DENVER -- The sound and sight were so familiar ... and so missed. And it was so welcome for a crowd at sun-baked Coors Field on Sunday: Carlos Gonzalez crushing a pitch and taking a few walking steps to gaze as the ball flew into the third deck in right
DENVER -- The sound and sight were so familiar ... and so missed. And it was so welcome for a crowd at sun-baked Coors Field on Sunday: Carlos Gonzalez crushing a pitch and taking a few walking steps to gaze as the ball flew into the third deck in right field.
"Style's forever, man," Gonzalez said flashing a smile that's become familiar over 10 seasons. "It stays there all the time."
Gonzalez's first-inning home run off the Reds' Matt Harvey began a four-hit performance in the Rockies' 8-2 victory.
It was his 1,300th career hit. The first 41 came with another team -- the Athletics, who traded him to the Rockies after the 2008 season.
Sunday marked Gonzalez's fifth homer of the season and his first since May 11. The ball traveled an estimated 461 feet, with a 110 mph exit velocity, which is his fifth-longest homer tracked by Statcast™.
Not only have homers been far apart, but so has playing time since he suffered a right hamstring injury on April 18 and missed nine games.
David Dahl, who gave the Rockies their first run on a first-pitch homer off Harvey, is receiving the lion's share of the outfield time in either corner. Gerardo Parra is batting .276, and is taking advantage of pitches to hit behind Nolan Arenado in the lineup. All that has made Gonzalez, who entered Sunday batting .214, a fourth outfielder.
Twice on the team's 4-5 road trip, once as a pinch-hitter, Gonzalez delivered game-winning singles. They weren't the hardest-hit balls, but they were clutch hits. Still, Gonzalez is the third guy for two positions.
It has been an odd transition. Gonzalez is a traditionally slow starter. He hit 40 homers in 2015, for example, but has just four through Sunday. He struggled for a longer period last season before turning it up in August and September and helping the team to the postseason.
But this year, with Dahl's emergence and struggles throughout the lineup, manager Bud Black has been going with a rotation. A three-game set with the Giants starting Monday could present some challenges. Gonzalez is hitting .211 in 38 left-on-left at-bats, which has led to Black using him mostly against righties. The Giants are starting two lefties, rookie Andrew Suarez on Monday and veteran Derek Holland on Wednesday.
Gonzalez hits with a big leg kick, which is as much a part of him as his style after home runs. But because of his lowered number of plate appearances, he has tried to eliminate some of the movement that causes his head to bob, and he's trying to be more patient. In Saturday's 6-5 loss, he drew a ninth-inning walk to load the bases and believed he may have chased pitches and struck out earlier in the year.
"The one thing I've been doing is just continuing to work, even if I'm not on the field, playing," Gonzalez said. "I make sure between innings, I go into the cage and hit with [assistant hitting coach Jeff] Salazar in the middle of the game when nobody's watching. I'm watching the game on TV and hitting.
"That's what you've got to do as a player. You can just sit down on the bench and, whatever, wait for your opportunity. I'm just going to continue to work and be ready when they call my name."
Arenado, who also homered (as did Ian Desmond, alongside Dahl and Gonzalez), remembers the Gonzalez who turns hot and doesn't stop hitting. He hopes that guy showed up Sunday.
"Awesome, man, it was great," Arenado said. "He just looked like old CarGo. Just hitting the ball so hard, hitting the ball the other way, pulling the ball. It just looked like him. I said it last year and I'll say it again: If we can get him going, we can be extremely dangerous."
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.