Thursday, May 31, 2012

Carlos Gonzalez continues torrid pace as Colorado Rockies sweep Houston Astros

Carlos Gonzalez continues to hit extremely well for the Rockies.
A few things have become apparent in the first two months of Colorado Rockies baseball in 2012. The first is that the offense is going to have to carry the club. The second is that Carlos Gonzalez is one of the best hitters in the game.

A night after slamming three home runs against the Astros in route to a big win, Gonzalez stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 1st inning on Thursday and drilled a Bud Norris pitch to left-center field. The ball landed in landed just on the other side of the fence, giving the Rockies a three run lead before Norris and the Astros recorded an out.

More importantly, it gave CarGo his fourth home run in four at-bats. Gonzalez is just the 22nd time in Major League history to accomplish the feat.

With the homer, the Rockies were well on their way to a 11-5 victory over the Astros, giving them a four-game sweep of the formerly hot club.

In the 2nd inning, Gonzalez stepped to the plate again. Dexter Fowler was on 2nd base, advancing on Marco Scutaro's slow ground out. With the ultimate sign of respect, Houston manager Brad Mills ordered Norris to intentionally walk the hottest hitter in the game after going down 2-0 in the count.

The walk was a tip of the cap from the Astros. It was an acknowledgement that Gonzalez's bat is so hot right now that pitching to him in the 2nd inning simply isn't an option.

In all, CarGo finished his night 3-for-4 with a double, a home run and three RBIs.

The difference for the Venezuelan is that he is being patient at the plate. When Gonzalez starts to expand the strike zone he suddenly becomes a very easy out. When he is struggling, he is swinging at nearly every pitch. As soon as the fishing begins, other teams recognize it and don't throw anything near the strike zone. However, when he is in a groove like he is currently, he waits until that pitch comes, and when it does, he drives it as hard and as far as anyone in the league.

The Rockies are depending on Gonzalez, as well as Michael Cuddyer and the rest of the offense to continue to hit extremely well. With Troy Tulowitzki on the disabled list and a five-man rotation that looks completely hopeless on the mound, the offense has no choice but to put up a big night if they want to win.

On Thursday, Jeremy Guthrie was handed a huge lead, but still managed to get hit hard. He ended up going seven innings, but the right-hander gave up five run on 12 hits. He only struck out one batter while walking none.

Of course, with a big lead a pitcher is doing anything to simply get the ball over the plate. If he gives up a long ball or two, no big deal. The worst thing a pitcher with a big lead can do is to walk batters. The only issue is that Guthrie didn't need a start in which he simply threw strikes. Guthrie needed a start where he learned to pitch at Coors Field. He didn't get that on Thursday.

The Rockies need better performances from their starting pitchers. However, based on the way the offense has been hitting, it gives the pitchers a little more room for error. That will help their development and confidence. The Rockies are hoping to keep it going as the National League West division leading Los Angeles Dodgers roll into town on Friday. The Rockies, if they have any hope at all, must win divisional games, especially at home.

A four-game sweep is never a bad thing. It shows just how much talent this Rockies team has. The lineup is as good as any in the division. Even without Tulowitzki in the lineup, the potential for blowout games exists on a daily basis. This team has enough offensive firepower to help them crawl back to respectability. The pitching staff might present a roadblock to that goal, however.

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