Gonzalez rounding into form as Rockies roll
CarGo goes 5-for-5 with three RBIs; Colorado gets season-high 21 hits
DENVER -- As if opposing pitchers facing these Rockies didn't have enough to worry about.
One of the biggest weapons for the best offense in baseball is quickly returning to form, and runs are coming in droves as a result.
Carlos Gonzalez, who was slumping earlier in the season when so many of his teammates were piling up big numbers, continued a recent hot streak of his own Tuesday by tying a career-high with five hits while driving in three runs in the Rockies 12-1 rout of the Rangers at Coors Field.
"I always expect to go off like that," Gonzalez said. "I don't worry about whatever is happening. I know that my talent will overcome at some point and things will go back to normal."
It may be jumping the gun to call Tuesday's season-high 21-hit outburst the new normal for the Rockies, but with Gonzalez beginning to look more like the hitter who won the 2010 National League batting crown and others in the lineup refusing to cool, Colorado's offense shows few signs of slowing.
The red-hot Rockies finished 5-1 on their six-game homestand, during which they scored 49 runs. They begin the second half of a home-and-home series at Texas on Wednesday. Colorado has won eight out of its last 10 games and 14 out its last 19, and its 21-14 record matches its best 35-game start in club history (1997).
The Rockies removed all doubt from Tuesday's game with a six-run sixth inning. Five runs came with two outs. Colorado had eight hits in the inning, including two from Brandon Barnes -- who began the inning as a pinch hitter.
But even in a runaway affair, the Rockies saved room for theatrics.
Nolan Arenado extended his hitting streak to 26 games with a seventh-inning, RBI double off Rangers reliever Neal Cotts. Arenado was 0-for-2 with a sacrifice fly and a walk before his hit, which hit the left-field foul line. The streak is the longest in the Major Leagues this year and is just one shy of matching Michael Cuddyer's 27-game mark from last season.
"A 26-game hitting streak is quite an accomplishment," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "That was a clutch at-bat. I know the scoreboard wouldn't say that, but for Nolan to extend the streak in that last at-bat, I'm happy for him."
Gonzalez, whose average climbed to .279, has now hit safely in eight straight games. Weiss said he began to see signs that Gonzalez was emerging from his slump during the team's last road trip in Arizona. The outfielder hit just .200 (3-for-15) in the series against the Diamondbacks, but Weiss saw Gonzalez becoming more selective in counts.
The buildup erupted Tuesday, as Gonzalez had five hits for the third time in his career.
"When he starts swinging it like he did today, we're going to be in a good spot," Arenado said.
But even a 5-for-5 performance had company on a crowded offensive stage.
Gonzalez's effort was barely enough to overshadow that of Troy Tulowitzki, who went 3-for-4 and is now hitting .608 (31-for-51) at home this season.
Of course, there was plenty of offense outside that dynamic duo. That's often the case for the Rockies these days. Seven players had at least two hits. Drew Stubbs (three hits) and Charlie Blackmon (two) both homered.
"I've been saying since we started this year that everybody is doing their part," Gonzalez said. "I was in a battle mode the whole time when things weren't going the way I wanted them to. You can't hit the panic button, especially when you've had success in the past."
Though Arenado made the wait for his streak-extending hit a tense one, his highlight-reel defense was in form early and often.
The third ended with Arenado making a short-hop stab of Adrian Beltre's hard grounder, which prevented a Rangers run.
Arenado foiled Beltre, who made a handful of impressive defensive plays of his own, again in the fifth. With runners on first and second with two outs, Beltre hit a slow roller to the left of the mound. Arenado dashed in, barehanded the dying grounder and fired it in one motion to Justin Morneau for the inning-ending out.
"He's my favorite player," Arenado said of Beltre, "so I guess he's one of he last guys I'd want to rob. But, hey, you've got to do what you've got to do."
Because Arenado's defense is the gift that keeps giving, he made another impressive stop on a grounder by Alex Rios in the sixth, starting a double play that erased Prince Fielder, who led off with a single.
The only run the Rangers scored came on Beltre's home run in the first off Juan Nicasio (4-1), who fought through control issues to throw five innings of two-hit ball. He walked five against one strikeout on 88 pitches.
"I thought he labored a little bit," Weiss said.
The Rangers couldn't capitalize, leaving Denver with just three runs in two games at hitter-friendly Coors Field.
"We couldn't string anything together," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "When we did threaten, we just couldn't get that one hit to maybe keep things going. We've just got to get home and get back on track."
When the Rangers do get back home, they'll once again face a Rockies team that is hopeful it can continue its offensive assault away from the comfortable digs at Coors Field.
"Our offense is rolling pretty good right," Weiss said. "The key is that we take this momentum on the road."