5/6/2014 10:15 P.M. ET
Rockies hitters covering outside part of plate
By Nick Kosmider / MLB.com
DENVER -- There are plenty of reasons for the Rockies' blistering start to the season, which has them at the top of Major League Baseball in nearly every major offensive category.
Contributions have come from everywhere, from the MVP-caliber performance of Troy Tulowitzki and the sophomore surge of Nolan Arenado, to the consistent production of new additions Justin Morneau, Drew Stubbs and Brandon Barnes. Not to mention the emergence of baseball's early-season darling, Charlie Blackmon
Rockies manager Walt Weiss on Tuesday pointed to a pair of tangible areas he believes has led to the eye-popping numbers that have lived in all spots of the lineup.
First: When the Rockies are down in at-bats, they aren't automatically out.
"They are competing better with two strikes, which we didn't do a very good job of last year," he said.
As a team, the Rockies entered Tuesday's action hitting .222 with two strikes this season, well above the .181 average they had in such situations last season.
A prime example was Colorado's 5-4 win over the Diamondbacks on April 29. In the ninth inning, after falling behind 0-2 in the count, outfielder Drew Stubbs watched a couple pitches from Arizona closer Addison Reed miss the plate before he belted a hanging, 2-2 slider over the right-field wall to give the Rockies the victory.
Another improvement: The Rockies are taking care of outside pitches with regularity. (See: Tulowitzki's laser opposite-field home run off Martin Perez during Monday's 8-2 win.)
"We are covering the plate away," Weiss added. "We talked about that a lot this spring. I thought we got exposed on the outer half of the plate last year. Some of that was due to youth, too.
"I feel like the guys have really bought into this approach and are committed to it."
Arenado's streak watched with ease by family, friends
DENVER -- Seventy-three years ago, following a hitting streak meant huddling by the radio or waking up early to grab the newspaper out of the driveway, quickly flipping to the box scores in the sports section.
Such was the climate in the summer of 1941, when Yankees great Joe DiMaggio set a Major League record with a 56-game hit streak that captivated the nation, particularly his friends and family back in California.
As Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado continues to build an impressive streak of his own -- he had hit safely in 25 straight games entering Tuesday's game against the Rangers -- family and friends in California are once again following along, albeit with much more ease.
"I follow him with the MLB [At Bat] app on my phone, and I see every game," Mike Gonzales, Arenado's coach at El Toro High School in Lake Forest, Calif., told MLB.com in a telephone interview Tuesday. "I'm checking every day, checking pitch by pitch."
Gonzales calls the real-time results from his former star "surreal" but not surprising. He watched Arenado hit safely in 28 of 29 games during his senior season, so he knows the 23-year-old is no stranger to torrid stretches at the plate. Still, Gonazles marvels at the heights Arenado has reached just short of five years since graduating from El Toro.
"I've known Nolan for a long time and watched him from a young age," Gonzales said. "I'm not surprised that he's had the success he's had. He's had success at every level. I'm not surprised, but when it actually does happen and he's on the biggest stage in the world with the best players in the world, and he's having the kind of success he's having, it is kind of surreal."
Arenado in high school commonly made the type of plays that earned him a Gold Glove as rookie last season, Gonzales said, but it was the maniacal preparation that led the coach to believe his pupil could become an All-Star level big leaguer.
"He made sacrifices to work out or go hit instead of going to the beach, so it doesn't surprise me," Gonzales said. "I knew, if he could stay healthy and all those other things, I believed that he could be an elite Major League athlete with the work ethic and the talent that he showed. Those were the things that average grade and high school kids couldn't do."
That work ethic hasn't faded. Even though the Rockies didn't take batting practice Tuesday, Arenado was on the field more than three hours before first pitch, working on his footwork while taking ground balls from third base coach Stu Cole.
"I think every great player has to have a certain level of OCD," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "He certainly qualifies."
Arenado put that determination into his offseason program. Shortly after the 2013 campaign ended, Arenado spent a day playing golf with Gonzales in California. His former coach was marveling at the season he had just completed, one in which he hit .267 with 10 home runs and 52 RBIs.
Arenado wanted much more out of his sophomore season.
"He goes, 'Coach, I know I can do better offensively,'" Gonzales said. "We all knew he could. It was just a matter of time."
Tulo finds himself in another zone
DENVER -- Troy Tulowitzki is no stranger to residing in the proverbial zone, even if he has never quite had a stretch like the one he's in now, which has seen him bat .596 (28-for-47) in 14 home games this season.
But what has made this streak most different from others for the Rockies shortstop is its timing. During his career, the March/April batting splits for the shortstop have been lower than any other month. He is a career .269 hitter in the season's first month, with his career-high of .324 coming in August.
That wasn't the case this season for Tulowitzki. He was named National League Player of the Month for March/April on Monday. Avoiding the struggles at the plate that have come early in other seasons, he said, has allowed him to relax, avoiding the weight that can come with trying to grind through a lull out of the gates.
"It makes it a little bit easier," Tulowitzki said Tuesday, one day after clubbing a pair of home runs and driving in four runs during Colorado's 8-2 win over the Rangers. "This game can be so difficult. When you go into a mini-slump and the numbers aren't there at the beginning, it makes it harder."
Tulowitzki isn't taking the hot streak for granted. He's been in the big leagues long enough to know that slumps will come at some point. But starting the season on fire provides a certain level of confidence that can lead to even more of it.
"I'm just trying to work hard every single day," Tulowitzki said. "A lot of players, when they're doing good, they continue to rely on that. I think every day I've come to work hard, and that's something that's really helped."
Nick Kosmider is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.