Few duos have been quite as exciting to watch play defense as Colorado Rockies rookies Nolan Jones and Brenton Doyle.

The pair are having about as much fun as any outfielders in the game thanks to their throwing prowess that has combined for 25 outfield assists.

With Doyle’s 10th outfield assist on Tuesday against the Chicago Cubs, he and Jones became just the fifth pair of teammates in the expansion era (1961) with 10 or more outfield assists in the same season, and the first since 1995.

“I think obviously, their approach is to be aggressive,” Jones said of opposing base runners. “And I think that’s the way it’s expected the same way we are. I mean, it’s not easy to make a good throw to home play. It’s a long ways away. A little bobble in there and the runner is safe and if they put up an early stop sign, that opportunity never really prevails.”

During Colorado’s 7-3 win on Wednesday, however, the Cubs showed a bit more caution on two occasions. In the second inning, third base coach Willie Harris held up the stop sign with two outs to Seiya Suzuki on a single to left field by Miguel Amaya. Jones came up ready to fire to home plate, Suzuki stayed and Ty Blach escaped the bases loaded jam. A similar situation occurred with the bases loaded in the eighth with Doyle camped under a fly ball. 

“People have asked me about it and it’s like, it’s not that I’m expecting them not to run, I’m always expecting them to run. We’re coming up throwing,” Jones said of his approach with runners on base. “I’m gonna throw it as absolutely as hard as I can whether I think he’s running or not, because if he does run home, I want to get the best chance to throw him out.”

Even Charlie Blackmon contributed to Tuesday’s 6-4 win with his first outfield assist of his season. Altogether, Colorado has 34 total outfield assists, most in the NL and tied for the fifth-most in team history for a single season.

Jones contributed at the plate during the second consecutive victory over the Cubs. His 16th home run of the year tied the score 3-3 in the fifth before the Rockies received two more in the form of an Elehuris Montero long ball. Kris Bryant chipped in with a solo shot in the seventh, his second in as many games, before Ryan McMahon gave Colorado their fourth home run of the game to secure the team’s first series win since Aug. 18-20 over the other club in Chicago, the White Sox.

Cubs outfielders had a difficult time on Wednesday. Pete Crow-Armstrong managed to miss a lazy fly ball that was ruled a double and Ian Happ erred on a fly ball by Bryant that helped spark a four-run fifth inning.

For Doyle, his focus in the cavernous Coors Field outfield has been to improve the angle in which he tracks down a ball in flight. “What balls to take a more aggressive angle towards and what balls you should kind of go a little bit deeper on,” he said of his approach to progress.

One learning moment came during the series against the best team in the National League. “(Matt) Olson had a ball that got by me in the gap that I thought I was gonna be able to cut off, but the grass got a little wet and it kind of just skipped and took off. He hit a ball super identical to the same exact one (the next game) and I made sure to get a little deeper route to it and I held it to a single.”

The trajectory of both Doyle and Jones won’t always be upwards. Their growth will take momentary dips as was the case during Monday’s loss when Jones made an error in the ninth that led to Chicago taking the lead.

“I botched the ball pretty bad the other day against the Cubs in the ninth on that Dansby (Swanson) ball,” Jones said. “I thought I was gonna have to dive for it. I thought it was going to be further away from me and I got there a little quicker than I did and my body was kind of in a bad spot to make a play. So it’s constantly learning.”

What’s undeniable is the chemistry between the two 25-year-olds. They haven’t made any friendly side bets as to who will record more outfield assists or whose arm will set the record the fastest thrown ball from the outfield this year, but Jones says they may need to for 2024.

“I was playing center (on Sunday) and he was like, ‘You ready to get out of center?,'” Jones recalled. “I don’t care where I play, but I’m ready to have (him) back in the outfield because he makes my job a lot easier. Helps me out there a lot. So he’s been really good for my development in the outfield.”

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