Gonzales sets career bests with 3 HRs, 8 RBIs

August 29th, 2021

The month of August has belonged to Nick Gonzales. On Aug. 8, the Pirates’ No. 4 prospect set new career highs with two home runs, five RBIs and 10 total bases. On Aug. 13 and Aug. 22, he matched his career-best mark of four hits. On Sunday, he rewrote his own record book.

MLB Pipeline’s 67th overall prospect hit three home runs for the first time in his professional career in a 4-for-6 day in Greensboro’s wild 19-11 win over Asheville. Gonzales drove in eight runs and scored four, both career highs, and struck out once. It was his ninth multihit game this month and 22nd on the year.

“I think in college I did three home runs. My junior year, maybe my freshman year, I don’t remember but I know I did it in college some time," said Gonzales over the phone postgame. “8 RBIs, I think I did have two grand slams in college my junior year.”

Gonzales got Greensboro’s day started with a single to center field and scored in the next at-bat on third baseman Jared Triolo’s RBI double. The second baseman grounded out to third base in the third inning. His first-inning run was Greensboro’s only run until the fifth inning, with Asheville leading 3-1.

Following a walk, a one-out double from No. 93 overall prospect Liover Peguero and Asheville’s first pitching change, Gonzales dug into the box and promptly sent the 1-1 pitch from reliever Kevin Holcomb over the fence to left-center, putting Greensboro up 4-3.

Greensboro’s offense started to fire on all cylinders after the three-run fifth inning. Gonzales stepped back into the box in the sixth with the bases loaded and the Hoppers up 5-4. After taking the first pitch for a ball, the 22-year-old smacked his second career grand slam to break the score open.

Since Greensboro kept putting runs up at a rapid pace, Gonzales batted again in the seventh with Greensboro up 14-5. After Peguero launched his 14th homer of the season, Gonzales went back-to-back with his double play partner, also smacking his 14th shot of the year and his third long ball of the game.

Gonzales came to the plate in the eighth and ninth innings with a chance to add to his eight RBIs but could not capitalize. In the eighth, he struck out with men on first and second and in the ninth, he popped out to first base with the bases loaded.

“My second to last [at-bat], the strikeout, I was definitely trying to hit something really far," said Gonzales. “The last at-bat was against a position player. Sometimes those are more uncomfortable than facing a regular pitcher and I was just trying to get a base hit and flew out.”

Gonzales, the seventh overall pick in the 2020 Draft, has been steadily raising his slash line throughout August. This month, he is slashing .353/.411/.706 with a 1.117 OPS in 112 plate appearances. In 23 games, he’s hit 10 doubles, one triple, eight home runs, driven in and scored 21 runs apiece, and recorded four games of three or more hits.

“I feel better, I’m doing better and everything, but at the same time I’m trying to stay the same whether I’m doing really good or doing really bad. I want to have the same mentality that every at-bat matters, every game matters, and I’m trusting the process," said Gonzales. "That’s what me and Lolo Sanchez say every game, trust the process, keep pushing forward, it’s been my mindset throughout this whole season.”

Since reaching a season low slash line of .214/.287/.419 and an OPS of .706, Gonzales has been unstoppable in the box. Following the best game of his career in Pittsburgh’s organization to date, his slash line and OPS sit at .298/.365/.544 and .910, which is more in line with the offensive talent he showed at New Mexico State. He attributes his success to staying within himself mentally and sticking with the same mindset he has always had playing baseball.

“It helps me because I don’t get complacent and I do the same routine, same things that I always do. Whether I had four hits or zero hits, I’ve got to do the same thing at practice and the same thing before the game, and I’m still taking care of my body and doing what I need to do to be ready for that next game," said Gonzales.

Peguero, Pittsburgh’s No. 5 prospect, finished the day 2-for-4 with his two-run shot, a double, and three walks. On the year, Peguero is hitting .266/.324/.455 with a .779 OPS in 77 games. The 20-year-old shortstop has shown both gap and over-the-fence pop with 15 doubles and 14 homers and has flexed his speed on the base paths with 19 stolen bases. His combination of tools at a premium position and chemistry with Gonzales could lay the groundwork for a special pairing up the middle at PNC Park for years to come.

With a loaded roster in Greensboro, Gonzales said he is not focused on promotions, he is focused on winning where he is now.

“I'm taking it just one game at a time, keep playing the game hard and keep doing what I do. I’ve never been the guy to look ahead, always been the guy to worry about the present moment and what happens happens and it happens for a reason, so I’m enjoying my time and trying to win a championship here in Greensboro," said Gonzales.