MILWAUKEE -- Rockies hitting coach Dante Bichette loves home runs. He hit 274 in his big league career, including 201 for the Rockies from 1995-'99. But good at-bats with two strikes, when a runner needs to score by any means, truly satisfy him.
Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki's seventh-inning sacrifice fly to give the Rockies the lead and begin a three-run inning in their 8-4 victory over the Brewers Tuesday meant more to him than the homers by Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. Truth be told, he enjoyed those even more than the three homers the Rockies hit in their season-opening loss on Monday.
"That was probably the most exciting at-bat of the night to me," Bichette said. "That's what we've been working on all spring, that situational-type hitting and getting those runs home that sometimes seem easy. You'd think it would be executed quite a bit, but it's only executed in the high 50s, maybe 60 percent of the time. It's not executed as much as you think it is."
Bichette knows the plight of a Rockies player. Often, his numbers and abilities are shrugged aside because the offensive numbers are dramatically higher at home, with no regard for the demand to adjust to the radical difference in pitch action in opposing ballparks due to the mile-high atmosphere. Because the coach understands in a personal way, the players appear to have bought into Bichette's insistence that they approach two-strike or scoring-position situations with what he calls a "bulletproof approach," which forces them to concentrate on contact, hitting fly balls when necessary and putting the ball in play rather than trying to crush it.
"Obviously, we do really well at home, but we're trying to change those things [on the road]," Gonzalez said. "We've been working all Spring Training, bulletproof, take a good pitch and try to hit it, don't try to do anything special. That's special, when you're thinking about just doing your job. That's professional hitting right there. We're going to hit grand slams, but if you take that approach you're going to have more success."
It's just two games into the season, and the approach will be tested after the Rockies have a long homestand and benefit from their friendly park, only to see that friendliness disappear as soon as they board a plane.
The Rockies recorded 26 hits in their first two games. What will happen in those inevitable close games when hits are not as plentiful? The execution was not as crisp in the 5-4, 10-inning loss on Monday as it was Tuesday.
"It's evident that guys have embraced it," manager Walt Weiss said. "Guys are not going to be able to come through every time, but that was exactly what you want your hitter to do in that situation -- be in the big part of the field and find a way to score that run."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.