny Randhawa is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.