Cristian Gonzalez had never driven in more than four runs in a game in his pro career entering Tuesday, and that four-RBI effort came on June 12, 2019, in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League.
"He was out there barreling baseballs all night. It was great to see because he's such a hard-working young man," Tourists skipper Nate Shaver said. "I think he's just starting to get comfortable, you know. Just being comfortable with who he is and who he can become."
It was a career night for Gonzalez, whose nine RBIs not only set his highwater mark, but his four hits also set a personal best. The 20-year-old homered twice, doubled and singled in his first career multi-homer game.
"He's gotten better as the season progressed, and I'm just real happy for the guy," Shaver said. "And he deserves everything he's been able to do to this point so far this year."
The righty-swinging shortstop found a hole on the left of the infield and punched a ground ball that found the grass with two outs in the fourth inning and the bases loaded. The knock plated a pair and broke a 2-2 tie in the game.
With runners on first and second and no outs in the fifth, Gonzalez jumped on a first-pitch fastball and laced it into right for two-run two-bagger. He wasn't on the basepaths long either, as C.J. Stubbs plated him three pitches later with a moonshot to right-center field.
In the seventh, Gonzalez stepped to the dish again with two on and two outs and the game tied, 7-7. And again he delivered the go-ahead knock. Gonzalez crushed a 1-1 offering to right-center for his fifth dinger of the season.
Needing a triple to complete the cycle in his final at-bat in the eighth, Gonzalez did one better, blasting his second roundtripper of the night to almost the same spot of his previous one. The jack again came with two on and two outs and put the Tourists ahead 16-7.
After a slow start to the season, Gonzalez has come on of late. Posting a season-low .135 average on May 8, the native of the Dominican Republic is batting .282/.349/.641 with four homers, two doubles, 13 RBIs and nine runs scored in June.
"When guys are able to have at-bats like he's had, and just go through what he's gone through and then just continue to have success, it's well deserved," Shaver said. "So it's just one of those things where you trust your routine, rely on the work you put in, and just go out and execute in the game.
"But a nine-spot from one guy in a single game, no, I've never seen that before. That's just outstanding. The message now is just to keep it rolling."
Astros outfield prospect Luis Guerrero also turned in a multihomer game for Asheville, clubbing a pair of two-run shots in the ninth inning while finishing with three hits and four RBIs.
Houston gave the maximum international bonus pool amount to Gonzalez in 2018, and he has emerged as the best prospect in that crop. He made his U.S. debut last summer and needed just three weeks to merit a promotion to Low-A.
Listed at 6-foot-3, Gonzalez continues to grow and is closer to 6-foot-6 today. His frame gives him tremendous leverage and combines with his bat speed to produce outstanding exit velocities that could increase further as he matures physically.
Gonzalez has a rocket arm at shortstop and his throws across the infield have been clocked up to 99 mph. An average runner, he has a quick first step and more than enough range to stay at shortstop. If he slows down too much as he fills out, his power potential and arm would fit the right-field profile for Minute Maid Park.