Tulowitzki, Pena named Players of the Week
Rockies shortstop, Royals backstop honored for performances
It's September and that means that right on time, Troy Tulowitzki and the Rockies are surging their way into the playoff hunt.
Tulowitzki, who has catalyzed his team's offense of late, was named the Bank of America Player of the Week in the National League on Monday, sharing honors with the Royals' Brayan Pena who took home the junior circuit's honors.
The Rockies shortstop has led the way to 10 straight victories, putting them just 1 1/2 games out in the National League West heading into Monday's series opener against the Padres, who share first place with the Giants.
"I think a lot of teams could have thrown it away," Tulowitzki said. "We kept fighting to the end, come to the park expecting to win and know that, once we catch fire, we can run off 10 games in a row."
Tulo batted .370 during the Rockies' jaw-dropping week, launching six homers and collecting 31 total bases. He also tallied 11 RBIs and scored nine runs. His astounding numbers last week during the Rockies' streak didn't surprise his manager.
"He's a special player, an institutional player, a foundational player that you build an organization around," his manager Jim Tracy said. "I said to him yesterday after he took his first round [of batting practice] after I stood behind the screen at first base and watched him hit, 'You like this time of year, don't you?' I got this little snicker in the corner of his mouth. Enough said."
Tulowitzki currently leads all Major League shortstops in batting average (.323), slugging (.558) and on-base percentage (.389). His numbers aren't just offensive, either. He also leads National League starting shortstops in fielding percentage (.985). That last number might matter more to Tulo than any of the offensive ones.
"You all know how much pride I take in my defense." Tulowitzki said recently. "I've said before I'd rather make a game-saving play than hit a home run, and I say that in all honesty."
While his fellow honoree, Pena, may not be leading his team to the same stunning comeback, the Royals catcher is turning some heads. Pena, 28, recorded a hit in all six games last week, hitting .435 with nine RBIs over that span. His big week at the plate raised his batting average from .218 to .264.
He too combined his offense with stellar defensive numbers, throwing out 40 percent (2-of-5) of would-be basestealers. His work behind the plate is impressive, but Pena has particularly impressed the Royals with his ability to play infield and the corner outfield positions also.
"This is his first opportunity to do anything," said Royals bench coach John Gibbons. "He's kind of been that guy that hasn't had a position. He's very valuable because he can play other positions.
Pena has given the Royals a glimpse of their future behind the plate since veteran Jason Kendall went down with a torn rotator cuff in August. So far, all signs point to Pena adapting nicely to his enlarged role.
"The amount of games that Jason catches, there really isn't much chance for [Pena] to get on the field," said Gibbons. "In limited playing time, it doesn't matter how good of a hitter you are, you're not going to have your timing. The more he plays ... that's one thing he's always been able to do, is hit.
Bailey Stephens is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.