The fireworks started long before the sun set behind Coors Field on Saturday night.
Brendan Rodgers, hotter than a habanero pepper, rocketed a three-run home run in the first inning off veteran lefty Dallas Keuchel, and Connor Joe lined a bases-loaded triple to right field off Keuchel in the fourth as the Rockies lit up the Diamondbacks, 11-7, in front of a sellout crowd of 48,331.
“I feel good and I’m really trying to hit pitches in my zone that I can do damage (with),” said Rodgers, who’s rebounded from a .078 slump in April to his current average of .264.
Colorado’s pyrotechnics continued with a four-run sixth inning that buried the D-Backs. Kris Bryant, who went 3-for-5 and is beginning to swing with more authority, drove in a run with a single to left, his first RBI since April 17.
“KB had some good swings, had three knocks tonight and he hit the ball on the nose to center, and his timing is starting to come,” said manager Bud Black, who commented before the game that Bryant is on the verge of hitting his first homer in a Rockies uniform after missing 50 games because of a back injury.
Charlie Blackmon followed with a two-run double, the 278th double of his career, moving him past former teammate Carlos Gonzalez and into sole possession of third place in franchise history. Todd Helton’s 592 doubles rank No. 1, followed by Hall of Famer Larry Walker with 297.
C.J. Cron’s single to shallow center field scored Blackmon to push Colorado’s lead to a cushy six runs. Daulton Varsho’s two-run homer off Colorado right-hander Jhoulys Chacin in the ninth accounted for the game’s final runs.
Black singled out the Rockies’ three-run fourth for praise, especially since the rally began with two outs and nobody on.
“Connor Joe’s triple was huge and I thought that throughout the lineup there are some good things happening,” Black said.
Rodgers’ homer was his eighth of the season and he now has 40 RBIs. The second baseman, the third overall pick of the draft in 2015, is hitting .354 (17-for-48) with two homers, six doubles, two triples and 14 RBIs over his last 12 games.
“He’s swinging great, and even some of his outs are hard,” Black said. “It’s a very compact, short stroke, with power in there. It’s everything that (general manager) Billy (Schmidt) envisioned when he drafted him out of high school in Florida. And it’s crystalizing itself right now.”
Rockies left-hander Austin Gomber, making his first start since June 15 after two tune-up appearances in the bullpen, got rocked a bit, but departed with two outs in the sixth holding a 7-4 lead. Gomber gave up four runs on six hits, with two walks and two homers.
“I thought I pitched better than the line,” Gomber said. “I’m heading in the right direction and hopefully, soon, I’ll put up some zeroes. I’m frustrated because I’m making some mistakes that they are putting over the wall.”
Black, however, thought Gomber took a step forward.
“I thought his stuff was good,” the manager said. “He made some mistakes and they made him pay and had some good swings on him. But I thought his fastball was crisp, he threw some good sliders and his changeup was in play. He’ll be disappointed because his stuff was better than the numbers indicated.”
Christian Walker launched a leadoff homer off Gomber in the second. A leadoff triple by Cooper Hummel and an RBI single by Ketel Marte scored a D-backs run in the fourth. In the sixth, a leadoff double by Jake Hager and an RBI single cut Colorado’s lead to 7-3. Then Marte’s solo homer to left cut Colorado’s lead to 7-4.
That was it for Gomber, who departed with a 6.53 ERA. The D-backs immediately trimmed the lead to 7-5 on Walker’s homer off the left-field foul pole on reliever Jake Bird’s 2-1 cutter.
Keuchel, 34, making his first career start at Coors Field, was roasted for seven runs (six earned) on six hits in five innings. The 2015 American League Cy Young Award winner with Houston, who signed a minor-league deal with Arizona on June 7, is struggling. He has an 8.27 ERA.
The Rockies, who are three games into a stretch of 17 games in 17 days, will attempt to win the three-game series vs. D-backs on Sunday at Coors. On Monday, they begin a seven-game road trip in Los Angeles against the Dodgers.