PHOENIX -- Chi Chi Gonzalez began Monday night with five hitless innings. He completed six innings in the big leagues for the first time in four years. And it was easily the right-hander’s best start in his first season with the Rockies.
However, Gonzalez’s night took a wrong turn when he gave up a two-run homer to Ketel Marte in the sixth inning of the Rockies’ 5-3 loss to the D-backs at Chase Field. Arizona later secured the victory with a three-run eighth, which started with Carson Kelly’s leadoff homer against Wade Davis.
After getting recalled from Triple-A Albuquerque on Saturday, Gonzalez made his first start since rejoining the Rockies’ rotation, a corresponding move to Jeff Hoffman getting sent down due to inefficiency. Gonzalez (0-4) couldn’t earn his first Colorado win in his return, but it was an encouraging outing, especially for the Rockies, whose rotation entered the day with a 5.78 ERA, ranked 29th in the Majors and last in the National League.
“He kept the ball down, he moved the ball in and out, I thought he pitched great,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “Great tempo, he was efficient. He had a walk in there, but I thought the pace of how he threw the ball and the consistency of his pitches was outstanding.”
Gonzalez retired 15 of the D-backs’ first 16 batters, yielding only a one-out walk to Marte in the first. Entering the sixth, the righty had set down 14 in a row and was cruising.
However, Kelly opened the sixth with a single, and three batters later, Marte crushed a homer to right-center field, putting Arizona ahead, 2-1. But Gonzalez said the low-and-inside fastball that Marte belted 439 feet wasn’t a mistake pitch.
“I want it back because it was a home run, but I was OK, because I threw it where I wanted to,” Gonzalez said. “That’s how baseball is sometimes. You might make the perfect pitch and the guy still battles to get it in. You tip your cap to that pitch.”
Gonzalez rebounded to get Eduardo Escobar to fly out to end the inning, marking his first six-inning start in the big leagues since Aug. 18, 2015.
“It brings back memories from 2015, when I was dominating that first month of the season that I was up [with the Rangers],” Gonzalez said. “That’s just proving to myself that I deserve to be here.”
Black sent Gonzalez back to the mound to open the seventh, but he gave up a double to David Peralta and then was pulled.
Although it took until the sixth for the D-backs to get a hit off Gonzalez, they were putting a lot of balls in play. Gonzalez gave up nine hard-hit balls in the outing, defined by Statcast as balls hit with an exit velocity of at least 95 mph.
“Some of the balls hit hard were balls down,” Black said. “If those pitches are a little bit elevated, then there might be some more damage.”
Tony Wolters drove in a pair of runs for Colorado, walking with the bases loaded in the fourth and knocking a game-tying single in the eighth, while Charlie Blackmon hit a solo homer in the ninth. But the Rockies missed out on several big scoring opportunities early.
Colorado left the bases loaded in the fourth and fifth innings. Then, in the sixth, Ryan McMahon was picked off at first base after drawing a leadoff walk against D-backs starter Zac Gallen, who issued six free passes over six innings of one-run ball.
“We had some chances, we couldn’t get the big hit,” Black said. “In games that teams win, you get the big hit.”
Wolters twisted an ankle late in the game, which led to him getting X-rays after. However, Black said it was precautionary and that he doesn’t expect it to be a long-term issue.
“I think Tony’s going to be fine,” Black said.