Nolan Arenado wore the cut above his left eye like a prize fighter. The infield dirt smeared across his white uniform spoke to his blue-collar style. The giant smile finished off the perfect picture.
A few minutes before, the Rockies’ all-star third baseman had blasted a walk-off, three-run homer off closer Mark Melancon to beat San Francisco 7-5 in front of a delirious sellout Father’s Day crowd of 48,341 at Coors Field.
But this wasn’t just any walk-off homer.
This one sent shock waves rumbling through LoDo because it not only completed the first cycle of Arenado’s career, it capped the Rockies’ first four-game sweep of the Giants in the Rockies’ 25-year history. Arenado became the fifth player in big-league history to hit a walk-off homer to finish his cycle, and the first to do it since teammate Carlos Gonzalez shocked the Chicago Cubs on July 31, 2010, at Coors.
“This is No. 1, probably the best moment of my career,” Arenado said, momentarily fingering the cut he suffered during the wild postgame celebration scrum. “Obviously, winning the WBC (World Baseball Classic) was big, and I’ve hit some big homers, but this was by far the best.”
The victory was the Rockies’ fifth straight overall and their ninth straight against the Giants, their longest winning streak against a National League West opponent in franchise history. Division leader Colorado (46-26) remains a game ahead of the Diamondbacks and Dodgers in the NL West.
At 20 games above .500, the Rockies are close to the high-water mark in franchise history. The Rockies were 92-68 with two games remaining in 2009, the last time they made it to the playoffs.
The Rockies trailed 5-3 entering the bottom of the ninth Sunday after Giants tagged fill-in closer Jake McGee for three runs in the top of the frame on a two-run, pinch-hit homer by Hunter Pence and an RBI double by Brandon Crawford.
Colorado’s rally started innocently enough with a one-out, bloop single to center by Raimel Tapia. Then Charlie Blackmon singled Tapia to third and DJ LeMahieu scooted a single through a hole at second base to score Tapia.
Arenado strode the plate to face Melancon, the proud product of Golden High School. Melancon’s first pitch was a fastball down and in and Arenado turned on it.
“I got a pitch and I was able to do some damage,” said Arenado, who is hitting .299 with 15 homers and 55 RBIs. “I thought it had a chance. I put some backspin on the baseball and I was hoping it would go out.
“I got it good, but I was a little nervous when I saw the left fielder (Austin Slater) go back. I hadn’t hit a homer in a while (since June 3), so thank God it went out.”
Melancon’s Giants, mired in the NL West basement with a 26-45 record, have lost a season-high six straight.
“My performance has been absolutely terrible,” said Melancon, who blew his second save. “I need to be better. That’s it.”
Melancon said he was hoping to induce Arenado to hit a groundball double play to short, but Arenado sat on the first pitch to cap the eighth cycle in Colorado history.
BOX SCORE: Rockies 7, Giants 5
“I think everybody kind of thought that if Nolan got to the plate in the ninth inning, that’s what he was going to do,” said Rockies starter Tyler Chatwood, who gave up two runs over six solid innings. “He’s a special player and we have all been spoiled to see it forever.
“I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves nationally. I think with us winning games and being on top of the division, I think people are taking notice of him.”
Arenado was aware that he was a home run away from the cycle, but he kept things in perspective when to went to the plate with the game in balance.
“I wasn’t thinking about the cycle, honestly,” he said. “I didn’t want my ego to get in the way, I just wanted to drive the ball to the outfield. As much as I wanted the homer, I just wanted to do something to drive in a run.”
“I just want to be ready for whatever my role is,” Valaika, a rookie, said after hitting his fifth homer this season and the first pinch-hit homer of his career. ‘I wasn’t thinking about a home run, I just knew we needed baserunners.”
Blach, a graduate of Regis Jesuit High School, dominated the Rockies for most of the first six innings. The exception was Arenado, who blasted a triple to right field in the first, singled in the fourth and doubled home LeMahieu in the sixth, cutting San Francisco’s lead to 2-1.
“After we got behind, there was still life in the dugout. We weren’t down,” manager Bud Black said. “It was great. … Our guys were ready.
“Nolan is a special player, and he’s an all-star for a reason. He’s been hitting the ball really well lately. He got a fastball inside and good players do damage with that. Nolan’s a good player.”
Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado had one of the best days of his all-star career Sunday. Some details:
- First cycle of his career (triple in the first, single in the fourth, RBI double in the sixth and three-run, walk-off homer in the ninth).
- Eighth player in Rockies history to hit for the cycle; the first since Michael Cuddyer on Aug. 17, 2014, vs. Cincinnati.
- First major-league player since teammate Carlos Gonzalez (July 31, 2010, against the Cubs) to complete the cycle with a home run.
- Is batting .383 with two home runs, eight doubles, one triple and 14 RBIs in 11 games against the Giants this season.
— Patrick Saunders, The Denver Post