Sam Hilliard woke up determined Friday morning to end a miserable 0-for-18 slump.
It started with changing his own reflection. Literally.
“I looked at myself in the mirror,” Hilliard recalled. “And I said: ‘This beard has no hits.’”
A clean shave worked wonders for the struggling 28-year-old Rockies outfielder. Hilliard went 2 for 4 with a walk against the Royals — including his first homer of the season — for a fresh start that matched his new look.
“That was a good swing for Sam. Anytime you get your first home run, I think players exhale,” manager Bud Black said following Colorado’s 14-10 home loss to Kansas City. “That was a good one. He had a couple of good at-bats, too. There was a good walk in there in the middle part of the game.”
Hilliard entered the night with just a .145 batting average through 21 games this season.
“I just wanted to kind of start clean and have a different feel going into the game (Friday). I just shaved my face and wore the pants down. It felt a little different out there. But it obviously helped,” Hilliard said. “I’m pretty sure everybody liked it. I got a lot of comments about how I look younger. My wife told me she definitely likes the beard. But she’s gonna have to suck it up for at least a little while.”
Hilliard’s home run — a 443-foot deep shot to center — was especially cathartic. The Rockies entered their current homestand after failing to hit any home runs on the team’s prior six-game road trip through Arizona and San Francisco.
“It’s such a relief. I feel like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders, especially with that first homer of the year,” Hilliard said. “Making nice, hard contact in most of the games that I’ve been in, without getting results or seeing the ball go over the fence, has been really frustrating. When I hit that, I sat on the bench and just said: ‘Finally.’
“Took a deep breath and felt pretty good. But I’ve still got a long way to go.”
Rodgers up and down. Evaluating the performance of Rockies’ infielder Brendan Rodgers proved difficult on Friday night.
Saunders: Rockies by the numbers paints a mediocre picture
Rockies’ Kyle Freeland gives up career-worst 12 hits in home loss to Royals
Rockies’ Kris Bryant progressing toward return from back issue
Rockies’ poor defense: Bud Black, Ryan McMahon know they need to clean it up
Rockies podcast: Messy 1-5 road trip, Kris Bryant update, previewing the homestand
Rodgers was phenomenal at the plate going 3 for 5 with a two-run homer to further erase concerns about his lackluster start at the plate. But Rodgers also committed a costly fifth-inning error — bobbling a routine groundball — that led to a pair of unearned runs for Kansas City.
“I’m sure Brendan would rather trade a couple of those hits for that groundball when Kyle (Freeland) was in the game,” Black said. “But that was good to see him get in on a high fastball for the homer. … He used the whole field, which is what Brendan can do. He’s got power everywhere.”
Rodgers, back healthy after dealing with a hand injury, is not concerned about being a defensive liability moving forward.
“It’s part of the game,” Rodgers said. “You make errors. You have good games and you have bad games. I’ve got just to keep going and keep grinding. It’s a long season.”